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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 does Sayce say that language is composed of in 1879?
2. How many classifications of Americanisms does Gilbert M. Tucker provide in 1921?
3. What difference in pronunciation does Mencken state most sharply distinguishes the two dialects?
4. What is the English meaning of the phrase "to carry on"?
5. What word best describes the English attitude towards the adoption of foreign loan-words, in contrast to the American attitude?
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. What effect did the exploration of new territory have on the language of the American settlers, as described in Chapter 2.3?
3. In what ways is the noun principally abused in vulgar American?
4. What characterizes the American attitude towards creating new names?
5. What principally causes the difficulty of the English people understanding the American speech as explained in Chapter 1.3?
6. How does Mencken describe the distinction between colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions that are generally accepted and those that are not? What example does he use to explain this distinction?
7. What is the relationship between the mean and nasty labor done in the United States and the desire of immigrants to change their names?
8. 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?
9. What characterizes the differences between American and English usage of lower-class idioms?
10. 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"?
Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:
Essay Topic 1
An important distinction, which Mencken makes in discussing the nature of the American language, is between the proper speech of literate Americans and the common speech of what he calls the proletariat. Write an essay discussing this distinction and its ultimate significance. According to what Mencken has written, is there a genuine distinction between the two? Which of the two does Mencken appear to favor? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each, the proper and the improper, the formal and the informal? What arguments may be made in defense of each?
Essay Topic 2
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?
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?
This section contains 2,602 words
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