Today our Day Translations blog takes you on a very quick yet informative history lesson. As you can probably tell from the title, we’ll be exploring the history of the American/ US English Language. We want to uncover when it was first created and used and by whom. Let’s also look at whether or not it underwent any significant changes throughout the course of history.
Sit back and relax; class is now in session. Let’s see how much you know about the origins of the US English language.
Let’s dive right in!
The History of the US English Language
The English language variety most often used in the United States of America is known as American English. The United States is estimated to be home to around two-thirds of all English native speakers in the world. United States English and U.S. English are also other names for the American English language.
The British colonization of the United States, of course, left behind the usage of the English language. In the 17th century, the first group of English-speaking immigrants came to North America. Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Finnish, and a wide variety of Native American languages were also spoken in North America throughout that century.
The Significance of 19th Century American Literature
At the start of the 19th century, American literature and grammar entered their golden period. By this time, the language had become much more enhanced by the earlier writings of Mark Twain. During this period, authors used their writings as tools to reflect their resentment of the rise of capitalism, monopolies, and government actions that were negatively affecting them.
An interesting fact to note is that English grammar also reached its highest levels of refinement throughout the 19th century. This happened both in terms of grammatical norms and their perceived relevance within society.
By this time, thousands of new terms were also being coined. During the 19th century, many of these terms were specific and relevant to the fields of medicine and science.
Phonology is a branch of linguistics that goes in-depth about how languages, dialects, and systems are organized by their sound.
That said, studies on the historical use of English in the United States and the United Kingdom indicate that spoken American English is conservative in certain respects. This means that they decided to keep some elements of the English language that modern British English no longer uses.
A great example is that English was spoken in most locations around the world by the 17th century. By this time as well, rhotic speech (R-like sounds) was prevalent throughout North America. Hiberno-English, Scottish English, and West Country English all contributed to rhoticity.
The letter “R” is often represented in North American English by a retroflex or alveolar approximant rather than a trill or tap. In North America, the loss of the syllable-final ‘r’ mostly affects the accents of eastern New England, South Philadelphia, New York City, surrounding areas, and the coastal regions of the South. If the last ‘r’ occurs in an unaccented syllable or word and the next syllable or word starts with a consonant, the syllable-final ‘r’ may occasionally be dropped in languages that are naturally rhotic.
US English vs. British English
While many terms may have one meaning in British English, they can mean something entirely different in American English and vice versa. For instance, in American English, an athlete is someone who participates in sports in general as opposed to someone who competes in track and field events in British English.
Direct, leisure, niche, and other terms have distinct pronunciations in American and British English, respectively. Other terms with similar pronunciations but different spellings in the two languages include defense (pronounced “defence” in British English).
Of course, we could cover so much more, but we said we’d keep it short. So now it’s time to wrap things up.
Let’s Conclude Our Lesson on the US English Language
We hope you enjoyed today’s detailed yet brief history lesson and learned at least one new thing about the origin of American English. It was very interesting to see how literature evolved throughout the centuries for this language and the many differences between American and British English.
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