Linguistic nationalism news from Ohio, Italy, and California

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Adam Schrader, "Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance introduces bill to make English official U.S. language", UPI 3/30/2023. A press release from Vance's office is here, and here's the text of the bill.

"Meloni's party looks to shield Italian language from foreign contamination", Reuters 3/31/2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's party has proposed imposing fines of up to 100,000 euros ($108,750) on public and private entities which use foreign terms, most notably English, instead of Italian in official communications. […]

If the draft becomes law, the government might have to get its own house quickly in order. When it took office last October, it added the English term "Made in Italy" to the name of the industry minister, while Meloni herself occasionally drops foreign words into her speeches.

In her inaugural address to parliament as prime minister in October, Meloni described herself as an "underdog".

In the other direction — Edwin Flores, "Will California finally allow accents and original spellings on birth certificates?", NBC News 3/31/2023:

If a proposed bill passes, it wouldn't just affect the state’s large Latino population but others with non-English names, such as Vietnamese, French and Arab American Californians.

María Brenes' first name has an accent on the letter “í” — but you wouldn't know that by looking at the Los Angeles resident's government documents.

Since 1986, when Californians voted to make English the state's official language, state residents like Brenes who have accent marks or tildes in their names have been barred from including them in birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and other forms of government documents.

Brenes hopes proposed legislation — CA Assembly Bill 77 — changes that.



  1. Y said,

    April 3, 2023 @ 10:24 pm

    I look forward to seeing Unicode canonical decomposition rules mentioned in the California code.

  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 3, 2023 @ 10:42 pm

    The proposed California law explains that: "For purposes of this part, a diacritical mark includes, but is not limited to, accents, tildes, graves, umlauts, and cedillas." Blatant anti-háček bigotry, if you ask me. And is the extra diagonal in Polish-etc. Ł even a diacritical mark, or is it something else?

    The claim that pre-'86 California (or certain counties therein?) would issue birth certificates etc with diacritical marks is not inherently implausible, but I'd be interested in seeing some vintage examples to see what sort of multi-linguistic range of diacriticals was actually available in practice. It would not surprise me it they had the technical capacity to do tildes upon request because there was a critical mass of people with tilde-including names they were generating paperwork for, but not to do umlauts because there just wasn't the same level of demand.

    Also note that, from the draft bill linked, this would apparently apply only to "vital record" documents like birth, marriage, and death certificates, and would not apply to driver's licenses or other "government documents with your name" that most people use more frequently in daily life than they do their vital-records paperwork.

  3. Chas Belov said,

    April 3, 2023 @ 10:52 pm

    While they're at it, it would be nice if they allowed one letter names. I remember reading many years ago about Mr. O (legitimate Korean surname) having to register as Mr. Oh because the Department of Motor Vehicles couldn't handle his name.

  4. Dwight Williams said,

    April 3, 2023 @ 11:05 pm

    You may be interested to note developments in what is presently known to many of us as "British Columbia"…and the matter of the birth certificate of one λugʷaləs K'ala'ask Shaw…and I see that WordPress has mangled the name.

  5. Jenny Chu said,

    April 3, 2023 @ 11:10 pm

    Whenever someone complains about "extra" strokes and marks, I say – in that case, you won't mind if I make no distinction between lowercase t and l? If you ask for a little bite and I give you a little bile, then it's more or less the same …

  6. maidhc said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 12:07 am

    I'm not sure why they talk about Arab-Americans, because their original name would be written using a different alphabet. Is this just about "diacritical marks", or are different alphabets included too? The problem that's going to arise is defining just exactly what's included. And if their name is originally written with a different alphabet, is there a standard transcription format? I know with Chinese-Americans, whatever their Chinese name is, there are multiple different ways of transcribing it into Latin characters, and they often hold strong feelings about it.

    My stepson has a job looking into the problem of (to simplify it a lot) is it possible to match up birth certificates and death certificates? So far the answer seems to be, who knows?, but you could certainly do a lot better than the way they do it now. I don't think that the proposed change would complicate his task much. It seems fairly manageable compared to the many other problems.

  7. Andreas Johansson said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 1:05 am

    There's very little consistency in how Arabic names are romanized. It doesn't help that Arabic is a single language the same way Chinese is – i.e. not at all.

  8. Peter Taylor said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 4:38 am

    When it took office last October, it added the English term "Made in Italy" to the name of the industry minister

    Typo or cupertino? I've checked, and it should definitely be ministry instead of minister.

  9. James Wimberley said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 6:40 am

    My Brazilian wife and I applied online for tourist visas to Australia two years ago. Applicants must enter their full names exactly as on their passports. The software does not accept accents, so we could notin fact comply. Lúcia became Lucia and Mendonça became Mendonca. How do Czechs and Vietnamese get visas?

    The answer presumably is to create two entries, one with a full Unicode character set and the second a stylised accentless Anglo approximation. Both versions should be treated as legal.

  10. Scott P. said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 8:49 am

    Maybe while they're at it, California can do something about Fnu.

  11. GeorgeW said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 10:06 am

    @Andreas Johansson: As I recall, Arabists have a convention for rendering Arabic into English. There is no reason this couldn't be extended into general usage.

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 10:30 am

    @GeorgeW, presumably all sorts of problems related to conflicting or ambiguous usage could be solved if people would just uniformly agree to adopt their own usage to that developed by specialists in a particular domain. Yet that keeps not happening across a wide range of domains and there are presumably anthropological/sociological reasons why not.

    Pace James WImberley, I expect that if he examines a Brazilian passport more closely he will see that the bearer's name is given twice: once in the "Visual Inspection Zone" of the document where Portuguese orthography including diacritical marks is fine but then again in the "Machine Readable Zone" where the permissible character set is constrained and diacritical marks are verboten. Compare 3.1/3.4 with 4.3 / 4.4 / 4.6 in this technical-specifications document:

  13. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 11:09 am

    @Chas Belov, the family name of the famous Japanese (Chinese on his dad's side) ballplayer Saduharu Oh can also be given as Ō, but in Hepburn romaji the macron is meaningful and good luck finding an American DMV that will handle it. I note that the purportedly non-exhaustive examples of "diacritical marks" in the text of the proposed California law don't include macrons, which probably just means that the proponents of the bill don't have immigrants with a macron-dependent orthography in their immediate political coalition.

  14. Anthony said,

    April 4, 2023 @ 4:54 pm

    So "there's no cow in Moscow," but in most places hereabouts there's a dog in Erdoğan.

  15. David Morris said,

    April 5, 2023 @ 7:23 am

    All the Korean Os I have encountered have used Oh, and all the Is have used Lee.

  16. John Swindle said,

    April 6, 2023 @ 3:18 am

    In the 1980s the Vietnamese-American family name Đỗ, rendered Do in English, scared some databases because it looked like the start of a programming loop. I wasn't a programmer and don't know the details.

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