Connection Essay: Linguistic Independence

 Welcome to this week’s Connection Essay.

I’ve been repeating the same instructions each week, so if you haven’t seen them yet, you can find them at this previous assignment page.

Submissions can be made at any time during the week before Friday at midnight, at which point it will no longer be possible to submit anything for this week’s assignment. If you submit nothing by the deadline, you’ll receive a zero for the week — but remember that you only need to do three for the whole semester.

It’s very common for people unfamiliar with history to excuse their lack of knowledge by saying simply, “I wasn’t there, so how can I know?” Most of the time, this is a cop-out. There are plenty of documents and other sources of information to help us recover the past, and it’s usually possible to know quite a lot about anything in the past — if we’re willing to work at it a bit.

But interestingly, one of the most common features of our lives is one of the hardest to recapture from the past: What did people sound like? Before it was possible to record sound (which wasn’t until the 1800s), no human voice could be heard again once that person died. An interesting question, then, is whether early Americans sounded like British people, with a British accent, or if they had developed their own way of speaking — the “American accent” many of us use today.

For this week’s Connection Discussion, please read “When Did Colonial America Gain Linguistic Independence?” by Chi Luu, a scholar and researcher on language. You can either download a pdf of the article  Download download a pdf of the articleor read it on the original website (Links to an external site.).

Here’s the prompt:

What factors contributed to the differences in British and American ways of speaking? Why did an “American accent” develop at all? Is a distinctly American form of speech a necessary component of American identity and independence from Europe? Why or why not?

Let me know if you have any questions, and I’m looking forward to reading what you         think!

When Did Colonial America Gain Linguistic Independence?