American Languages

The details
Language and Linguistics
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
25 April 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module surveys the sociolinguistic history of North America. 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 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 dialect, attention is given to European competitors - Spanish, French, and English dialects influenced by them - and 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.

It is hoped students with interests in N America, but no linguistics background, will enrol. Extra readings in the first 3 weeks are designed to give non-linguists enough working knowledge of basic sociolinguistic principles and concepts to achieve the course aims and objectives.

Module aims

The module aims to:

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

Survey a range of language and dialect structures that are distinctive or characteristic of major North American varieties.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

Convey a basic understanding of linguistic, sociolinguistic and language policy issues arising in North American contexts.

Be familiar with basic documents and resources for the study of North American sociolinguistics, dialectology, multilingualism & linguistic varieties.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

One 2-hr lecture per week x 10 weeks;


  • Lisa Green. (2004) 'African American English', in Language in the USA: themes for the twenty-first century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rosina Lippi-Green. (2012) English with an accent: language, ideology and discrimination in the United States, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Kim Potowski. (2010) Language diversity in the USA, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles. (c2006) The atlas of North American English: phonetics, phonology, and sound change : a multimedia reference tool, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • IPA (phonetic symbols) Interactive Charts, http://www.yorku.ca/earmstro/ipa/
  • Charles Boberg. (2006) 'The South', in The atlas of North American English: phonetics, phonology, and sound change: a multimedia reference tool, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter., pp.240-262
  • Susan Tamasi; Lamont Antieau. (2015) Language And Linguistic Diversity In The US: An Introduction, New York: Routledge.
  • Naomi Nagy; Julie Roberts. (2004) 'New England: Phonology', in A handbook of varieties of English: a multimedia reference tool, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Lily Wong Fillmore. (2004) 'Language in education', in Language in the USA: themes for the twenty-first century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dominika Baran. (2017) Language in immigrant America, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Notes Week 10 French, https://moodle.essex.ac.uk/pluginfile.php/825495/mod_resource/content/1/Notes-French.pdf
  • Interactive chart of Atlantic slave trade, http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_history_of_american_slavery/2015/06/animated_interactive_of_the_history_of_the_atlantic_slave_trade.html
  • Peter L. Patrick. (no date) Notes Week 9 Spanish.
  • William Labov. (2012) Dialect diversity in America: the politics of language change, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. vol. Page-Barbour lectures for 2009
  • Jan Tillery; Guy Bailey. (2003) 'Evolution of Southern American English', in English in the southern United States, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. Studies in English language, pp.159-172
  • On Vowel Shifts, https://moodle.essex.ac.uk/pluginfile.php/785486/mod_folder/content/0/IntroducingVowelShifts.pdf?forcedownload=1
  • Invasion of America, http://invasionofamerica.ehistory.org/
  • McCarty, Teresa. (2010) 'Native American languages in the USA', in Language diversity in the USA, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.47-65
  • (2014) Languages and dialects in the U.S.: focus on diversity and linguistics, New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Erik Thomas. (2004) 'Rural Southern White accents', in A handbook of varieties of English: a multimedia reference tool, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter., pp.87-114
  • Southern Vowel Shift chart w/sounds, https://www.talkintarheel.com/chapter/4/other4-1.php
  • Julie S. Amberg; Deborah J. Vause. (2009) American English: history, structure, and usage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Baran, Dominika. (2017) Language in immigrant America, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Peter L. Patrick. (no date) Notes Week 11 US Language Policy.
  • Crawford, James. (1992) Language loyalties: a source book on the official English controversy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Exercise  22/11/2019  20% 
Coursework   Essay   17/01/2020  40% 
Written Exam  In-class test    40% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Peter Patrick, email: patrickp@essex.ac.uk.
Prof. Peter Patrick
Prof. P. Patrick, Office: 4.328, Tel: 01206 872088, Email: patrickp@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Lynne Julie Cahill
University of Sussex
Available via Moodle
Of 16 hours, 15 (93.8%) hours available to students:
1 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Language and Linguistics

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