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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 69
 
beyond their comprehension, and they also brought with them that sense of ease in the language, that fine contempt for formality, that bold experimentalizing in words, which were so peculiarly Elizabethan. There were no grammarians in that day; there were no purists that anyone listened to; it was a case of saying your say in the easiest and most satisfying way. In remote parts of the United States there are still direct and almost pure-blooded descendants of those seventeenth century colonists. Go among them, and you will hear more words from the Shakespearean vocabulary, still alive and in common service, than anywhere else in the world, and more of the loose and brilliant syntax of that time, and more of its gipsy phrases. 49
 

6. Colonial Pronunciation
 
  The debate that long raged over the pronunciation of classical Latin exhibits the difficulty of determining with exactness the shades of sound in the speech of a people long departed from earth. The American colonists, of course, are much nearer to us than the Romans, and so we should have relatively little difficulty in determining just how they pronounced this or that word, but against the fact of their nearness stands the neglect of our phonologists. What Sweet did to clear up the history of English pronunciation, 50 and what Wilhelm Crossen did for Latin, no American philologian has yet thought to attempt for American. The literature is almost if not quite a blank. But here and there we may get a hint of the facts, and though the sum of them is not large, they at least serve to set at rest a number of popular errors.
  One of these errors, chiefly prevalent in New England, is that the so-called Boston pronunciation, with its broad a’s, comes down unbrokenly from the day of the first settlements, and that it is in consequence superior in authority to the pronunciation of the rest of the country, with its flat a’s. A glance through Webster’s “Dissertations”
Note 49.  Cf. J. H. Combs: Old, Early and Elizabethan English in the Southern Mountains, Dialect Notes, vol. iv, pt. iv, pp. 283-97. [back]
Note 50.  Henry Sweet: A History of English Sounds; London, 1876; Oxford, 1888. [back]

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