English in America: A Linguistic History

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Centering English Fascinating! Suggestion on Latinos and English. Puerto Rican English in New York influence of Black English historically based on both communities arriving in significant numbers in the 1920s and 1950s. Contact with Spanish omits circular migration with the Islands of Puerto Rico in helping extend the life of Spanish. In addition, the role of churches in reinforcing Spanish speaking and literacy. Recommend Toward a Language Policy for Puerto Ricans in the United States (1977), National Puerto Rican Task Force on Educational Policy, Centro de estudios puertorriqueños, Hunter College and the work of Pousada, Poplack, and Alvarez during the 1970s on Puerto Rican code- switching.
Date published: 2020-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from English in America: A Linguistic History I already wrote a review and even added an addenda. I'm concerned that this is not in your records.
Date published: 2020-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So that's why.... Dear Dr. Schilling: I would like you to know that your course on American English through The Great Courses is a great resource for the semi-foreigner (if that may be an appropriate reference for my background). Please allow me to explain. I grew up in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty With a childhood L1 of Italian from my immigrant parents, which quickly extinguished upon entering the public school system in New Jersey. At seventeen I resided abroad in a series of countries for ten years. During a seven-year period in Italy, my birth language was restored and ameliorated within a few months, but upon returning to the US, numerous cultural/ linguistic peculiarities emerged, especially questions regarding the myriad phonetic and vernacular diversities spoken in the US. For example, I discovered that just because Mexicans in the southwest conversed fluently among their peers, many of them could not read or write Spanish. They exhibited a speaking vocabulary but committed countless errors of literacy when writing. The explanations you provided for these disconcerting curiosities I harbored about American English were clarified through your course presentation on American English, and I am grateful for your research-based sociolinguistic perspective that has ostensibly offered plausible explanations for these ‘mysteries.’ Thank you for your perspicacious enlightenments. Luigi Yannotta
Date published: 2020-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good Instructor is excellent and I am learning a great deal
Date published: 2020-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Language differences within America This is a very straightforward course, with no drama or fireworks, about language differences within America in historical context. The professor does not have any axe to grind, other than constantly emphasizing that no dialect or accent is better or worse than any other. Each time there is a controversy, she carefully presents two or three competing theories along with the supporting arguments for each. I found her easy to listen to, but I definitely perked up whenever she brought in some samples of people speaking to illustrate particular dialects or accents. I wish there had been more such speech samples. Although I learned a fair amount about the process of language differentiation and change over time, I still have many questions about the topic that her course didn't equip me to answer, such as why there would be such a difference in accent between Providence, Rhode Island and Cranston, RI, which is less than 6 miles away, as well as between Providence and Boston, which are only 50 miles apart. In addition, I did not understand why she lumped together nearly all the states west of New York, when I can distinctly tell when someone is from Minnesota or Chicago, versus Ohio, for example. I had also hoped to understand why people from New Orleans sound so distinctive, and though she did discuss this a bit, what she said didn't add to my understanding. So all in all, I was a bit disappointed in this learning experience.
Date published: 2019-09-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Information Although it too a while to receive the course materials, browsing through them presented new and interesting information. The course is a tad more difficult than my expectations, but more than well worth the money. As a lifelong learner, I can only get more informed by taking the course.
Date published: 2019-09-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from English in America A Linguistic History The course had very severe audio problems. Apparently Great Courses was aware of this because sub titles were provided. For a course in linguistics that doesn't work. You should be ashamed to ship something that has such poor quality.
Date published: 2019-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I wish there were more examples An excellent course, on a subject that interests me. A substantial amount of the material covered dealt with dialects—which made a nice interface with Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations (since the origins of the dialects are very much tied into the ethnic and social origins of his 9 or 11 distinct American cultures). Dr Schilling knows what she’s talking about. She is direct, not particularly animated, but very articulate; she finished 1-2 minutes early on most of the lectures, probably having to do with her rate of reading off a teleprompter versus her anticipated usual lecture style. The presentations do move right along, often covering quite a lot of new terminology and concepts, and I found myself wishing they were just a wee bit slower. Although she presented 4 or 5 audio-taped examples of various dialects being spoken, I am sorry there was not more of this. In fact, in my ideal world these 12 lectures would all be 45 minutes long rather than 30: same topics, same amount of material covered, just with lots more actual examples. I couldn’t help thinking about how much less instructive Robert Greenberg’s courses would be if he were forced to present each lecture in 30 minutes, without all the musical examples that really cement the concepts and augment learning. I think the comparison is apt, since my appreciation of dialect differences in American English rests primarily on differences in what they sound like when spoken, and you can’t really appreciate that fully without hearing them in action.
Date published: 2019-01-06
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English in America: A Linguistic History
Course Trailer
Defining American English Dialects
1: Defining American English Dialects

Begin with a big-picture overview of the American English dialect map, asking as we explore: What is the difference between a language, a dialect, and an accent? Discover the intricate rules governing all linguistic systems, and consider how and why some varieties of language become valued standards and others are stigmatized....

