I wonder at what point American English (i.e. the USA's dialect of English)began to have more of an influence on English English than the other way around. Was the English of Victorian England remotely interested in or influenced by American English?
The language we speak today is not a thousand miles away from Victorian English but many people imply that many of the features of modern English are due to American innovation. Does this mean that the Victorians were already influenced by American English or that the English language as it is spoken today is not as American as some suggest.
Also, when did Americans stop having an inferiority complex about the so-called mother country? When did they stop following English standards? Do Americans still have an inferiority complex? Maybe they now have a superiority complex instead.
Does anyone have links to sources about the way English was viewed in the nineteenth century, by English people, Americans, other native speakers and non-native speakers?
This would be more of a reproach to us if in poetry, which requires, no less than religion, a true delicacy of spiritual perception, our race had not done such great things; and if the Imitation, exquisite as it is, did not, as I have elsewhere remarked, belong to a class of works in which the perfect balance of human nature is lost, and which have therefore, as spiritual productions, in their contents something excessive and morbid, in their form something not thoroughly sound.
THE Burg, Bury, or ‘Berry’ as they call it, of St. Edmund is
still a prosperous brisk Town; beautifully diversifying, with its
clear brick houses, ancient clean streets, and twenty or fifteen
thousand busy souls, the general grassy face of Suffolk; looking
out right pleasantly, from its hill-slope, towards the rising Sun:
and on the eastern edge of it, still runs, long, black and massive,
a range of monastic ruins; into the wide internal spaces of which
the stranger is admitted on payment of one shilling. Internal
spaces laid out, at present, as a botanic garden. Here stranger or
townsman, sauntering at his leisure amid these vast grim venerable
ruins, may persuade himself that an Abbey of St. Edmundsbury
did once exist; nay there is no doubt of it: see here the ancient
massive Gateway, of architecture interesting to the eye of Dilet-
tantism; and farther on, that other ancient Gateway, now about
to tumble, unless Dilettantism, in these very months, can subscribe
money to cramp it and prop it!
The use of the word farther is interesting here because I always thought of it as an Americanism.
Victorian English makes my head hurt, I'll stick with modern thanks!
Some good points Simon. The long sentences seen in the examples above are just an illustration of a fashion among some writers of the time. See Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" for more examples. Wasn't James an American?
Some American English is not innovation but conservatism. Just as the Australian accent is supposed to resemble Cockney, being derived in part from Londoners sent over here as convicts up to 140 years ago the accent of parts of the eastern USA might well derive from the accents of 17th or 18th century Scotland, Ulster and England. West Indian accents resemble those of the English west country - if you listen to them together. Many of the sugar planters of Barbados etc were west conuntry people. The accents are not fossils but develop from and preserve something of the English of the times of the great migrations.
"Correct" English spelling is merely that of some editions of Shakespeare, the King James Bible or some spelling decided on by Dr. Johnson for some reason of his own. It probably reflects the pronunciation of the time. "Correct" American spelling seems to have been laid down by Webster in his dictionary and probably reflects local pronunciation at the time along with some edition of the Bible then taken to be authorative.
As far as the American inferiority complex is concerned, it seems to be still alive, though not perhaps as well as it once was. It was never just about England, by the way. The recent movie "U-571" is a good example of the US inferiority complex twitching. The Enigma material was actually recovered from a sinking U-Boat, the U-559 by Lieutenant Tony Fasson, R.N. and Able Seaman Colin Grazier R.N. who both went down with it. The real U-571 was sunk by an Australian crewed, British designed and built Sunderland flying boat west of Ireland. I'm just waiting for the Americans to try to convince the world that it was their men and their equipment that managed that feat as well. US forces had absolutely nothing to do with either incident but that could not be portrayed for the US home crowd.
I thought this was my most profound question ever. I am disappointed by the lack of response (except Jack).
Here is a question more suited to this forum:
Why do pigs fart?