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 is the second factor that Mencken identifies as an impediment to the growth of the American language in Chapter 3.1?

2. Which of the following is a term used by philologists to indicate the "instinctive search, etymologically unsound, for short roots in long words"?

3. What is the English meaning of the phrase "to carry on"?

4. According to Mencken, how do the English pronounce "been?"

5. To what continent does Mencken attribute the acknowledgment of the differences between American and British English?

Short Essay Questions

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

2. What is the character of the argument presented by the Society for Pure English in the quoted caveat?

3. In general, how did Noah Webster influence American pronunciation?

4. What two factors are discussed in Chapter 9.5 as contributing to Mencken's distress in the "movement toward the identity in form" and why?

5. 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?

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

7. What is revealed by the attitudes of the English conservatives in Australia towards American spelling?

8. What was the predominant attitude of philologists towards the study of American slang, at the time of Mencken's writing?

9. What was Walt Whitman's role in the development of the national literature of the United States?

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

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

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 2

An implicit premise throughout Mencken's work is that of the influence the overall national character and spirit has on the formation of a language. Write an essay discussing and analyzing the possibility and evidence of this connection. What are the national characters of Americans and Englishmen? How is this shown in their languages? What influence do these character traits have on linguistic formulations and habits of the people? What are some specific examples by which this influence can be seen? What is the ultimate significance of this connection?

Essay Topic 3

In describing the ways in which American became a distinct dialect, Mencken ascribes great power to the development of a national literature. Examine the relationship between a national literature and a distinct national dialect. What effect does literature have on its readership? What effect does local speech have on authors? How do authors and the literature they write influence a whole nation? How do they help to make the speech of the whole nation distinct from other nations? What, in particular, emerges from the works of popular authors? What is the overall significance of the relationship between a national literature and a national dialect?

(see the answer keys)

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