The American Language Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. Which of the following was not used as a substitute for the once indecent term, for highly refined ears, "bull"?

2. What word did Webster argue should have its vowel sound changed to "ee" instead of "eh"?

3. What sound did Webster object to inserting in words such as "gradual" and "nature," before the "u"?

4. What "Anglomaniac affectation" did Noah Webster sneer at in 1789?

5. Which of the following groups of immigrants does Mencken claim have a profound effect on not only the American vocabulary, but also its pronunciation and idiom?

Short Essay Questions

1. What does Mencken intimate by the assertion that the "inner spirit of English" has inclined steadily towards saying "I have go" for a thousand years?

2. Upon what does Mencken claim the art of American prose is based, in Chapter 9.2?

3. How does Mencken describe the attempts of British authors to give voice to American characters?

4. For what reason did the early Americans wish to distinguish their language from that of the English?

5. What characterizes the differences between American and English usage of lower-class idioms?

6. How does the severity and conventional loyalty of grammarians influence those they attempt to educate?

7. What effect did the exploration of new territory have on the language of the American settlers, as described in Chapter 2.3?

8. What was the overall effect of Noah Webster on the spelling of American English?

9. Under what situation does language undergo great changes and renew its vitality, according to Mencken in Chapter 9.1?

10. What chief cause does Mencken ascribes the backwardness of American war slang to?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Although American had changed drastically by the time Mencken wrote The American Language, in 1921, it has clearly changed drastically since then, as well. Examine, in an analytical essay, some of the more significant changes since then. What new words have come into popular usage? What then popular Americanisms have faded out almost altogether? Has the language changed as significantly since 1921 as it did between any other comparable span of time? If so, defend your answer with specific examples. Finally, what is the characteristic of the American language as revealed by comparing its present state with that it was characterized by Mencken as having when he wrote The American Language?

Essay Topic 2

At the root of the divergence of American from British was the spirit of the Revolution. Write an essay responding to the following questions: What was the nature of the revolutionary spirit? Why did it desire to distinguish itself from England? Why did this desire carry over to language? How was it practical and how impractical? What do these impracticalities reveal about the nature of the spirit? How did this spirit directly influence the American dialect? How did it indirectly influence it? For how long did this spirit continue to influence, directly or indirectly, the American language? What is significant about the relationship between this spirit and the language?

Essay Topic 3

An interesting part of speech, according to the analysis Mencken provides, is that of the pronoun. Already a linguistic shortcut, it becomes the subject of even more reductionist changes. Analyze this tendency in an essay, which thoroughly explicates the modern American pronoun. What is the function of the pronoun? For what does it serve as a substitute? What are its relationships with other parts of speech? How do these various elements tend towards the elision of pronouns with other parts of speech? What is significant about this tendency to elide pronouns?

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