Idioms in English and American songs

The definition of an idiom. The structure of idioms. Classification of phraseological idioms. Linguistic peculiarities of British English and American English languages. Stylistic and idiomatic peculiarities. The scheme of analysis of idiom in songs.

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I. Idiom. General characteristics

1.1 The definition of an idiom

1.2 The structure of idioms

1.3 Classification of idioms

II. Analysis of English and American idioms in songs

2.1 Linguistic peculiarities of British and American languages

2.1.1 Phonetically peculiarities

2.1.2 Lexical peculiarities

2.1.3 Stylistic and idiomatic peculiarities

2.2 English and American songs.

2.3The scheme of analysis of idiom in songs

2.4 Results of the analysis



This work is devoted to the analysis of the usage idioms in English and American songs, on the example of popular and retro songs. The use of idioms has a great influence in the teaching and learning process of a foreign language, because it could be one of the ways to give students better conditions to improve communicative skill in the daily context. English is a language particularly rich in idioms - those modes of expression peculiar to a language (or dialect) which frequently defy logical and grammatical rules. Without idioms English would lose much of its variety and humor both in speech and writing. The back-ground and etymological origins of most idioms is at best obscure. This is the reason why a study of differences between the idioms of American and British English is somewhat difficult. With idiom we can create lyric of song more beautiful.

The aim of our research is to analyse the usage of idioms in English and American songs.

The object of the work is phraseology of the English language.

The subject of the work is idioms in English and American songs.

The hypothesis of the work runs as follows: Idioms used in English and American songs make them authentic, more expressive, vivid, and imaginative.

The objective of the work is an attempt to study the aspects of idioms, the cases of their usage and to analyze the frequency of idioms. To achieve the set aim we determine the following objectives:

to classify idioms;

To find idioms in songs;

to understand the aim of the modern usage of idioms;

to distinguish different kinds of idioms;

To consider the functions of idioms

To analyse the results of the research

Methods of the research:



comparison and contrast


Theoretical value consists in revealing the fact that idioms can't and mustn't be translated directly as such a branch of language as idioms are inseparably connected with nation's mentality and mode of life.

Structurally the presented work consists of: introduction, three parts, conclusion, and bibliography.

The introduction reveals the general survey of the whole work and determines idioms as an essential part of the general vocabulary.

The first part deals with idioms and their general characteristics.

The second part deals with linguistic peculiarities of English and American songs.

The third part deals with analysis of English and American idioms in songs.

Literature includes 56 items.

I. Idiom. General characteristics

1.1 The definition of an idiom

Any language has a lot of idioms. Idiomatic expressions are a vital component of English in particular. They reflect mentality and culture of the people, speaking this language. If we compare English and Russian language, we will also find out a great number of idioms, like has remained with a nose, to sit in a pool or ate a dog and so on in Russian language.

An idiom (Latin: idioma, special property, f. Greek: ? - idima, special feature, special phrasing, f. Greek: ? - idios, one's own) is an expression consisting of a combination of words that have a figurative meaning. The figurative meaning is comprehended in regard to a common use of theexpression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made. Idioms are numerous and they occur frequently in all languages. There are estimated to be at least 25, 000 idiomatic expressions in the English language [1 p 26]

An idiom is a set expression which has a meaning different from the literal meanings of its components. Idioms present a great variety of structures and combinations that are mostly unchangeable and often not logical and may not follow basic rules of grammar. [2 p 28] All idioms have some sort of meaning behind them such as Butterflies in my stomach. The meaning is a feeling caused by nervousness. Idioms can be really funny but some are really tricky. [2 p28]

Idiom (noun) - an expression conforming or appropriate to the peculiar structural form of a language; in extend use, an expression sanctioned by usage, having a sense peculiar to itself and not agreeing with the logical sense of its structural form; The term red herring, an idiom meaning 'false trail', is used of something which is neither red nor a herring. [3 p 124]

According to Fowler (1996), an idiom is a phrase where the words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words, which can make idioms hard for ESL (English as a second language) students and learners to understand [4] (http: //www. usingenglish. com/reference/idioms).

An idiom is a combination of words that has a meaning that is different from the meanings of the individual words themselves. It can have a literal meaning in one situation and a different idiomatic meaning in another situation. It is a phrase which does not always follow the normal rules of meaning and grammar. For instance, To sit on the fence can literally mean that one is sitting on a fence I sat on the fence and watched the game. [5]

(http: //www. usingenglish. com/reference/idioms).

Gear. J and Gear. states that an idiom is a group of words thattogether have different meaning from the individual words. Remember that, themeaning of idiom cannot figured out by putting together the meaning of the individual word. Instead, the group of words as a whole has a special meaning which need to learn. [6 p46]

Burger says that a pure idiom must have constituent element which overall the meaning of the whole is not deducible. Whereas some of idiom having both meaning can be found in various language, there are also idiom from the same semantic field which resist develoving a secondary meaning. Idiom is able to associate it constituents parts with the corresponding parts of its actual meaning.

