English in America: A Linguistic History

Course No. 2274
Professor Natalie Schilling,
Georgetown University
Share This Course
3.8 out of 5
50 Reviews
66% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 2274
Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn the difference between a language, a dialect, and an accent - and how these are influenced by region.
  • numbers Examine how the independence of America resulted in new language standards.
  • numbers Take a quiz and see what areas of the U.S. sound like you. Delve into how linguists study dialects.
  • numbers Consider the how languages of the many immigrants gave rise to distinctive ethnic dialects of American English.
  • numbers Discover that regional dialect differentiation is actually increasing, not receding, even in the Internet age.

Course Overview

Think about this: How would you address a group of two or more people? Would your default terminology be: ”you all,” “yous,” ”you lot,” “you guys,” “you’uns,” “yinz,” “you,” “y’all,” or something else? Would that change depending on whom you were talking to or where you were using it? What do you call a long sandwich that contains cold cuts and vegetables? Is it a “sub,” “grinder,” “hoagie,” “hero,” “poor boy,” “bomber,” “Italian sandwich,” or something else? Your answers can provide revealing insights about who you are, where you grew up or live now, and your social, economic, and educational background.

Welcome to the enthralling world of linguistics. If you’ve ever been curious how words like “awesomesauce” ever came to be, let alone made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, or if you’ve ever wondered why you say “firefly” and someone else calls the same insect a “lightning bug,” English in America: A Linguistic History is for you.

There’s an incredibly rich and colorful history behind American English. A profoundly diverse assortment of cultures and heritages has influenced our vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar, and the language continues to grow and shift. Dialect variations are widespread and actually increasing, and the new words, accents, and sentence structures both reflect and shape changes in our culture and society. Investigating these dialects is the domain of sociolinguistics, the study of the intricate interrelation between language variation and cultural, interpersonal, and personal identity. At the forefront of the study of American English dialects is Natalie Schilling, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University, who guides you on this intriguing and enlightening journey.

The ABCs of American Vocabulary: Absorbing, Borrowing, and Creating

Start by exploring the dialects of English in our first colonies, and learn how settlers adopted many Native American words for locations, foods, and more. As you travel through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, you’ll see how accents shifted, grammar changed, and new words were coined. These changes were often connected to the cultural, technological, and political phenomena of the time. You’ll delve into the early formative period of American English, when it was influenced by Spanish, French, and Dutch colonists as well as many Native American languages and the West African languages of slaves. You’ll also examine the effects of later immigration, as English speakers absorbed foreign words and sayings to add nuance, color, and expressiveness.

In addition to borrowing and adapting words from other cultures, the founding Americans were notorious for making words up simply to suit their needs—a creative exercise we still practice today. Benjamin Franklin created a plethora of words and phrases in order to describe his inventions, words that are now staples of our language, such as: battery, condenser, conductor, charge, plus, minus, electric shock, and electrician. Thomas Jefferson was credited with generating more than one hundred new words, including: electioneering, indecipherable, odometer, and belittle.

Some of these new words were Americanisms—a term coined by John Witherspoon and referring to words and word usages that became associated with America or the American experience—and often gained international recognition. Some Americanisms we now take for granted include:

  • “raccoon” and “chipmunk,” based on adaptations of Native American words
  • “backwoods” and “bifocal,” new words made up of existing English word stock, including what were originally bits of Latin
  • “filibuster,” which appears to come from Dutch via French and Spanish influences

Americanisms were not always widely accepted, especially during the colonial era and the first decades of nationhood, as this period in history was rife with conflict over independence and identity. Even Witherspoon himself, who enjoyed collecting and documenting Americanisms, called some of the terms “improprieties and vulgarisms.” Acceptance grew as the American dialect became more stable and its speakers more confident.

English in America Becomes American English

Linguist Edgar Schneider has studied the historical development of a variety of English dialects around the world. He found that these dialects typically pass through similar stages of development, despite the very different end results. These five stages are:

  • Foundation: The founders bring their dialects to the new location. There is dialect mixing among the founders and contact with indigenous languages in the new land.
  • Exonormative Stabilization: Dialects continue to mix and speakers begin to creatively innovate, but they still look to the home country for norms.
  • Nativization: Dialect mixing and borrowing from other languages continues, and there is an explosion of linguistic creativity that widens the gulf between the new dialect and the old world variety.
  • Endonormative Stabilization: The dialect begins to set its own language standards, looking inward to create norms of usage, codified in dictionaries, grammars, and spelling books, rather than relying on those set by the ancestral country.
  • Differentiation: As speakers of the dialect become secure in their linguistic identity, they can turn then their focus from presenting a united political and linguistic front, to considering their own intra-national cultural and linguistic diversity.

