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LNG 372: American English

guide to resources in the library and beyond for Dr. Steele's course on linguistic variation (dialects)

Use this guide to find...

  • Directories of New Jersey archives, historical societies, and museums
  • Information about the settlement of New Jersey and the development of dialects
  • Histories of migration by African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, and other ethnicities into New Jersey
  • The industrial history of New Jersey including industrial recruitment
  • Family histories and genealogical information
  • Historical (aggregate) census data and statistics for New Jersey
  • Historical (primary source) newspapers published in New Jersey
  • Examinations of housing discrimination/patterns, redlining, and white flight in New Jersey

From your syllabus...

Course Description

"An examination of linguistic variation (dialects) across the United States. Special attention will be paid to the significance of social, gender, and ethnic factors in dialect differences in American English.  We will also consider American dialectology as a crucible for the development of ethical and engaged linguistic theory."

Assignment Prompt

"Dialect areas and dialect patterns frequently coincide with major settlement patterns. Write a six to eight page paper that investigates and illuminates the pre-revolutionary, colonial, nineteenth, and twentieth century social/linguistic history of your own hometown or that of a neighboring region (for example, if you grew up in a suburb that didn't exist before 1980 and want to investigate language use in Trenton, focus on Trenton) and the effects those patterns of settlements might have on salient local dialect features that you have observed and that have been recorded in dialectology atlases or other reference materials. If you find yourself interested in a municipality that didn't exist before 1980 and are interested in that area regardless, you can write about contemporary settlement patterns and demographics. You will likely have slightly different sources, including interviews, census figures, etc. You should focus try to discover the impact of early settlement patterns on local speech."

Prewriting Activities

"Find out what archival resources are available to you. Does your hometown have a local historical society? Will you need to go to the state archives in Trenton? Will you need to go to some local graveyards to figure out what languages are on the graves?"