A Philosophy of Bilingualism: How History and Science Inform Its Ethicality and Future

Matthew J Rethorn, University of Texas at El Paso


This thesis explains the significance that bilingualism has played and should play in life. It consists of three chapters: Chapter 1 examines bilingual perspectives from different communities inside the United States; Chapter 2 presents a critical assessment of research from linguistics and psychology; and Chapter 3 explores the popular support for English-Spanish bilingualism sweeping through urban America. My first chapter highlights the interconnection of bilingualism with identity, exemplified in the Amish, Navajo, and Gullah communities. This analysis of ethnic groups represents more broadly the negative and positive experiences of bilingualism. My second chapter reflects on the validity and assumptions behind prevailing theories of what it means to be bilingual. Based on what those theories claim, I propose that bilingualism’s science should consider the fact that, from infancy to adulthood, thinking develops through the strength of our ability to generalize. Finally, I conclude that bilingualism should increasingly be the norm. The lessons from my first and second chapters strongly suggest that the US should fully embrace its Spanish-English bilingualism because of the way it enhances well-being, be it through self-actualization or a more robust ability to think. The central thread of my work is the development of a moral conscience that acts as a lighthouse to illuminate strengths and biases from different cultures, transmitted through language, up to each person to freely determine. The wisdom that emerges from bilingualism facilitates a more flourishing life for people and communities alike.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Ethics|Philosophy of Science|Religion|Bilingual education

Recommended Citation

Rethorn, Matthew J, "A Philosophy of Bilingualism: How History and Science Inform Its Ethicality and Future" (2021). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28646882.