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 word do Americans use for "angry" that was once an English provincialism considered base?

2. What word in American is used for the English word "shoe?"

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

4. According to Mencken, what did the first generations born in the New World value as a virtue over enterprise and resourcefulness?

5. Where was the broad "a" principally established prior to the Civil War?

Short Essay Questions

1. Why does Mencken find the double negative an appreciable linguistic deviation?

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

3. What general problem of language does Mencken describe in Chapter 1.1?

4. 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?

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

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

8. What principally causes the difficulty of the English people understanding the American speech as explained in Chapter 1.3?

9. What typifies the difference in the use of honorifics between Americans and the English?

10. As explained in Chapter 6.4, why are Americans more conceding to foreign loan-words than the English are?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

There is a very notable and significant difference between the neologisms of the Americans and the British. Write an essay analyzing these differences, their sources, and what the neologisms reveal about the respective national characters. What is characteristic about the neologisms Mencken ascribes to Americans? What are the characteristics of those ascribed to the British? How are these different? How are they similar? How does each country come about fostering their neologisms? What do these methods and their sources reveal about the countries and their national characteristics, respectively?

Essay Topic 2

The primary conflict voiced by Mencken in The American Language is that which exists between the spirit of linguistic conservationism and a spirit of linguistic innovation. Analyze this conflict as it is presented throughout the book and report insightfully on the strengths and weaknesses of each spirit. How is each spirit superior to the other? How is it inferior? Is there a valid argument to be made in favor absolutely of one or the other? What arguments may be presented in support of each? What are the arguments that may be presented against each? Is there a plausible compromise that may be made between the two?

Essay Topic 3

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?

(see the answer keys)

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