The English Language in America - Vol. 1

The English Language in America - Vol. 1

The English Language in America - Vol. 1

The English Language in America - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Though American histories of other kinds abound, of politics, of diplomacy, of painting, music, even of furniture, the American language has strangely escaped historical treatment. Perhaps it has generally been assumed that the language of America enjoys the felicity which is said to be the lot of persons and states without a history. But the life of the English language in America has covered three hundred years, and so long a stretch of static happiness certainly could not be expected in any thing human. In truth American English extends over just those periods in which the English language, reflecting new and complicated developments in social and economic conditions, has undergone some of its most interesting changes. In these changes the English language in America has shared to as great an extent as the American people have shared in the development of the civilization of the modern world.

In their immediate day and hour the facts of current American English have not infrequently challenged attention. But such studies of American English as have been made reflect for the most part an impressionistic or polemic interest in the speech of the day, and though often animated and amusing, and sometimes the vehicles for a certain amount of valuable information, they have offered very little in the way of systematic elucidation of the English language in America. Perhaps most attention has been paid in these treatises, both by Britons and by Americans, to the ever-burning question whether American English is as good as British English. Among recent discussions of the relations between British and American English the most elaborate as well as the most independent is contained in Mencken American Language. Studies of this kind, however, have usually been more significant as inquiries into social prejudices than into linguistic history.

One may question whether even now the time is ripe for writing a history of the English language in America. If by ripeness one means that the details for the definitive history of the American . . .

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