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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 is the physical basis to which the nasal twang of Americans is ascribed?
2. According to Mencken, democratic government is essentially government by whom?
3. How is the "portmanteau-word" formed?
4. Which of the following groups of foreign immigrants does Mencken not attribute influence over American English in Chapter 6.4?
5. To what phrase did Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster, and Robert Southey object as a base Americanism, as discussed in Chapter 2.3?
Short Essay Questions
1. What is indicated by dominance of American terms derived from German that are related to eating and drinking?
2. What are the different significations of "guy" in America and England, as described by Mencken?
3. How is the advance of American spelling characterized in Chapter 8.3?
4. What influence does Mencken credit the Protestant Episcopal Church with about American adoption of Briticisms?
5. What does Mencken mean by saying that Americans have "a habit of achieving short-cuts in speech by a process of agglutination"?
6. What chief cause does Mencken ascribes the backwardness of American war slang to?
7. To what does Mencken ascribe the withdrawal of the National Education Association from the simplified spelling campaign?
8. What were some of the reasons that many immigrants changed their names upon arriving in America?
9. 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?
10. What is Mencken's evident attitude towards the "wearing down" of vowel and consonant sounds in the vulgar American pronunciation?
Essay Topic 1
Much of Mencken's The American Language is devoted to the study of expansion of the American vocabulary. Write an essay examining the various sources and means by which new words enter the American dialect, as well as the impact they have. From where do new words come? What prompts the admission of new words into the vocabulary? What languages have had the most influence on the American vocabulary? What does the American dialect do with its new words? What are the effects that new words can and do have on the American dialect? Be sure to use specific examples.
Essay Topic 2
Write an essay investigating the various ways in which language can diverge into two or more dialects, using the principles found in Mencken's The American Language. What are the principal sources of its divergences? What are the primary ways in which it actually diverges? What characterizes these divergences? How is this shown, particularly, in the American dialect?
Essay Topic 3
Write an essay analyzing the nature of the relationship between the "melting pot" of American immigrant assimilation and the nomenclature that permeates the country. What are the evident influences of foreign languages on American names? How are these names Americanized? What is the general tendency of American-speakers in the employment and application of names to places and people? To what degree are the various names Americanized? What is the cause of Americanization of names? What is its result and what does it indicate about the American spirit?
This section contains 911 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)