The American Language Test | Final Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. In what language does Mencken state the double negative was once "quite respectable?"

2. In what region of the United States are Spanish names corrupted, as Dutch names are in New York?

3. In what dialect of English is "slick" used synonymously with "sleek" according to Chapter 9.10?

4. According to Mencken, Italians often take the names of what nationality when they marry?

5. For which voiceless consonant is the voiced "d" substituting with growing regularity, according to Mearns?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

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 2

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 3

Although American had changed drastically by the time Mencken wrote The American Language, in 1921, it has clearly changed drastically since then, as well. Examine, in an analytical essay, some of the more significant changes since then. What new words have come into popular usage? What then popular Americanisms have faded out almost altogether? Has the language changed as significantly since 1921 as it did between any other comparable span of time? If so, defend your answer with specific examples. Finally, what is the characteristic of the American language as revealed by comparing its present state with that it was characterized by Mencken as having when he wrote The American Language?

(see the answer keys)

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