AMERICAN ENGLISH HAS often been seen, particularly in Britain, as an imperfect language, mainly derived from the survival of expressions that have become archaic in England, borrowings from other languages encountered here in North America, or even errors and mistakes that Americans didn’t know enough to correct. But American English, from the beginning, began to take its own course, shaped by the new landscape and the various human languages found in it. Early in the seventeenth century, English observers noticed that words like maize and canoe had become English words and were valuable additions to the language. From that time forward, American expressions were recognized even if they were sometimes demeaned.
The history of American English does not consist, however, of what Britons (and anglophiles) thought about the language, but of the language itself as it evolved over four centuries. Most attention in the past has centered on New England, largely because the written records are most abundant there. Other places were also prominent and influential in shaping the evolution of the language, as this book details.