Sunday, December 14, 2008

Accusations of misconduct: Language and immigration

A while back, Mr. Verb mentioned an article that Miranda Wilkerson and I recently had in American Speech. We show that, contrary to myth, German-speaking immigrants to 19th c. Wisconsin didn't wake up the morning after arrival as monolingual English speakers. In fact, almost a half century after really major immigration had ended in some communities, 20% or more of the community was still monolingual in German, according to the 1910 Census. In some communities, not far from half of those people were American-born. And monolinguals were hardly stuck on the edges of community life; their ranks included lots of crafts- and tradespeople, even some professionals, like teachers and clergy.

That piece has been talked about a surprising amount in the press, and the coverage by professional journalists has been very thoughtful and smart. The best part is that some have taken our historical data and compared it directly to the contemporary situations of immigrants in their communities — in Milwaukee, Toronto, Phoenix. That last-mentioned article, here, was particularly good, by Daniel Gonzalez in the Arizona Republic. But there's one unsettling bit:
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, doubts the validity of [the] study.

"I think it's a fabrication," he said.

Merriam-Webster's 11th defines 'fabrication' this way – this is the complete definition, emphasis in the original:
1 : the act or process of fabricating
2 : a product of fabrication; especially: LIE, FALSEHOOD
The second is the relevant meaning here, so this is a serious charge. If it were true, I'd be in trouble for violating academic standards. Just for the record, the results are real; the key data are drawn from the 1910 US Census, which is readily available for now-State-Senator-elect Pearce (pictured above) to review for himself. My guess is that he simply suggested we were engaging in academic misconduct without looking at the paper. To give him a chance, I sent Pearce a copy of our paper, but haven't heard back.

It makes you wonder what standards lawmakers are held to in their public pronouncements. Oh wait, we KNOW the answer to that.

Image from here.


The Ridger, FCD said...

It doesn't agree with his doctrine, therefore it must be false. This is a typical reaction from people who think a certain way (and I'm not referring to the (R) after his name; perhaps I should say "think in a certain fashion"). For instance, the recent study which said that 49 states had colleges too expensive for students to afford was described as "suspect" - by the man who runs the student financial aid office at Loyola. Yeah, the man who wouldn't have a job if Loyola weren't too expensive for students to afford without aid.

rpmason said...

My stepmother's parents immigrated to eastern Montana in 1908. She began her public school education in 4th grade at age 9 in eastern Montana (1926). She spoke only Swedish until that day. Her parents did learn English eventually. When I met them I was very young and they had heavy accents.

Anonymous said...

That guy is a knuckledragger among knuckledraggers, and an ideological dead-ender.