Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Book 3. Language and the Printed Word. Part 10: The New Uniformity

Chapter 41.  An American Accent
  • Spectacular linguistic uniformity
    • geographic (without barriers of regional dialect)
    • social (without barriers of class and caste)
    • symptoms and causes of a striving for national unity
    • classless language provided vernacular for equality
  • Pronunciation
    • southern pronunciation a survival of older ways

    • once-isolated regional English dialects met
    • linguistic melting pot
    • European travelers amazed by proper and grammatical spoken English
  • Strength of forces toward a uniform speech
    • resistance to borrowing
    • lack of invention of new words
    • borrowing limited
      • Indian words
      • new combinations of English words (e.g., bullfrog, catfish
    • before Revolution, only striking new characteristic of the language was its uniformity
  • Americanisms
    • employed by Rev. John Witherspoon in 1781
    • surprisingly little need for the word
    • brash and extravagant developing in 19th century
    • late 19th and early 20th century developments
      • borrowing from French, Spanish, etc.
      • free commercial invention of words (e.g., Kodak, Sanforized)
    • vocabulary did not become distinctly American until 50 years after Revolution

Chapter 42.  Quest for a Standard
  • The literati expressed an enthusiasm for standardization
    • Ben Franklin as spokesman for provincial America
      • tinkered with spelling
      • father of Purism in American English
      • never wavered from this quest
      • became a tool in the Age of Pedants
    • a purer, more English English
      • preoccupied writers into the 19th century
      • 1776-1800 a period when a large number of Americanisms were added to the language
      • purists stepped up the battle
  • Noah Webster 
    • attempted to purify language
    • restoring it to condition of best language in best period of England
    • grossly underestimated the number of distinctly American words and usages
    • little justification for his for calling his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language "American"
    • somewhat of a dictator in his approach to language
  • Spelling
    • in 17th century, each person spelled as he pleased
    • in 18th century, authors spelled fairly much alike
    • Dr. Johnson's Dictionary (1757) became a standard
  • Learning a standard language
    • essential to partaking in the enjoyments of a ruling aristocracy
    • late 18th and early 19th centuries saw a prolific output of dictionaries, grammars, and guides to proper speech
    • subversive to old caste
    • a way of (democratized) language suitable to New World

 Chapter 43.  Culture by the Book:  The Spelling Fetish
  • Spelling bee  (a more appropriate fit for volume 2, The National Experience)
    • a game which popularized the effort to make proper speech accessible to all
    • "bee" itself an Americanism
  • American attitude toward pronunciation
    • emphasis on rules on proper speaking and
    • writing profoundly
    • tendency toward spelling pronunciation
      • giving each spelled syllable its pronounced due
      • affected pronunciation of proper names and places
  • "Dictatorship of the schoolmarm"  (first known use of 'schoolmarm", 1831)
    • declared teachable rules of English
      • dissolved class distinctions
      • kept one more avenue open in a mobile society
    • possible only through a program of universal education
  • Early New England settlers
    • responsible for early establishment of uniformity
    • middle-class and literate
    • champions of the common school
  • People's English takes place of Related posts
  • everyone privileged to speak like an aristocrat
  • suited to a county without a cultural capital

Related posts:
The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel Boorstin,  Book 1.  The Vision and the Reality Part 1.  A City Upon a Hill:  The Puritans of Massachusetts.  (12/8/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Part 2. The Inward Plantation: The Quakers of Pennsylvania.  (12/10/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Part 3. Victims of Philanthropy: The Settlers of Georgia.  (12/13/2014)
The Americans;  The Colonial Experience, Part 4.  Transplanters:  The Virginians.  (12/14/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Book 2. Viewpoints and Institutions. Part 5: An American Frame of Mind.  (12/17/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Book 2. Viewpoints and Institutions. Part 6: Educating the Community
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Book 2. Viewpoints and Institutions. Part 7: The Learned Lose Their Monopolies.  (12/24/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Book 2. Viewpoints and Institutions. Part 8: New World Medicine.  (12/31/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Book 2. Viewpoints and Institutions. Part 9: The Limits of American Science

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