ENGL483 - American English

In this course we will examine American English from linguistic, social and historical perspectives, and primarily from a sociolinguistic viewpoint, considering its origins and the course of its development, including the influence of the many other languages with which it has had contact. Because American English displays an enormous amount of variation, the course will focus to a great degree on dialects and linguistic diversity. We will explore some of the myths about dialects and consider why those myths exist, and we will examine the ways in which language varies, including pronunciation (do cot and caught rhyme for you?), grammar (when do you use double negatives?), vocabulary (do you say soda or pop?), and discourse (whom do you address by title and last name?). We will look at why the dialects of American English exist, how they developed, in what ways they are changing, and what predictions scholars are making about their likely directions of change in the future. In addition to variation by region—what most people think about when they hear the word “dialect”—we will examine ways in which language use varies by social context, social class, gender identity, and ethnicity, and we will examine as well the effect on American English of the status of English in general as a world language.

The coursework will include homework assignments, two exams, and a 12 (or so) page final paper.


LING200 or ENGL280; or permission of ARHU-English department.