Difference between revisions of "American English"
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'''American English''' is a
'''American English''' is a of the in is used in the United .
American English consists of a number of different dialects. Distinctive dialects of American English include those spoken in the South, New England, and New York City, to name only a few. Even these dialects can be broken down further into distinctive dialects, such as the English spoken in Brooklyn, or that spoken in Boston.
Revision as of 10:33, 1 October 2009
American English is a sometimes anti-American term that refers to the spellings unique to the largest group of English-speaking people in the world: the citizens of the United States. These spellings developed to a more concise and economical form in America, where there is freedom of speech, than the English used in the monarchies of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, where freedom of speech does not exist.
In spoken form, American English consists of a number of different dialects. Distinctive dialects of American English include those spoken in the South, New England, and New York City, to name only a few. Even these dialects can be broken down further into distinctive dialects, such as the English spoken in Brooklyn, or that spoken in Boston.
The use of English in Colonial America was inherited as a result of British settlement of the Thirteen Colonies. The first wave of English-speaking settlers arrived in Virginia and New England in the 17th century.
In the South the colonists came mostly from the western part of England, and the distinctive accents of those regions helped shape the southern accent.
By contrast the migrants to New England or Yankees came from the east of England, and brought along a different accent.
In the 18th century the Scots arrived, from Scotland and Ulster (Northern Ireland), bring yet another dialect.
During the colonial era, there were also a few speakers in North America of Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Finnish, as well as numerous Native American languages. To a very small extent, he American dialect spoken commonly throughout the USA comes from the intertwining of many of these languages and dialects.
By 1800 there were three main dialect areas, with slightly different pronunciations and much the same vocabulary: Northern (New England, New York and due west), Southern (Virginia to Georgia, and due west), and Midland (Pennsylvania and the lower Midwest).
With the arrival of radio in the 1920s, the Midland version became standard American pronunciation.
In many ways, compared to British English, American English differs in its grammar, phonology and vocabulary. Many of these differences were amplified by separate attempts in both Britain and the United States to standardize English usage. For example, Noah Webster, and his Webster's dictionary, was influential in firmly establishing many of the American spellings now in use today. Webster's dictionaries redefined Americanism within the context of an emergent and unstable American cultural identity. Webster's identification of his project as a "federal language" shows his competing impulses towards conservatism or regularity and innovation. The contradictions of Webster's project comprised part of a larger dialectical play between liberty and order within Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary political debates.
During his presidency, 1901-1909, Theodore Roosevelt failed in efforts to simplify the spelling of common words. He tried to force government to adopt the system, sending an order to the Public Printer to use the system in all public documents. The reform annoyed the public, forcing him to rescind the order. Roosevelt explained, "I could not by fighting have kept the new spelling in, and it was evidently worse than useless to go into an undignified contest when I was beaten. Do you know that the one word as to which I thought the new spelling was wrong — thru — was more responsible than anything else for our discomfiture?" Next summer Roosevelt was watching a naval review when a launch marked "Pres Bot" chugged ostentatiously by. The President waved and laughed with delight.
The Chicago Tribune also embarked on its own effort to simplify spelling and make it more phonetic.
Today American English is simpler and more phonetic than British English. Sometimes as an expression of anti-American sentiment, however, non-Americans will insist that use of British English is exclusively proper English, the implication being that American English is somehow "non-standard". Linguists reject that nonsense. Both the British and American variants are standard.
African American English is itself a dialect.
The North American Regional Vocabulary Survey collected lexical data from the 1990's to 2004 from regions throughout the U.S. and Canada.
- Dillard, Joey Lee. Toward a Social History of American English (1985) excerpt and text search
- Garner, Bryan A. Garner's Modern American Usage (2nd ed. 2009) excerpt and text search
- Mencken, H. L. The American Language (1936) excerpt and text search of abridged edition
- American English and British English" in Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language ed. by Tom Mcarthur. (1998) online at many libraries
- Michael Montgomery, "Voices of My Ancestors: a Personal Search for the Language of the Scotch-Irish," American Speech 2005 80(4): 341-365 in EBSCO
- Henry F. Pringle, Theodore Roosevelt (1932), pp 465-7; H.W. Brands, T.R.: The Last Romantic (1998) pp555ff
- Charles Boberg, "The North American Regional Vocabulary Survey: New Variables and Methods in the Study of North American English," American Speech 2005 80(1): 22-60 in EBSCO