English and American idioms are very different. Such American phrase as to put one's foot into it, meaning to make a public offence, in British English is passed by phrase to drop a brick, which won't be clear for the majority of the people, living in USA.

Idioms have been studied from several different perspectives. The focus of the studies has also affected how the term has been defined. Mntyl [48]introduces five different approaches linguists have taken to idioms:

1. the structure of an idiom and its variations and transformations

2. the processing and storing of idioms

3. the metaphoricity of idioms

4. teaching, learning and understanding idioms

5. idioms within the wider perspective of idiomatic language, and the functions of idioms.

All the approaches represent a certain period of time and reflect the linguistic thinking of the time. The definition has depended on the feature of idioms that has been considered the most significant one. For the purposes of the present study I will not look at the all the approaches since Mntyl (2004), Strssler (1982) and Fernando (1996) provide excellent reviews on the wide area of idioms studies. Mntyl (2004) considers all the different approaches in idiom studies from the 1960s to the 1990s. Strssler (1982) also reviews major idiom studies from 1960s to 1970s and takes a pragmatic view on idioms himself.

Fernando (1996) introduces a review of works on idioms from two points of view, focusing on lexically and grammatically regular idioms and the idiosyncrasies of English. Furthermore, Cacciari and Tabossi (1993) present a wide collection of articles on smaller studies.

Idioms are very widespread in modern English language. We can divide all idioms into different parts according to their meaning. They're everywhere around us. (Appendix 1)

For our work we chose the following: An idiom is a set expression which has a meaning different from the literal meanings of its components. Idioms present a great variety of structures and combinations that are mostly unchangeable and often not logical and may not follow basic rules of grammar. [2 p 28]

1.2 The structure of idioms

Most idioms are unique and fixed in their grammatical structure. The expression to sit on the fence cannot become to sit on a fence or to sit on the fences. However, there are many changes that can be made to an idiom. Some of these changes result in a change in the grammatical structure that would generally be considered to be wrong. To be broken literally means that something is broken. The lamp is broken so I cannot easily read my book. To be broke is grammatically incorrect but it has the idiomatic meaning of to have no money. I am broke and I cannot go to a movie tonight. There can also be changes in nouns, pronouns or in the verb tenses. I sat on the fence and did not give my opinion. Many people are sitting on the fence and do not want to give their opinion. Adjectives and adverbs can also be added to an idiomatic phrase. The politician has been sitting squarely in the middle of the fence since the election.

Many idioms are similar to expressions in other languages and can be easy for a learner to understand. Other idioms come from older phrases which have changed over time.

To hold one's horses means to stop and wait patiently for someone or something. It comes from a time when people rode horses and would have to hold their horses while waiting for someone or something. Hold your horses, I said when my friend started to leave the store. Other idioms come from such things as sports that are common in the United Kingdom or the United States and may require some special cultural knowledge to easily understand them.

To cover all of one's bases means to thoroughly prepare for or deal with a situation. It comes from the American game of baseball where you must cover or protect the bases. I tried to cover all of my bases when I went to the job interview.

The development of the language is always connected with the development of society. In this context, it will be of great interest to see the relationship between history and language. Perhaps the most obvious demonstration of this relationship will come from identification and analysis of those idioms, which reflect American history or rather American culture of this, or that historic period. [4]

Studying idioms many authors call attention to the fact that they can more easily than other language units cumulate and store facts about the past, cultural semantics of a nation, traditions, customs, folklore, etc. because of the so called cumulative function of a language. The element, which renders the information, is called national-cultural component. There exist many definitions of an idiom, but most theorists stress three main features: that this linguistic unit consists of more than one word, it is stable, and idiomatic, that is the meaning of a whole unit does not emerge from the meaning of words it consists of. [5]

Syntactic classifications of idioms is based on structure:

The syntactic classifications have included different grammatical categories:

* asyntactic idioms: idioms which are not well-formed, although some grammatical structure is normally evident - by and large, far and away [17]

* commonly occurring phrase patterns:

a) noun phrase - a crashing bore

b) adjective phrase - free with one's money

c) prepositional phrase - in the nick of time

d) adverbial phrase - as often as not [18]

* clause patterns:

a) verb + complement - come clean

b) verb + direct object - foot the bill

c) verb + direct object + complement - bled his family dry

d) verb + direct object + adjunct - cast your net wide


* clause/phrase patterns:

a) possessive clause - got a taste of their own medicine

b) noun phrase - the common touch

c) adjective phrase - not fit to wash his feet

d) prepositional phrase - under your own steam

e) adverbial phrase - none too soon

f) noun + noun pattern - fair and square


* different grammatical types:

a) subject + predicator + object - bury the hatchet

b) subject + predicator + object + adjunct - keep tabs on someone

c) subject + predicator + adjunct - come to grief


1.3 Classification of phraseological idioms

Idioms are fixed expressions that are usually not clear or obvious. The expression to feel under the weather, which means to feel unwell is a typical idiom. The words do not tell us what it means, but the context usually helps. [7]

There are some simple rules how to deal with idioms. At first it's important to think of idioms as being just like single words, and then we must record the whole phrase in the notebook, along with the information on grammar and collocation.

