The one, the many, and the Other: Representing multi- and mono-lingualism in post-9/11 verbal hygiene


  • Deborah Cameron University of Oxford


9/11, monolingualism, terror, Arabic, verbal hygiene, language policy, education, citizenship, naturalization


This paper argues that 21st-century Britain has seen an unprecedented rise in English-only sentiment, predicated on de-ethnicized post-multicultural discourses of “community cohesion.” Whereas 20th-century verbal hygiene and other forms of linguistic prescriptivism in the UK had been relatively indifferent to multilingualism and how it was expressed, speakers of Arabic and other UK-based non-anglophone languages have recently taken on the symbolic status of “folk devils” in British society, though most convicted perpetrators of terrorism, such as in the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005 are proficient speakers of English, and sometimes themselves monolinguals. Cameron expands in this essay on her 1995 concept of “verbal hygiene” to include linguistic landscapes ranging from Welsh, Polish, and Bengali to English, Arabic, and Mandarin.

Author Biography

Deborah Cameron, University of Oxford

Cameron came to Oxford as Professor of Language and Communication in January 2004. Before that she spent 20 years working in other universities in the UK and elsewhere: Roehampton University in London, Strathclyde University in Glasgow, the Institute of Education in London and the College of William and Mary in Virginia, USA. She has held visiting professorships and fellowships at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, New York University and the University of Technology Sydney.