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 LG 448: American Languages

Prof. Peter L. Patrick

Dept. of Language & Linguistics

University of Essex

Course Aims and Coverage



Course aims and objectives:

·               To introduce Linguistics & other students to the history, ecology and distribution of some major languages and dialects, and their speakers, in contemporary North America

·               To convey a basic understanding of linguistic, sociolinguistic and language policy issues arising in North American contexts

·               To survey a range of language and dialect structures that are distinctive or characteristic of major North American varieties

·               To familiarise students with basic documents and resources for the study of North American sociolinguistics, dialectology, multilingualism & linguistic varieties



Course outline:

This course surveys the sociolinguistic history of North America (mainly the USA). It explores the historical experience of multilingualism, language contact, dialect development, language conflict, and language variation and change in the USA, with some attention to Canada. Four themes recur across the arc of historical developments, and are highlighted for each variety: language variation, contact, attitudes and conflict.

·      The survey’s progress is initially historical in orientation (from European contact/conflict with Native Americans to modern American English)…

·      …then regional (the South, Southwest, Northeast, Quebec, Great Lakes) and ethnic (Hispanic, Francophone, Deaf, African American).

·      Besides American English, its Colonial origins and regional dialects, and a brief overview of Native American languages,

·      …attention is given to major European competitors – Spanish, French, and English dialects influenced by them…

·      …and to indigenous contact varieties (African American English – AAE, and American Sign Language – ASL) whose users are discriminated against.

·      Variation and contact involving all these non-dominant varieties is related to language attitudes and developing ideologies that underlie and explain language conflicts in North America.

·      We conclude with a look at recent language policies and nativist movements.



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Last updated on 12 September 2017