This tin - opener has seen better days (it is rather old and broken down; usually of things, always perfect tense form). Idioms are usually rather informal and include an element of personal comment on the situation. They are sometimes humorous or ironic. That's why we must be careful using them. It's not a good idea to use them just to sound fluent or good at English. In a formal situation we can't say: How do you do, Mrs. Watson. Do take the weight off your feet (sit down) instead of Do sit down or Have a seat. It is important to know that their grammar is flexible. Some are more fixed than others. For instance, Barking up the wrong tree (be mistaken) is always used in continuous, not simple form, e. g. I think you're barking up the wrong tree. Generally, set expression, for example, come to the wrong shop, go the way of all flesh, make somebody' s blood boil, are idiomatical, they are also named phraseological. Besides, there are set expression such as pay a visit, make one's appearance, give help. Their interpretation is disputable. Some linguists consider them to be a not idiomatical part of phraseology, which is opposed to idiomatical. If the expression is idiomatical, then we must consider its components in the aggregate, not separately[8]. Idioms are a part of our daily speech [9]. They give expressiveness and exactness to oral and written language. It's not easy to master idioms fluently. Word - for - word translation can change the meaning of the idiom. I've understood that the study of the English lexicology should necessarily include study of phraseology. So, what is an idiom and phraseology? How can we translate idioms? Is it possible to translate idioms word for word and not to change their meaning?

Term phraseology is defined as a section of linguistics, which studies word collocations, and, on the other hand, a set of all steady combinations of words of the language. The stock of words of the language consists not only of separate words, but also of set expressions, which alongside with separate words serve as means of expressing conceptions [10] A set expression represents a set phrase.

Stock of words of the language According to the Academician V. V. Vinogradov's classification phraseological units may be classified into three groups: phraseological fusions, phraseological unities and phraseological collocations. [11]

Phraseological fusions are completely non - motivated word - groups, such as heavy father - serious or solemn part in a theatrical play, kick the bucket - die; and the like. The meaning of the components has no connection whatsoever, at least synchronically, with the meaning of the whole group. Idiomaticity is, as a rule, combined with complete stability of the lexical components and the grammatical structure of the fusion. [12]

Phraseological collocations are motivated but they are made up of words possessing specific lexical valence which accounts for a certain degree of stability in such word - groups. In phraseological collocations variability of member - words is strictly limited. For instance, bear a grudge May be changed into bear malice, but not into bear a fancy or liking. We can say take a liking (fancy) but not take hatred (disgust). These habitual collocations tend to become kind of clich where the meaning of member - words is to some extent dominated by the meaning of the whole group. Due to this, phraseological collocations are felt as possessing a certain degree of semantic inseparability. [13]

In classification of phraseological units according to their structure there are two groups of idioms: nominal a black sheep (of the family) [shame of the family], and verbal to take risks (to risk) as I've already told you. There are more verbal idioms, approximately 65 percents, than nominal ones. In both groups there turns out to be too many idioms, therefore such way is difficult for remembering.

According to academician V. V. Vinogradov's classification there are three groups of idioms. The problem is the same as in the previous case. It's not easy to remember all of these phraseological units. [14]

Classification of phraseological units according to the parts of speech there are four groups: nominal phrases: hard luck [misfortune]; adjective phraseological units: all fingers and thumbs [clumsy]; verbal: to get on like a house on fire [to make progress]; adverbial: vice versa [conversely]. At last I tried to divide idioms into several groups, as it's written in English Vocabulary in Use. I also added some more of them. According to this classification idioms can be divided into following groups. As everyday spoken language is full of fixed expressions that are not necessarily difficult to understand (their meaning May be quite' transparent') but which have a fixed form which does not change the first group is everyday expressions. These have to be learnt as whole expressions. These expressions are often hard to find in dictionaries. For example as I was saying (it takes the conversation back to an earlier point). This group includes three sub - groups.

