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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. What Anglo-Saxon word does Mencken report the colonists refused to replace with an Old Norse word of similar meaning?
2. According to Chapter 2.6, what regional pronunciation is erroneously thought by some to have superior authority regarding English pronunciation?
3. According to the report of Beverley, what did a group of soldiers turn into after eating some Jimson Weed?
4. How many classifications of Americanisms does Gilbert M. Tucker provide in 1921?
5. What word in American is used for the English word "shoe?"
Short Essay Questions
1. As explained in Chapter 6.4, why are Americans more conceding to foreign loan-words than the English are?
2. What is the significance of the quote from Sayce at the beginning of Chapter 9.9 that "Language begins with sentences, not with single words"?
3. What is the character of the argument presented by the Society for Pure English in the quoted caveat?
4. What is Mencken's evident attitude towards the vulgar American pronunciation of foreign loan-words?
5. What is indicated by dominance of American terms derived from German that are related to eating and drinking?
6. What is Mencken's evident attitude towards the "wearing down" of vowel and consonant sounds in the vulgar American pronunciation?
7. What two principal sources does Mencken identify as adding new words to the American English in Chapter 2.2?
8. What effect did the exploration of new territory have on the language of the American settlers, as described in Chapter 2.3?
9. What principally causes the difficulty of the English people understanding the American speech as explained in Chapter 1.3?
10. What is the difference between "rock" in English and in American, as explained in Chapter 2.4?
Essay Topic 1
Part of the driving force behind the divergence of American from British, is what Americans rather distinctly desire to express in language, according to Mencken. Write an essay discussing these desires of which Mencken implicitly speaks. What is the American concerned with in his language? What obstacles in linguistic form can stand between him and his desires? What then happens to these obstacles? What happens to language overall? Are there any dangers in these tendencies? If so, what are they? What is the fundamental relationship between the desires of a populace and their linguistic form?
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
Mencken claims that the true American spirit is to be found not in the textbooks or proclamations of grammarians, but in the vulgar speech of the common people. Discuss this claim in a thoughtful analytical essay. What is the American spirit? Does Mencken clearly present what the American spirit is? Is his a defensible claim? How does the vulgar speech of the common person reflect this spirit? Is there some danger of degradation in linguistic form from prevalence of the vulgar speech? How does the vulgar speech reflect upon the American as a human person?
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