In Walt Wolfram's study guide for American Tongues he discusses the speech patterns of Boston: One of the Boston men discussing the relative...
In Walt Wolfram's study guide for American Tongues, he writes that:
One of the Boston men discussing the relative literary merits of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen says that "we came over here with the first load of bricks," and that "I have been here for 350 years." This refers to the historical affinity that New England has with early groups of settlers in America. In a similar way, the Tangier Island speech can be traced back to its settlement hundreds of years ago, demonstrating the influence of settlement patterns in the development of a dialect.
Based on this observation, answer the following questions from Wolfram's guide:
What does the Boston Brahmin gentleman mean when he says "I've been here 350 years...We came over with the first load of bricks"? How might this be reflected in the language of some parts of New England?
Louis Alvarez's 1988 documentary film American Tongues explores the diversity of accents in the United States and reflects on their origins. The Boston Brahmins are members of the traditional East Coast elite, and their accents are perhaps the closest American approximation of British Received Pronunciation. The man who says "We came over with the first load of bricks" means that his family were among the first settlers in New England, before anything was even built there. His ancestors might even have arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 or been involved in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the city of Boston itself 350 years ago.
The British colonization of America, among much else, provided an interesting linguistic experiment. The pilgrims who came to New England in the early-seventeenth century spoke with the regional accents of the parts of England from which they came, but within a few generations, these accents had converged significantly. Some linguists have argued that the diverse accents of the pilgrims quickly changed into something distinctively American, but the majority view now seems to be that the American English of New England today remains closer to seventeenth-century English than any dialect now spoken in the British Isles.
The words and pronunciations used in some parts of New England, therefore, may well be the closest thing to the English spoken by Shakespeare that now exists in the world.
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