Conversation - building expressions - these are some common expressions that help to modify or organize what we are saying. There are many expressions like these. For example: as I was saying (it takes the conversation back to an earlier point). Some everyday expressions can be grouped around key words. The preposition in for example occurs in several expressions: in fact (really), in practice (actually). Common expressions for modifying statements are also a part of this group. For example: as far as I'm concerned (from my point of view). As... similes and expressions with 'like' are easy to understand. If you see the phrase as dead as a doornail, you Don' T need to know what a doornail is, simply that the whole phrase means totally dead. But it's important to remember that fixed similes are not neutral; they are usually informal or colloquial and often humorous. [15]

Idioms describing people can be divided into two sub-groups: idioms connected with positive and negative qualities, for example: His fingers are all thumbs (he's clumsy) or She has iron nerves (she's composed). How people relate to the social norm, for example: I think Mary has a secret to hide (She keeps something from us). I have divided idioms describing feelings or mood into three sub - groups. They are positive and negative feelings, moods and states. For example: to get on someone's nerves (to exasperate), to have a horror of (to disgust), to be as happy as the day is long (extremely content). For example: to burst into tears (to cry). And people's fear or fright. For example: She was scared stiff, (very scared). Next group is idioms connected with problematic situations. The first sub - group is problems and difficulties. For example: a hard luck (failure). The second sub - group is idioms related to situations based on get. For example: to get frustrated (defeat). The third sub - group is changes and staves in situations. For example: to change one's mind (think better of it). At last idioms connected with easing the situation. For example: to do well (recover), to get off lightly (escape). Idioms connected with praise and criticism, for example: to go on at someone (criticize). Idioms connected with communication problems. For example: to have a row with somebody (to quarrel). Good and bad talk. For example: stream of consciousness (flow of words). Talk in discussions, meetings, etc. For example: to strike up (a conversation) (to start a conversation). Idioms - miscellaneous. Idioms connected with paying, buying and selling. For example: to save up for (put by). Idioms based on names of the parts of the body. For example: to lend an ear (to listen to). Idioms connected with daily routine. For example: to do up (tidy up). There are also single idioms which cannot be included into described above groups. For example to run out (to come to an end) and some special groups of expressions in Blueprint such as all along (always), all in all (as a result), all of a sudden (unexpectedly). The last group of idioms is proverbs. For example: Out of the frying Pan and into the fire (from one disaster into another). [16]

A. V. Koonin classified phraseological units according to the way they are formed. He pointed out primary and secondary ways of forming phraseological units. [6]

Primary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a unit is formed on the basis of a free word-group:

a) Most productive in Modern English is the formation of phraseological units by means of transferring the meaning of terminological word-groups, e. g. in cosmic technique we can point out the following phrases: launching pad in its terminological meaning is , in its transferred meaning - , to link up - in its transformed meaning it means - .

A large group of phraseological units was formed from free word groups by transforming their meaning, e. g. granny farm - , Trojan horse - ;

Phraseological units can be formed by means of alliteration, e. g. a sad sack - , culture vulture - , , fudge and nudge - .

They can be formed by means of expressiveness, especially it is characteristic for forming interjections, e. g. My aunt!)), Hear, hear! etc

They can be formed by means of distorting a word group, e. g. odds and ends was formed from odd ends;

They can be formed by using archaisms, e. g. in brown study means in gloomy meditation where both components preserve their archaic meanings,

They can be formed by using a sentence in a different sphere of life, e. g. that cock won't fight can be used as a free word-group when it is used in sports (cock fighting), it becomes a phraseological unit when it is used in everyday life, because it is used metaphorically;

h) They can be formed when we use some unreal image, e. g. to have butterflies in the stomach - , to have green fingers - - etc.

i) They can be formed by using expressions of writers or politicians in everyday life, e. g. corridors of power (Snow), American dream (Alby) locust years (Churchil), the winds of change (M Millan). Secondary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a phraseological unit is formed on the basis of another phraseological unit; they are:

Conversion, e. g. to vote with one's feet was converted into vote with one's feet;

Changing the grammar form, e. g. Make hay while the sun shines is transferred into a verbal phrase - to make hay while the sun shines;

Analogy, e. g. ((Curiosity killed the cat was transferred into Care killed the cat;

d) Contrast, e. g. cold surgery - a planned before operation was formed by contrasting it with acute surgery, thin cat - a poor person was formed by contrasting it with fat cat;

e) Shortening of proverbs or sayings e. g. from the proverb You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear by means of clipping the middle of it the phraseological unit to make a sow's ear.

f) Borrowing phraseological units from other languages, either as translation loans, e. g. living space (German), to take the bull by the horns (Latin) or by means of phoneticborrowings meche blanche (French), corpse d'elite (French), sotto voce (Italian) etc.

Functional classifications of idioms

A third classification identified is that of `functional idioms' [22]:

* catchphrase (often humorous) - Did he fall or was he pushed?

* saying (usually a comment on something) - out of sight, out of mind

One of the first people to do a detailed examination of one particular function of idioms - interpersonal relations - was Strassler [23]who argued that when using an idiom the speaker conveys more information than its semantic content. He either establishes a social hierarchy or he tests the hearer's opinion in this matter. Strassler (1982) discovered that idioms deal with personal reference (first person: I can't dance worth shit), reference to a communicative partner (second person: I mean, why have you got such a, a sort of a chip on your shoulder about it), and most commonly, to a third person (O'Brien is a ball player) or object (you try to brush if off the table as being pie in the sky) [24] In addition, he noted the use of second person idiom for partners of higher status, and first person 31 idiom for partners of lower status. While it is true that `have a chip on your shoulder' is seldom used with first person, it can be used with second and third person (you seem/he seems to have a real chip on your/his shoulder about not getting the job). Moreover, as Strassler's (1982) study used a limited corpus of trial transcripts, therapeutic session recordings and White House transcripts, his theory would need to be tested on a more representative corpus.

