AMERICAN ENGLISH BEGAN to define itself in new ways at the opening of the eighteenth century, and nowhere was this change more apparent than in South Carolina. Present-day North and South Carolina were still united as a single colony, but their settled places were far apart and very different. Charles Town (as it was then known) from modest beginnings became, by midcentury, one of the wealthiest and most important cities in British North America.1
European influence in the region began, of course, much earlier. Five Spanish expeditions traversed the southeast during the sixteenth century, and, from the records created to document them, a detailed picture of the inhabitants and their societies can be discerned. Here as so often elsewhere in the spread of languages, “interpreters” came on board vessels or emerged from the forest to negotiate the exchange of information. In the very first of these expeditions, that led by Hernando de Soto between 1539 and 1543, the interpreter was a French boy who had spent a year in “monolingual
1. Throughout the rest of the chapter, I will refer to the city as “Charleston,” although people of the period would not have known the city by that name.