English and drama

Language in the United States

Module code: Q1087
Level 5
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module assesses the linguistic landscape of the United States from the colonial period onward and examines the linguistic and social forces that have brought the US to its current linguistic state.

We consider how a nation of such size and diverse history has managed without an explicit language policy, arriving at a de facto standardised national language.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • What is the native linguistic landscape of North America? (How) have European and native American languages interacted?
  • What was ‘English’ in the colonial period? How did expansion and immigration change the linguistic landscape?
  • What is ‘American’ about ‘American English’? How is it different from other national varieties? Why isn’t it more different from other Englishes?
  • How was language standardisation achieved? Which institutions, individuals and events affected it?
  • Are there particularly ‘American’ forms or uses of linguistic communication?
  • Is American English a threat to other linguistic varieties?

Module learning outcomes

  • describe major distinguishing characteristics of American English and of the linguistic landscape of the US.
  • explain major forces that have determined the directions of linguistic change in contemporary USA.
  • use corpus and lexicographical tools to support a claim about language in the US.