Thematic characteristics of idioms. [25]

II. Analysis of English and American idioms in songs

2.1 Linguistic peculiarities of British English and American English languages

American English (variously abbreviated AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US, also known as United States English, or U. S. English) is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two thirds of native speakers of English live in the United States. English is the most common language in the United States. Though the U. S. federal government has no official language, English is considered the de facto, in practice but not necessarily ordained by law, language of the United States because of its widespread use. English has been given official status by 30 of the 50 state governments. [27]

The use of English in the United States was inherited from British colonization. The first wave of English-speaking settlers arrived in North America in the 17th century. During that time, there were also speakers in North America of Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Finnish, Russian (Alaska) and numerous Native American languages. [28]

* American English (AmE) is the form of English used in the United States. It includes all English dialects used within the United States of America.

* British English (BrE) is the form of English used in the United Kingdom. It includes all English dialects used within the United Kingdom.

American English and British English (BrE) differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary, and, to a lesser extent, grammar and orthography. [29]

2.1.1 Phonetically peculiarities

Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and normally do not affect mutual intelligibility; these include: different use of some verbal auxiliaries; formal (rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns; different preferences for the past forms of a few verbs (e. g. AmE/BrE: learned/learnt, burned/burnt, and in sneak, dive, get) ; different prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (e. g. AmE in school, BrE at school) ; and whether or not a definite article is used, in very few cases (AmE to the hospital, BrE to hospital). Often, these differences are a matter of relative preferences rather than absolute rules; and most are not stable, since the two varieties are constantly influencing each other. Differences in orthography are also trivial. Some of the forms that now serve to distinguish American from British spelling (color for colour, center for centre, traveler for traveller, etc.) were introduced by Noah Webster himself; others are due to spelling tendencies in Britain from the 17th century until the present day (e. g. -ise for -ize, although the Oxford English Dictionary still prefers the -ize ending) and cases favored by the francophile tastes of 19th century Victorian England, which had little effect on AmE (e. g. programme for program, manoeuvre for maneuver, skilful for skillful, cheque for check, etc.). AmE sometimes favors 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 these words are not mutually exclusive, being widely understood and mostly used alongside each other within the two systems. [30]

Written forms of American and British English as found in newspapers and textbooks vary little in their essential features, with only occasional noticeable differences in comparable media (comparing American newspapers to British newspapers, for example). This kind of formal English, particularly written English, is often called 'standard English'. An unofficial standard for spoken American English has also developed, as a result of mass media and geographic and social mobility. It is typically referred to as 'standard spoken American English' (SSAE) or 'General American English' (GenAm or GAE) and broadly describes the English typically heard from network newscasters, commonly referred to as non-regional diction, although local newscasters tend toward more parochial forms of speech. Despite this unofficial standard, regional variations of American English have not only persisted but have actually intensified, according to linguist William Labov. [31]

Regional dialects in the United States typically reflect the elements of the language of the main immigrant groups in any particular region of the country, especially in terms of pronunciation and vernacular vocabulary. Scholars have mapped at least four major regional variations of spoken American English: Northern, Southern, Midland, and Western (Labov, Ash, & Boberg, 2006). After the American Civil War, the settlement of the western territories by migrants from the east led to dialect mixing and levelling, so that regional dialects are most strongly differentiated in the eastern parts of the country that were settled earlier. Localized dialects also exist with quite distinct variations, such as in Southern Appalachia and New York. [32]

The spoken forms of British English vary considerably, reflecting a long history of dialect development amid isolated populations. Dialects and accents vary not only between the countries in the United Kingdom, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but also within these individual countries.

There are also differences in the English spoken by different groups of people in any particular region. Received Pronunciation (RP), which is the educated spoken English of south-east England, has traditionally been regarded as proper English; this is also referred to as BBC English or the Queen's English. The BBC and other broadcasters now intentionally use a mix of presenters with a variety of British accents and dialects, and the concept of proper English is now far less prevalent.

British and American English are the reference norms for English as spoken, written, and taught in the rest of the world. For instance, the English-speaking members of the Commonwealth often closely follow British English forms while many new American English forms quickly become familiar outside of the United States. Although the dialects of English used in the former British Empire are often, to various extents, based on British English, most of the countries concerned have developed their own unique dialects, particularly with respect to pronunciation, idioms, and vocabulary; chief among them are Canadian English and Australian English, which rank third and fourth in number of native speakers if Indian English and the English of other countries of Asia and Africa are disregarded. [33]

Regional vocabularies of American English and North American English regional phonology.

