A Revolution in American English: The Transformation of American Spoken Language from the 1940s to the 1970s

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. William Pannapacker, Hope College

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American English is a language comprised of dialects that identify the origins of the speaker, such as the South, New York, Boston, and the Midwest. There are also numerous variations within in each of those dialects. Nevertheless, American English as a whole has a distinct sound that is different than, say, British English. A Southern dialect is still American English. The expression of those dialects has changed over time as well. American English today has a different sound than it did as recently as the 1950's. Films have made this change in language most obvious. In my project I examine how the standard American English in films made before the 1960s had all but vanished by the 1970's, when representations of American English became more naturalistic, reflecting the political and cultural changes of that time while also cultivating qualities that reinforced the ongoing construction of a common national language.

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