You’ll trace the arc of the development of American English through each of these stages, up to its current state—and projected future development. The Endonormative Stabilization stage is of particular interest to many people, as that period featured many pivotal advocates of American English whose works have become immortalized today: Noah Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain, among others.

Noah Webster was a political activist and educational reformer as well as a lexicographer. He firmly believed that the separation of the United States from England required a “system of our own, in language as well as government,” which motivated him to publish dictionaries and spelling books of the English language that focused on American vocabulary, spellings, and usages. He advocated for spelling reforms such as dropping the “u” from the British spelling of words such as “color” and “labor,” as well as more straightforward spellings for words such as “tire.” Although he cataloged hundreds of new words and Americanisms, he himself claimed to contribute only one new entry: “demoralizing.”

The Influence of Ethnicity and Technology

Throughout the course, you’ll encounter a wide range of ethnic and social groups that have shaped the course of the development of American English over the centuries: English speakers from all over the British Isles; speakers of West African languages, who were enslaved; immigrants from western Europe, particularly Germans; people hailing from Eastern Europe; speakers of languages from Asia; and Spanish speakers from all over the world.

In considering the contributions of these groups, you’ll also gain deep insights into the perceptions—and misperceptions—about language and dialect variation. For example, when Americans hear a British accent, we might still think of the speaker as “better” than us: more educated, more cultured, or at least more linguistically adept. You’ll discover how often-changing beliefs about “proper” usages have been used to elevate some groups and discriminate against others. And you’ll take an in-depth look at how writers such as Mark Twain have used depictions of dialects to both perpetuate and dispel linguistic stereotypes, as well as to define and distinguish American literature. Twain in particular had an amazing ear for linguistic details and could capture the dialects of people of various regions, races, and classes without relying on exaggerated stereotypes.

Two ethnic dialects, African American English and Latino English, have been particularly stigmatized by speakers of other dialects. Contrary to common misconceptions, both of these dialects are governed by consistent and intricate rules and capably convey a rich variety and depth of expression. With time and cultural contact, stigma associated with ethnic dialects often diminishes; for example, Jewish American English has left a deep impact on General American English, especially its lexicon, and African American English is emulated by young people all over the world.

Throughout the 20th century in particular, advances in technology have left their mark on American English. Our methods of communication changed drastically with the advent and increasingly widespread use of radio, television, telephones, the Internet, and more. In many ways, this led to greater connections between diverse Americans, which would seemingly reduce the number of regional dialects. However, instead, new dialects and dialect features arose out of these advancements. Sometimes, as different people intercommunicate more frequently, the fear of loss of cultural distinctiveness serves to promote increasing dialect differentiation.

In leading you through these centuries of change, Professor Schilling is an engaging and authoritative guide. She specializes in the study of language variation and change in American English dialects, including regional, ethnic, and gender-based language varieties, and is the author and coauthor of three books that are standards in sociolinguistics. Bringing to bear her main expertise in stylistic variation (how and why individuals use different language styles as they shape and reshape personal, interpersonal, and group identities and relations), the concluding lectures take a penetrating look at modern dialects and where American English is heading.

As you’ll discover, American English is simply an umbrella term for many different EnglishES. This glorious linguistic variety reflects who we are, and have always been, as a nation: e puribus unum—out of many, one.

Hide Full Description
12 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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". " x
  • 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. x
  • 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, and who speaks it?" x
  • 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 maps, and how they decide where to draw dialect lines." x
  • 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 American English more generally. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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? " x
  • 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 by people of Latin American descent in the U.S. x
  • 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 across the world. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 12 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 12 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 106-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 106-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested Readings
  • Questions to Consider
  • Defining Terms

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Natalie Schilling

About Your Professor

Natalie Schilling
Georgetown University
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...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


