The American Language - Study Guide Chapter 7.1 Summary & Analysis

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Introducing standard American punctuation, Mencken quotes Archibald Sayce, who says, "Language does not consist of letters but of sounds...." He adds that the history of phonology includes grammarians and etymologists neglecting this notion and staying too close to the deductive studies of words themselves. He discourages this approach, saying that people of a given race might write alike, but no two pronounce alike and might even have different styles. This results in the difficulty of determining an exact pronunciation for a given set or combination of letters. Moreover, the difficulty lies not in pronunciation but in intonation, and further in accent.

Mencken recounts the characteristics of the American voice. It is higher pitched than the British, although it is not altogether high-pitched but is rather consistently low-pitched and invested in a nasal twang. He also discusses the findings of comparative voice studies regarding syllables. For...

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The American Language from Nonfiction Classics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.