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NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGE AND ENGLISH

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When the European settlers came to America, there existed approximately thousand of different languages and dialects that represented various Native American groups such as Eskimo-Aleut, Algonquian, Salishan, Penutian, Uto-Aztecan and many others.

Today the number of Native American languages has decreased severely, mostly because of the expansion of the European settlers. Only about hundred native languages have survived and many are featured in the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages. However, Native American languages enriched the language of European settlers, English among them.

Almost immediately after the contact with natives, colonists began borrowing names from their languages. Many words were first borrowed from South American Indians into Spanish or Portuguese and through these languages came into English. The borrowings from Native American languages may be divided into several groups:

Names for unfamiliar fauna.The names of such unfamiliar animals as skunk, condor, opossum, raccoon, and moose were borrowed into English.

Topographic names such as Manitowoc (Wisconsin), the Mississippi River, Potomac (Maryland), Chappaquiddick (Massachusetts) and many others.

Names for objects that were in common use among Native Americans, such as wigwam, totem, kayak or moccasin.

American English and British English differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary, and, to a lesser extent, grammar and orthography. The first large American dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, was written by Noah Webster in 1828; Webster intended to show that the United States, which was a relatively new country at the time, spoke a different dialect from that of Britain.

Differences in grammarare relatively minor, these include:

1) different use of some verbal auxiliaries;

2) formal (rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns;

3) different preferences for the past forms of a few verbs (for example, AmE/BrE: learned/learnt, burned/burnt, snuck/sneaked, dove/dived);

4) different prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (for example, AmE in school, BrE at school);

5) and whether or not a definite article is used, in very few cases (AmE to the hospital, BrE to hospital; contrast, however, AmE actress Elizabeth Taylor, BrE the actress Elizabeth Taylor).



Differences in orthography are also trivial. Some of the forms that now serve to distinguish American from Britain spelling (color – colour, center – centre, traveller – traveller). One of the most common spelling differences is that words ending in "-re" in BrE are rendered as "-er" in AmE (such as "centre" and"center", "theatre" and "theater", and "metre" and "meter").

AmE sometimes favours words that are morphologically more complex, whereas BrE uses clipped forms, such as AmE transportation and BrE transport or where the British form is a back-formation, such as AmE burglarize and BrE burgle (from burglar). It should, however, be noted that while individuals usually use one or the other, both forms will be widely understood and mostly used alongside each other within the two systems.

 

E x e r c i s e s

I. Answer the questions:

1. What dialects were in America before European settlers came there?

2. What do you know about Native American languages?

3. What words were borrowed into Spanish?

4. What words were borrowed into fauna?

5. What words were borrowed into topographic names?

6. What are the differences between American English and British English?

 


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