31 min
The Foundations of American English
2: The Foundations of American English

The main English dialect hubs in the new American colonies were centered on Jamestown, New England, and Philadelphia. See how these were influenced by contact with Native American languages, Spanish, French, Dutch, and the West African languages of slaves, and learn about the five stages of development English dialects typically undergo everywhere English is spoken in the world....

30 min
From English in America to American English
3: From English in America to American English

Explore how the English settlers gradually transformed themselves from colonists to American citizens, and how English in America became American English. Myriad dialects began to coalesce, and there was an explosion of linguistic creativity, especially in the creation of dialect words - Americanisms like "raccoon" and "bifocal"....

30 min
The Rise of American Language Standards
4: The Rise of American Language Standards

In the 1800s, America began looking inward, not to England, for its language standards. The new norms were recorded in dictionaries, spelling books, and grammars, and celebrated in a profusion of distinctly American literary works. Noah Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain are all key figures in this stage in the historical development of American English....

29 min
Where Is General American English?
5: Where Is General American English?

Our journey continues with the westward expansion of American English, as the New England dialect spreads across the North, the South extends to the Southwest, and people in the middle increasingly intermingle. Along the way, dialect mixing and leveling lead to increasing standardization, or at least the ideal of a single, uniform standard, and "General American English" is born. But where is it, ...

29 min
Mapping American Dialects
6: Mapping American Dialects

What do you call a big road where you drive fast: highway, parkway, freeway, or something else? How do you pronounce the word "been": with the vowel in "sit," "see," or "set"? Take a quiz and see where your linguistic usages place you on the American dialect map. Delve into how linguists who study dialects - sociolinguists, dialectologists, and dialect geographers - get data to make their dialect ...

29 min
Ethnicity and American English
7: Ethnicity and American English

America has always been a land of immigrants, and American English has been shaped since its earliest days by contact among immigrants from all over the British Isles and from around the world. Consider how the languages of the many immigrants who poured into America in the 19th and early 20th centuries gave rise to distinctive ethnic dialects of American English, and how they left their mark on A...

30 min
African American English
8: African American English

Explore the indelible linguistic effects of the peoples of African descent who were brought to America as slaves, who went on to develop a richly expressive language variety that today is emulated by young people across the world-African American English. Contrary to common misunderstandings, this well-studied dialect is governed by intricate and consistent rules....

31 min
Mobility, Media, and Contemporary English
9: Mobility, Media, and Contemporary English

Moving into 20th-century America, examine how changes in movement patterns of peoples, and of information, have affected language change. Consider population movements from rural to urban to suburban-and then back to the city again; the Civil Rights Movement; and the increasing influence of Hollywood media and the dawn of the Internet age....

28 min
The History of American Language Policy
10: The History of American Language Policy

What's the official language of the United States? What should it be? See how American language policies and language attitudes have shifted back and forth over the centuries, from periods of relative tolerance for non-English languages in the U.S., to times of heightened fear for the "safety" of English in America, and concurrent attempts at stricter language legislation. Is there reason to worry...

30 min
Latino Language and Dialects in America
11: Latino Language and Dialects in America

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, America has seen an upsurge in immigration, much as it did at the dawn of the 20th. Investigate the effects of immigrants from Latin America on American English, and confront a fear facing some native speakers of American English: Is Spanish taking over, and do we need language policies to prevent this? Also explore the native English varieties developed ...

28 min
Where Is American English Headed?
12: Where Is American English Headed?

Secure as a major player on the world stage, the U.S. can now look inward and focus on the intra-national linguistic and cultural diversity that's been there since English speakers first arrived on the American continent. Discover that regional dialect differentiation is actually increasing, not receding, even in the Internet age, and consider the development of English as it continues to spread a...

31 min
Natalie Schilling

If we approach language not as grammarians - as guardians of proper usage-but as scientists-as linguists-then we need to study human language as it really is, not how we think it should be.


The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Georgetown University

About Natalie Schilling

Dr. Natalie Schilling is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and head of a research project at Georgetown University called Language and Communication in Washington, DC. She earned a doctorate in Linguistics from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also received a bachelor's degree in English, and she holds a master's degree in English from North Carolina State University.

Dr. Schilling has appeared on a number of NPR programs, and has authored and contributed to articles in national publications. She is the author of Sociolinguistic Fieldwork, coauthor of American English: Dialects and Variation (third edition), and coeditor of The Handbook of Language Variation and Change (second edition). She has conducted forensic linguistic investigation of speaker profiling and authorship attribution, applying expertise in American English dialect variation to casework.

Dr. Schilling is keenly interested in American literature as well as American linguistics, especially in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain. She specializes in the study of language variation and change in American English dialects, including regional, ethnic, and gender-based language varieties. Dr. Schilling's main expertise is stylistic variation: how and why individuals use different language styles as they shape and reshape personal, interpersonal, and group identities and relations.

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