Nuestro Himno: Discursive Indignation and Moral Panic over the Translation of a National Symbol

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The launching of a Spanish version of The Star Spangled Banner, called Nuestro Himno, sparked a controversy that the media embraced. This paper analyzes the discourse in print news coverage of that event in the United States. Through this discourse, we discern U.S. ideologies about language and immigration and explore the moral panic that media coverage captured and reproduced. We propose a sixth characteristic of moral panics: polarization. Nuestro Himno provided an open forum for the current debate about making English the official language of The United States, often referred to as the English-only movement. This investigation is situated in the context of the national debate on immigration reform. We find that both detractors and proponents of the Nuestro Himno accept an assimilation model for immigrants to the United States. For many, the English language stands as a symbol of unity, patriotism, willingness to assimilate, and national identity, in short, as a central feature of being “American.”


Keywords: Nuestro Himno, National Identity, Moral Panic, Discourse Analysis, Language and Politics, Language Ideologies, Immigration
Stream: Nations, Nationalism, Communities
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Nuestro Himno


Dr. Barbara Lynn Speicher

Associate Professor, College of Communication, DePaul University
Chicago, IL, USA

Barbara L. Speicher, received her M.A. in Linguistics from Ohio University and her Ph.D. in Linguistics and Language and Cognition from Northwestern University. Since joining DePaul University in 1988, she has taught linguistics courses and courses in multicultural and intercultural communication. Her research examines language attitudes, discourse analysis of media representations, and communication patterns within and between groups in the multicultural U.S. The main focus of that work attempts to reveal both differences and similarities between groups, in terms of class, race, gender, and power; to expose the normative tone of traditional literature, particularly as it defines co-cultural groups as deviant; and to examine theories stemming from both ethnographic and experimental research within the framework of natural discourse. Her work has appeared in Language in Society, The Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Curriculum Inquiry and The Howard Journal of Communication.

Prof. JC. Bruno Teboul

Associate Professor, Department of Communication, DePaul University
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Professor Teboul, a native of France, received his B.A. in International Relations from the Universidade do Minho, Portugal in 1985. In 1986 he moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate work in Communication. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Communication in 1988 and 1992, respectively. His principal research and teaching interests include organizational communication, socialization to work, and communication in multicultural organizations. Professor Teboul has published in Management Communication Quarterly, The Howard Journal of Communications, Communication Research Reports, The International and Intercultural Communication Annual, Western Journal of Communication, and Communication Theory. His recent publications include an article on relationship development processes at work.

Ref: D08P0376