In many ways, compared to English English, North American English is conservative in its phonology. Some distinctive accents can be found on the East Coast (for example, in Eastern New England and New York City), partly because these areas were in contact with England, and imitated prestigious varieties of British English at a time when those varieties were undergoing changes. In addition, many speech communities on the East Coast have existed in their present locations longer than others. The interior of the United States, however, was settled by people from all regions of the existing United States and, therefore, developed a far more generic linguistic pattern.

The red areas are those where non-rhotic pronunciations are found among some white people in the United States. AAVE-influenced non-rhotic pronunciations may be found among black people throughout the country.

Most North American speech is rhotic, as English was in most places in the 17th century. Rhoticity was further supported by Hiberno-English, West Country English and Scottish English as well as the fact most regions of England at this time also had rhotic accents. The loss of syllable-final r in North America is confined mostly to the accents of eastern New England, New York City and surrounding areas and the coastal portions of the South, and African American Vernacular English. In rural tidewater Virginia and eastern New England, 'r' is non-rhotic in accented (such as bird, work, first, birthday) as well as unaccented syllables, although this is declining among the younger generation of speakers. [34]Dropping of syllable-final r sometimes happens in natively rhotic dialects if r is located in unaccented syllables or words and the next syllable or word begins in a consonant. In England, the lost r was often changed into [?] (schwa), giving rise to a new class of falling diphthongs.

Some other English English changes in which most North American dialects do not participate: [35]

* The realization of intervocalic /t/ as a glottal stop [?] (as in [b???l] for bottle). This change is not universal for British English and is not considered a feature of Received Pronunciation. This is not a property of most North American dialects. Newfoundland English is a notable exception.

On the other hand, North American English has undergone some sound changes not found in the standard varieties of English speech:

* The merger of /?/ and /?/, making father and bother rhyme. This change is nearly universal in North American English, occurring almost everywhere except for parts of eastern New England, hence the Boston accent.

* The merger of /?/ and /?/. This is the so-called cot-caught merger, where cot and caught are homophones. This change has occurred in eastern New England, in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, and from the Great Plains westward.

* For speakers who do not merge caught and cot: The replacement of the cot vowel with the caught vowel before voiceless fricatives (as in cloth, off [which is found in some old-fashioned varieties of RP]), as well as before /?/ (as in strong, long), usually in gone, often in on, and irregularly before /?/ (log, hog, dog, fog [which is not found in British English at all]).

* The replacement of the lot vowel with the strut vowel in most utterances of the words was, of, from, what and in many utterances of the words everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody; the word because has either /?/ or /?/; want has normally /?/ or /?/, sometimes /?/. Vowel merger before intervocalic /?/. Which vowels are affected varies between dialects, but the Mary-marry-merry, nearer-mirror, and hurry-furry mergers are all widespread. Another such change is the laxing of /e/, /i/ and /u/ to /?/, /?/ and /?/ before /?/, causing pronunciations like [p??], [p??] and [pj??] for pair, peer and pure. The resulting sound [??] is often further reduced to [?], especially after palatals, so that cure, pure, mature and sure rhyme with fir.

* Dropping of /j/ is more extensive than in RP. In most North American accents, /j/ is dropped after all alveolar and interdental consonant, so that new, duke, Tuesday, resume are pronounced /nu/, /duk/, /tuzde?/, /??zum/.

* The flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [?] before unstressed vowels (as in butter, party) and syllabic /l/ (bottle), as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel (what else, whatever). Thus, for most speakers, pairs such as ladder/latter, metal/medal, and coating/coding are pronounced the same. For many speakers, this merger is incomplete and does not occur after /a?/; these speakers tend to pronounce writer with [??] and rider with [a?]. This is a form of Canadian raising but, unlike more extreme forms of that process, does not affect /a?/. In some areas and idiolects, a phonemic distinction between what elsewhere become homophones through this process is maintained by vowel lengthening in the vowel preceding the formerly voiced consonant.

* The pin-pen merger, by which [?] is raised to [?] before nasal consonants, making pairs like pen/pin homophonous. This merger originated in Southern American English but is now also sometimes found in parts of the Midwest and West as well, especially in people with roots in the mountainous areas of the Southeastern United States.

Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British English include:

* The merger of the vowels /?/ and /o/ before 'r', making pairs like horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning, etc. homophones.

* The wine-whine merger making pairs like wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where, etc. homophones, in most cases eliminating /hw/, the voiceless labiovelar fricative. Many older varieties of southern and western AmE still keep these distinct, but the merger appears to be spreading.

