History of American English: readings

For Friday, Sep 6

  • The Adventure of English (Bragg)

    • Ch 13 ("My America": 1600s-1700s)

      1. Who were the Pilgrims?

      2. Who was already here in America when the English arrived?

      3. Culturally, how were the Pilgrims different from the others who had already arrived?

      4. What (near) miracle saved the Pilgrims?

      5. When the colonists encountered new flora, fauna, etc, how did they come up with words for these things?

      6. Did they borrow many words from Native American languages? Why or why not?

      7. Discuss prescriptivism / standardization among the early settlers.

      8. What other languages did English borrow from in the 1600s-1700s?

      9. What are some examples of early semantic shifts in American English, resulting in American / British differences?

      10. Were there big differences in pronunciation across the different colonies? Why or why not?

      11. In the 1700s, was the general opinion that Americans spoke better or worse than the British?

      12. What were the contributions of Noah Webster?

      13. What are some words that had died out in British English, but which stayed on in American English?

    • Ch 14 ("Wild West Words": 1800s)

      • How was the culture of the West in America different from that of the East? How did this affect the development of English in the western frontier?

      • Why did English in the western US accept more Native American words into the language?

      • Besides borrowings, how else did settlers in the west find words for new things?

      • From what parts of Great Britain did many of the settlers who went west come from? Why had they come to America?

      • What are some words and phrases that come from the gambling and drinking culture in the western US?

      • How did the Gold Rush affect the language?

      • What are some words that came into English from the Spanish via the cowboys?

For Monday, Sep 9

  • Ch 15 ("Sold Down the River": African-American English)

    • What has the pre-English linguistic situation of those who became slaves in the US?

    • What are some English words derived from African languages?

    • What are pidgins and creoles?

    • What is Gullah? Why is it of interest to linguists?

    • What type of language comes through in the fiction of Mark Twain?

  • Ch 23 ("All of the World": 1900s)

    • What are some "Americanisms" on p282-83 that surprised you, in the sense that you thought they were just standard English?

    • How/why did African-American English affect standard American English in the 1910s-1920s?

    • How was American English influenced by the following in the 1910s-1920s: Yiddish, movies, and gangster language?