English in America: A Linguistic History is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 50.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Poor presentation and boring Presenter is totally monotone and just reading a teleprompter the whole course. She defends an poorly spoken version of English as a dialect instead of mostly just uneducated speech. Painful to listen to.
Date published: 2018-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from English in America: A Linguistic History I haven’t engaged in the lectures yet. I added this to my collection of courses because of above interest in the subject. I haven’t been disappointed in any of the courses that I have. I have several on various topics from Biblical History to Music theory.
Date published: 2018-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable It was interesting to find out where many of the words we use every day came from.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough survey of the history of American English As an amateur linguist and an historian of early America, I approached this course with high expectations -- and was not disappointed in the least. It definitely gave me a lot of food for thought, and helped me to better understand some of the process of language development and change.
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview I taught Latin and etymology, and this course includes material that is new to me. The professor is factual, precise, and nonjudgemental. She is clear in her speech and provides plenty of examples of the points she makes. I highly recommend this course. It is outstanding.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information about American English Enjoyed the way the professor provided actual clips of speaker from different regions. I'll definitely listen to this course a second time - perhaps event a third time.
Date published: 2017-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Facts Abundant; Coherence and Presentation Lacking I love studying languages, especially English, and appreciated the superabundance of detailed facts and studies presented in this course. If all you seek are many tidbits of information about American English dialects, you may appreciate this course. Unfortunately there is little coherent theory or organization in the way these morsels are presented. The lecture titles give a reasonable general idea of the area to be discussed. But within each lecture we get essentially a stream of consciousness presentation. One item is followed by another - and another, and another - with little idea of where we are going and minimal consideration of where we have been. No outline is given at the start of any lecture, and minimal discussion of conclusions is offered at the end. As a dilettante in this area, I do not know enough to reliably ascribe the lack of underlying theory and coherence to our professor or to the field itself, although I honestly doubt that so many bright scholars would be devoting so much time and attention to dialectology if there were little more to it than is presented here. I do know enough about the Great Vowel Shift, discussed in Lecture 12, to realize that the most essential information, the general change in English from what are still romance language vowel sounds to what are now English vowel sounds, was entirely omitted in favor of multiple and confusing derivative examples. And, as others have noted, our professor speaks in a nearly expressionless monotone, which made it all too easy for my attention to drift. I wish I could recommend this course, and if you have a particular interest in this area you may still find it worth your time. If you take the course, please review it in detail. I do hope that The Teaching Company will continue to offer courses in all aspects of linguistics.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent title for the material in the Course. Appreciate the content and learning the background of the Linguistic History of English in America.
Date published: 2017-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty good Interesting and informative, but clearly read from a script, and not in a very lively way. It would be amazing if all Great Courses lecturers just happened to be great oral interpreters, too, but the vast majority of them, including this one, are not. On the whole, though, I'd recommend the course strongly to anyone interested in the subject.
Date published: 2017-06-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Serious Disappointment Here! After enjoying over a dozen Great Courses, including some on writing and speaking, this one goes back! The teacher is the main problem. She has never smiled nor changed her monotone, poorly enunciated, way too rapid speech pattern. She wrings her hands while reading monotonously from a teleprompter and marches, seemingly on cue, back and forth on a small carpet. Her bushy hair and drab clothing are the same throughout the course. As a long-time writer, I had hoped to enjoy tales about various English dialects and their colorful origins. No such luck here. The first six of the twelve lectures were weak but passable. The second six are unabashed far-left, politically correct tirades. For any patriotic American, this presenter's attitude, script and delivery are unacceptable.
Date published: 2017-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting There are several Great Courses on the subject of linguistics, most notably those by John McWhorter. This course by Dr. Natalie Schilling fills a gap by explaining how American English developed and is now distinct from English English and other Englishes. Dr. Schilling takes a largely historical approach to how American English developed and this approach works well. She explains how settlement patterns (including native Americans, slaves, and non-English speakers) and westward migration as well as political developments (e. g., the American Revolution) guided the evolution of American English. She explains how this affects evolution of the language even today, including how Valley Girls have affected even your own speaking habits. This is useful for those interested in linguistics, particularly those who have taken the other Great Courses on linguistics. It is also useful for those who do public speaking; it will help you hear yourself as others hear you. I was startled by many of the other reviews. This course won’t win a Pulitzer Prize but it’s fun and informative.