While written AmE is standardized across the country, there are several recognizable variations in the spoken language, both in pronunciation and in vernacular vocabulary. General American is the name given to any American accent that is relatively free of noticeable regional influences. [36]

After the Civil War, the settlement of the western territories by migrants from the Eastern U. S. led to dialect mixing and leveling, so that regional dialects are most strongly differentiated along the Eastern seaboard. The Connecticut River and Long Island Sound is usually regarded as the southern/western extent of New England speech, which has its roots in the speech of the Puritans from East Anglia who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Potomac River generally divides a group of Northern coastal dialects from the beginning of the Coastal Southern dialect area; in between these two rivers several local variations exist, chief among them the one that prevails in and around New York City and northern New Jersey, which developed on a Dutch substratum after the British conquered New Amsterdam. The main features of Coastal Southern speech can be traced to the speech of the English from the West Country who settled in Virginia after leaving England at the time of the English Civil War, and to the African influences from the African Americans who were enslaved in the South.

Although no longer region-specific, African American Vernacular English, which remains prevalent among African Americans, has a close relationship to Southern varieties of AmE and has greatly influenced everyday speech of many Americans. [37]

A distinctive speech pattern also appears near the border between Canada and the United States, centered on the Great Lakes region (but only on the American side). This is the Inland North Dialect-the standard Midwestern speech that was the basis for General American in the mid-20th Century (although it has been recently modified by the northern cities vowel shift). Those not from this area frequently confuse it with the North Midland dialect treated below, referring to both collectively as Midwestern in the mid-Atlantic region or Northern in the Southern US. The so-called 'Minnesotan dialect is also prevalent in the cultural Upper Midwest, and is characterized by influences from the German and Scandinavian settlers of the region (yah for yes/ja in German, pronounced the same way).

In the interior, the situation is very different. West of the Appalachian Mountains begins the broad zone of what is generally called Midland speech. This is divided into two discrete subdivisions, the North Midland that begins north of the Ohio River valley area, and the South Midland speech; sometimes the former is designated simply Midland and the latter is reckoned as Highland Southern. The North Midland speech continues to expand westward until it becomes the closely related Western dialect which contains Pacific Northwest English as well as the well-known California English, although in the immediate San Francisco area some older speakers do not possess the cot-caught merger and thus retain the distinction between words such as cot and caught which reflects a historical Mid-Atlantic heritage.

The South Midland or Highland Southern dialect follows the Ohio River in a generally southwesterly direction, moves across Arkansas and Oklahoma west of the Mississippi, and peters out in West Texas. It is a version of the Midland speech that has assimilated some coastal Southern forms (outsiders often mistakenly believe South Midland speech and coastal South speech to be the same).

The island state of Hawaii has a distinctive Hawaiian Pidgin.

Finally, dialect development in the United States has been notably influenced by the distinctive speech of such important cultural centers as Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Charleston, New Orleans, New York City, and Detroit, which imposed their marks on the surrounding areas.

2.1.2 Lexical peculiarities

North America has given the English lexicon many thousands of words, meanings, and phrases. Several thousand are now used in English as spoken internationally; others, however, died within a few years of their creation.

Creation of an American lexicon

The process of coining new lexical items started as soon as the colonists began borrowing names for unfamiliar flora, fauna, and topography from the Native American languages. Examples of such names are opossum, raccoon, squash and moose (from Algonquian). Other Native American loanwords, such as wigwam or moccasin, describe artificial objects in common use among Native Americans. The languages of the other colonizing nations also added to the American vocabulary; for instance, cookie, cruller, stoop, and pit (of a fruit) from Dutch; levee, portage (carrying of boats or goods) and (probably) gopher from French; barbecue, stevedore, and rodeo from Spanish. [38]

Among the earliest and most notable regular English additions to the American vocabulary, dating from the early days of colonization through the early 19th century, are terms describing the features of the North American landscape; for instance, run, branch, fork, snag, bluff, gulch, neck (of the woods), barrens, bottomland, notch, knob, riffle, rapids, watergap, cutoff, trail, timberline and divide. Already existing words such as creek, slough, sleet and (in later use) watershed received new meanings that were unknown in England.

Other noteworthy American toponyms are found among loanwords; for example, prairie, butte (French) ; bayou (Choctaw via Louisiana French[39]) ; coulee (Canadian French, but used also in Louisiana with a different meaning) ; canyon, mesa, arroyo (Spanish) ; vlei, kill (Dutch, Hudson Valley). [39]

The word corn, used in England to refer to wheat (or any cereal), came to denote the plant Zea mays, the most important crop in the U. S., originally named Indian corn by the earliest settlers; wheat, rye, barley, oats, etc. came to be collectively referred to as grain (or breadstuffs). Other notable farm related vocabulary additions were the new meanings assumed by barn (not only a building for hay and grain storage, but also for housing livestock) and team (not just the horses, but also the vehicle along with them), as well as, in various periods, the terms range, (corn) crib, truck, elevator, sharecropping and feedlot.

