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The American Language Test | Final Test - Hard

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Final Test - Hard

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

Short Answer Questions

1. From what newspaper does Mencken derive the story with which he opens Chapter 11.2?



2. To what do English writers usually ascribe the American custom of numbering and lettering streets?



3. Which phrase did Oliver Wendell Holmes use to describe the state of the person who makes use of slang?



4. Which of the following is the analogate to which Mencken compares the slang words overused by the ignorant?



5. Which of the following is one of the three great causes of change in language according to Sayce, as reported in Chapter 9.3?



Essay Topics

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?

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?

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?

(see the answer keys)

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