1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  |  12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18  |  19  |  20  |  21  |  22  |  23  |  24  |  25  |  26  |  27  |  28  |  29  |  30  |  31  |  32  |  33  |  34  |  35  |  36  |  37  |  38  |  39  |  40  |  41  |  42  |  43  |  44  |  45  |  46  |  47  |  48  |  49  |  50  |  51  |  52  |  53  |  54  |  55  |  56  |  57  |  58  |  59  |  60  |  61  |  62  |  63  |  64  |  65  |  66  |  67  |  68  |  69  |  70  |  71  |  72  |  73  |  74  |  75  |  76  |  77  |  78  |  79  |  80  |  81  |  82  |  83  |  84  |  85  |  86  |  87  |  88  |  89  |  90  |  91  |  92  |  93  |  94  |  95  |  96  |  97  |  98  |  99  |  100  |  101  |  102  |  103  |  104  |  105  |  106  |  107  |  108  |  109  |  110  |  111  |  112  |  113  |  114  |  115  |  116  |  117  |  118  |  119  |  120 

Old-School British Accents Were More American, Less British

Fun bit of linguistics here: Shakespearean English had an accent closer to American English than modern day British English. A Linguist Explains What Old-School British Accents Sounded Like
First, we need to talk about how it came to be that British and American accents are different in the first place. Most people assume that the British have always basically talked like that, and at some point after Shakespeare had died and while Ichabod Crane was asleep, the American colonists started speaking differently. That’s certainly what Sleepy Hollow assumes. But it’s actually the opposite: at the time shortly post-Shakespeare and pre-Ichabod when the majority of British settlers arrived in North America, they actually spoke much more like current Americans than current Brits. One example is in the pronunciation of R after a vowel: at this time, everyone on both sides of the Atlantic was saying things like “paRk youR caR in HaRvaRd YaRd” (well, if cars had existed at the time, which they didn’t. Harvard Yard actually did exist, which, just…whatever, Harvard Yard). We can tell that the rhotic pronunciation was the original one for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there has to be some reason why we write an R in those words in the first place, and basically everything that seems illogical about English spelling is actually totally reasonable if you go far enough back into the etymology. Another way we can show that people pronounced things in a particular way before we had recording devices to prove it is spelling variation, especially from less-standardized text like private notes and letters or from respelling schemes in early dictionaries. For example, if someone is writing “should” as “shud”, we can be fairly sure that the /l/ is silent for that person; conversely, if people don’t start writing “park” as “pak” until 1775, we can suppose that they didn’t start pronouncing it that way until around the same time. So anyway, some Brits sailed across the Atlantic, speaking rhotically, and then they rebelled against the mother country, speaking rhotically, and then they founded America, speaking rhotically, and then they decided to make a time-travel action/supernatural TV series featuring some excellent characters of colour, still speaking rhotically. I may have skipped some steps, but speaking rhotically is in every single one of them. (Well, unless you speak one of the American dialects that isn’t rhotic, like Boston English or Southern English, but let’s not complicate things here.) Meanwhile, back in Ye Olde England, everyone had also been speaking rhotically for quite a long time, but people started getting tired of it in the period just after the American Revolution. (Although we’re not quite sure why: perhaps this was just the 18th century equivalent of memespeak.) The first evidence we have of non-rhotic pronunciation is from a dictionary by John Walker in 1775, and pretty soon thereafter everyone was “pahking theih cahs in Hahvahd Yahd”. Metaphorically speaking. (Well, except for the people who speak a British dialect that is rhotic, like Northern English or Scots, but again let’s not complicate things.)

May 13, 2014

Map: What is each state's most commonly spoken language that isn't English or Spanish?

In California, the third most popular language is Tagalog. In Michigan, Arabic. Lotta surprises on this map. Like the prevalence of Korean and Vietnamese around the country. Fascinating Maps of the Most Commonly Spoken Languages in the United States Other Than English

April 13, 2014

The Fort Pillow Massacre

I bailed on Ken Burns' Civil War documentary after historian (and slavery apologist) Shelby Foote waxed rhapsodical about what a great man Nathan Bedford Forrest was. Great men don't massacre civilians or surrendering armies. They also don't fight against their country to preserve slavery. Fort Pillow Massacre - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
On April 12, 1864, Confederate troops under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest massacred black Union troops attempting to surrender after their defeat at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. In a war of horrible things, this was probably the worst, as angry southerners got their revenge on their slaves leaving them by dyeing the river red with their blood. Of course, the same Southerners who prefer not to talk about Fort Pillow or even defend Forrest love to hate on William Tecumseh Sherman, whose troops engaged in no such activities on their march through Georgia and the Carolinas. The preeminent historian and Grant biographer Brooks Simpson: When it comes to Forrest’s responsibility (or culpability), I’ll simply note that one cannot claim that William T. Sherman is a war criminal without accepting that Nathan Bedford Forrest is a war criminal. After all, Sherman did not issue orders calling for the raping of women or the destruction of property outside the laws of war. Nor did he issue orders for the destruction of Columbia in February 1865. One can hold him accountable for (a) the orders he issued and (b) his actions (or inaction) in punishing his own men for violations of the law of war. One would have to hold Forrest to the same standard, unless you think the destruction of property is a greater crime than cold-blooded murder … or whether you think crimes against white people bother you more than crimes against black people, especially those wearing the uniform of the United States armed forces. Once you say that Sherman must be held responsible for the actions of his men, you must say the same for Forrest.