Ranch, later applied to a house style, derives from Mexican Spanish; most Spanish contributions came after the War of 1812, with the opening of the West. Among these are, other than toponyms, chaps (from chaparreras), plaza, lasso, bronco, buckaroo, rodeo; examples of English additions from the cowboy era are bad man, maverick, chuck (food) and Boot Hill; from the California Gold Rush came such idioms as hit pay dirt or strike it rich. The word blizzard probably originated in the West. A couple of notable late 18th century additions are the verb belittle and the noun bid, both first used in writing by Thomas Jefferson. [40]

With the new continent developed new forms of dwelling, and hence a large inventory of words designating real estate concepts (land office, lot, outlands, waterfront, the verbs locate and relocate, betterment, addition, subdivision), types of property (log cabin, adobe in the 18th century; frame house, apartment, tenement house, shack, shanty in the 19th century; project, condominium, townhouse, split-level, mobile home, multi-family in the 20th century), and parts thereof (driveway, breezeway, backyard, dooryard; clapboard, siding, trim, baseboard; stoop (from Dutch), family room, den; and, in recent years, HVAC, central air, walkout basement).

Ever since the American Revolution, a great number of terms connected with the U. S. political institutions have entered the language; examples are run, gubernatorial, primary election, carpetbagger (after the Civil War), repeater, lame duck and pork barrel. Some of these are internationally used (e. g. caucus, gerrymander, filibuster, exit poll). [41]

The rise of capitalism, the development of industry and material innovations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries were the source of a massive stock of distinctive new words, phrases and idioms. Typical examples are the vocabulary of railroading (see further at rail terminology) and transportation terminology, ranging from names of roads (from dirt roads and back roads to freeways and parkways) to road infrastructure (parking lot, overpass, rest area), and from automotive terminology to public transit (e. g. in the sentence riding the subway downtown) ; such American introductions as commuter (from commutation ticket), concourse, to board (a vehicle), to park, double-park and parallel park (a car), double decker or the noun terminal have long been used in all dialects of English. Trades of various kinds have endowed (American) English with household words describing jobs and occupations (bartender, longshoreman, patrolman, hobo, bouncer, bellhop, roustabout, white collar, blue collar, employee, boss [from Dutch], intern, busboy, mortician, senior citizen), businesses and workplaces (department store, supermarket, thrift store, gift shop, drugstore, motel, main street, gas station, hardware store, savings and loan, hock [also from Dutch]), as well as general concepts and innovations (automated teller machine, smart card, cash register, dishwasher, reservation [as at hotels], pay envelope, movie, mileage, shortage, outage, blood bank).

Already existing English words -such as store, shop, dry goods, haberdashery, lumber- underwent shifts in meaning; some -such as mason, student, clerk, the verbs can (as in canned goods), ship, fix, carry, enroll (as in school), run (as in run a business), release and haul- were given new significations, while others (such as tradesman) have retained meanings that disappeared in England. From the world of business and finance came breakeven, merger, delisting, downsize, disintermediation, bottom line; from sports terminology came, jargon aside, Monday-morning quarterback, cheap shot, game plan (football) ; in the ballpark, out of left field, off base, hit and run, and many other idioms from baseball; gamblers coined bluff, blue chip, ante, bottom dollar, raw deal, pass the buck, ace in the hole, freeze-out, showdown; miners coined bedrock, bonanza, peter out, pan out and the verb prospect from the noun; and railroadmen are to be credited with make the grade, sidetrack, head-on, and the verb railroad. A number of Americanisms describing material innovations remained largely confined to North America: elevator, ground, gasoline; many automotive terms fall in this category, although many do not (hatchback, SUV, station wagon, tailgate, motorhome, truck, pickup truck, to exhaust).

In addition to the above-mentioned loans from French, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Dutch, and Native American languages, other accretions from foreign languages came with 19th and early 20th century immigration; notably, from Yiddish (chutzpah, schmooze, tush and such idioms as need something like a hole in the head) and German -hamburger and culinary terms like frankfurter/franks, liverwurst, sauerkraut, wiener, deli (catessen) ; scram, kindergarten, gesundheit; musical terminology (whole note, half note, etc.) ; and apparently cookbook, fresh (impudent) and what gives? Such constructions as Are you coming with? and I like to dance (for I like dancing) may also be the result of German or Yiddish influence. Finally, a large number of English colloquialisms from various periods are American in origin; some have lost their American flavor (from OK and cool to nerd and 24/7), while others have not (have a nice day, sure) ; many are now distinctly old-fashioned (swell, groovy). Some English words now in general use, such as hijacking, disc jockey, boost, bulldoze and jazz, originated as American slang. Among the many English idioms of U. S. origin are get the hang of, take for a ride, bark up the wrong tree, keep tabs, run scared, take a backseat, have an edge over, stake a claim, take a shine to, in on the ground floor, bite off more than one can chew, off/on the wagon, stay put, inside track, stiff upper lip, bad hair day, throw a monkey wrench, under the weather, jump bail, come clean, come again?, it ain't over till it's over, what goes around comes around, and will the real x please stand up? [44]


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