Date published: 2017-05-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Does not live up to its title This has been the only Great Course with which I am disappointed. I had expected to deal with the dialectal variation of English spread across the US. The title should have been Elementary Sociolinguistics. Professor Schlieman was an annoying lecturer as she marched back and forth in what seemed to be comments from the person taping her performance, telling her not to stand so still. Too often she would comment that this discussion would be found later in the lecture. The subject matter dealt with social implications of language in a superficial manner. Perhaps I was reacting to my frustration with the lack of geographic examples that I had expected to be the subject matter. I was also dismayed with the paucity of historical geographic change in dialect with accompanying reasons. In that case, the fault is mine and not with the presenter. I would not recommend this lecture to anyone interested in the history of language or dialect development.
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from English in America: A Linguistic History I found Lecture #1 to be somewhat disappointing because it didn't elaborate much about the specific dialects. Lecture #12 partially filled that void. The professor's delivery, while lacking in personal anecdotes and humor, did show a command of the subject and was varied enough to hold my attention. Some material, particularly the past efforts to eradicate many Native American languages, the discussion of African-American dialects,and emergence of Spanish labeling,signage,and telephone prompts will come across as overly political to some. However, the points she made have merit and demonstrate how our politics influences our attitudes toward languages and dialects other than own. This course is good for someone with an interest in linguistics or just is curious about American English dialects and how they arose.
Date published: 2017-01-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Although interesting . . . . . Although interesting, much of the material in this course is covered better in other TGC courses. I was put off by the professor apparently reading from a teleprompter which made her presentation seem stilted and mechanical as well too fast. She probably is much better when teaching in her regular environment. The closed-captioning was mediocre, sometimes abysmal.
Date published: 2017-01-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Ideological, Agenda-Driven Drivel This "professor" (ideologue) introduced the idea of the primacy of politics very early on in the course & continued to run with it through pretty much all the lectures. She argues that politics decides what is and is not a language. She also discusses as a legitimate theory the idea that the word "axe" (meaning "ask" in Ebonics) is not a mispronunciation of "ask" but the correct English use of the word dating to the times before the Norman conquest of England by William the Conquerer. She also argued that what she calls "African-American English" is an amazingly structured language that is richer than the "regular" English. She also goes on a rant about persecution of native Americans and how a tiny native American tribe is fighting to have its language recognized as such. This "professor" also speaks too fast and her poorly structured presentations are not interesting. She is most articulate when she talks about "African-American English" and about native Americans. She clearly romanticizes both and casts both in cherubic & idyllic, yet at the same time in sophisticated & heroic light; while the U.S. for her is a demon of oppression. In other words, do not expect a balanced course about American English. This is more of the "progressive" indoctrination, of which academia is full.
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative and enjoyable This was a worthwhile use of my time--I learned detailed information about the development of various US dialects and about the science of dialects in general. Some commented on the professor's "dry" approach--I thought she was fine. Her voice was pleasant and she is very knowledgeable--she's not a comedian, but I didn't expect her to be. Especially given the low price of this series, I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the origins of American English.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable history We listened to this on a road trip and while a very scholarly and well researched presentation, the lecturer is often funny and entertaining. Great overview of how American English got to be the way it is.
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Entry into Linguistics I very much enjoyed this course, and it marks the first departure from what I think I should know to what I was curious about. I did not have time or luxury to take any linguistics courses in college/graduate school, so this diversion taught me: (a) there is much to learn via linguistics, (b) it's wickedly interesting and (c) when well-presented, the taxonomy of terms used in linguistics is necessary and helpful. This was among the few Great Courses where Prof. Schilling's structure, delivery and demeanor helped with the material. Easily top 5 course on the Great Courses. Get it!
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Blah I found some of the course extremely interesting. But the professor was quite bland in her presentation. I listened to this court on CD while driving to work. Perhaps video format would have made it better. Or not.
Date published: 2016-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This professor talks too fast to be understood. The same material is covered in other courses by other profs in a better fashion.
Date published: 2016-10-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Another Linguist Posing as Descriptivist I agree with a number of the reviews posted here that the lecturer's claim to "descriptivism" is misleading and disingenuous. Professor Schilling describes some things, of course, but there is a persistent agenda (common with most American linguists today) to teach us why nothing is "incorrect" or "ignorant." Language just "is" and you have to live with it. First, this is true (if at all) only in respect to oral vernacular -- not to writing or to formal speech. Second, it does not acknowledge that spoken language can have an esthetic value beyond just making someone understand you. I venture to say that Churchill's use of English was more beautiful and pleasing than a rap artist's banal chatter. To me, there is such a thing as a lovely turn of phrase and there is also banal junk. I knew that somewhere in the lectures I would be told that "aks" for "ask" (or "astericks" for "asterisk") is not a plain mistake but a legitimate use of Old English. In that case, it's amazing how many people I know, of any race or ethnicity, have studied OE. What nonsense. If you want to describe, describe, and leave the preaching about social impacts and attitudes to the sociologists.
Date published: 2016-10-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from English from a sociopolitical perspective Perhaps my review title would have been a more appropriate title for the course. Need I say more.
Date published: 2016-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting enough to leave me wanting more... The professor is well-organized, and I appreciate the maps and terms written out enough to be glad I paid the extra for video. There is much more I'd like to know. In particular how (or are) regional accents related to where the original settlers came from? Why is there a glottal stop used in some places such as Worchester, Mass... But it's a start! I appreciated the detailed and passionate defense of dialects of African American English, but I'd heard much of this in other courses.
Date published: 2016-08-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very disappointing I've enjoyed a number of Great Courses, and this is the first one in which I've been disappointed. I hoped to learn about dialects and their development, but the presenter spends much of her time gracing us with her social and political views. Her presentation style was dull and uninteresting. She obviously has the ability to provide the kind of information and detail in which I was interested as evidenced by her somewhat detailed discussion of African American English, but beyond that this course was a huge disappointment.
Date published: 2016-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fun Look at American English As a fiction writer, I purchased this course to help me write authentic dialogue. Only two sessions were helpful for that purpose, but it was worth the money for those two sessions, and all of the lessons were fun and informative.
Date published: 2016-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Overview of American English This is an enjoyable and well-paced overview of the history of the English language in America. This was my introduction to the science of what is known as socio-linguistics and, because I am a native-born American from a region and city with its own linguistic quirks (Bawlmer, Merlin - that's Baltimore Maryland to you non-natives), much in this course resonated with me. A couple of key concepts will stay with me...American English dialects are formal language systems with their own rules of grammar and syntax, so when you violate the rules you can speak bad Latino English, bad African-American English, as well as bad New England or bad American Standard English. Most importantly is the incredible flexibility and absorbent nature of the English language as a whole. The ability of English to absorb words and syntax from Yiddish, German, African dialects, Spanish and French is amazing. This is just the tip of the iceberg when one considers the words we have co-opted from other countries. No doubt the TTC could market similar courses in how English developed its own flavor in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. India could be probably be added, too. The lecturer, Dr. Natalie Schilling, has command of the subject and is easy to listen to. She is not exactly a riveting speaker, but she gets her points across. This course is interesting and fascinating in sections but not exactly a heavyweight course. If the student wants to pursue the development of language and linguistics in general and the English language in particular, I can recommend 3 courses that present these topics with more academic rigor and depth: The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer, and Understanding Linguistics and the Story of Human Language by John McWhorter. Both are excellent lecturers and I highly recommend them.
Date published: 2016-07-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointed While the content was interesting, the professor's "political" views and conclusions tended to cloud the content. It seemed as if the lecture was read rather than presented - read well but never the less still read.
Date published: 2016-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, but a bit PC for me Her presentation is clear, and her voice and intonation are pleasing so it won't induce a nap in listeners who (as I usually do) consume Great Courses in audio form only, while driving. This is a very thorough, intelligently planned treatment. My only (and relatively minor) complaint: the lecturer is a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist. In this view, if people speak a certain form of English and are mutually intelligible, then the English they speak is just another form of English rather than "bad" English or pigeon English, (as I see it). For example, she engages in a strenuous defense of African-American and "Spanglish" as legitimate dialects equally as legitimate as that spoken in Ivy League schools. In my humble opinion, such apologetics work against the best interests of speakers of such dialects in that such efforts ultimately hamper the possibility of academic and professional success black and Latino Americans need to attain for those groups to achieve better integration in our society. Having picked that one nit, otherwise this is a fine course.
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Moderately Interesting History of American English I picked up some interesting tidbits of linguistic trivia from this course, but I can't say I was enthralled by it. The professor's extremely dry presentation style probably doesn't help matters. Probably the more interesting parts include the tracing of original sources of various types of American accents and dialects. At other times, it was like watching paint dry. It was just interesting enough to get me to keep going and finish it.
Date published: 2016-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Researched I have to disagree with a previous reviewer who said this professor was preachy. Language is another fascinating aspect of history. In some corners, everything is political. Ideas about dialects carry a lot of baggage for some people but I thought Schilling tried to be very fair and considerate in presenting the way linguists look at language variations as they have evolved in America. I found her very trustworthy and detailed. I would love to find out more about the area of New Mexico and Colorado Spanish and English as a separate Southwestern variety. The lectures, however, are not very high energy and could get monotone at times. But I would still recommend them for the particular specialized linguistic content.
Date published: 2016-05-10
  • y_2020, m_11, d_27, h_16
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_4, tr_46
  • loc_en_US, sid_2274, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 63.56ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought

Buy together as a Set
Save Up To $12.00
Choose a Set Format