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1806-1828 Towards an American English. Peter Stephen Duponceau 1760-1844. American (French-born) Linguist, Jurist and Philosopher Lived in Philadelphia Completed a Pioneering study of Native American languages (1838) Coined the Term “Polysynthesis” .

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1806 1828 towards an american english

Towards an American English

peter stephen duponceau 1760 1844

Peter Stephen Duponceau1760-1844

  • American (French-born) Linguist, Jurist and Philosopher
  • Lived in Philadelphia
  • Completed a Pioneering study of Native American languages (1838)
  • Coined the Term “Polysynthesis”
commissioned by thomas jefferson to study indian vocabularies

Educated in a French Benedictine College

  • Served in the Revolutionary War
  • Resigned from the Army in 1781 & Became a U.S. Citizen
  • Elected President of the American Philosophical Society in 1827

Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to Study Indian Vocabularies



  • Greatest Number of Ideas Comprised in the Least Number of Words
  • Understood Through Grammatical Forms and their Relationship to the Concepts that the Human Mind Wants to Express
cheyenne voen ht ohehe

Word for Nightingale

    • Literally means:
  • “All Night Hollering”
    • Sound & Syllables Important


cree n t ayamihew ttikumin nak

Word for Cross

    • Literally means:
  • “Praying Stick”
  • or
  • “Holy Wood”
    • Verbs Important


duponceau s legacy

Duponceau’s Legacy

  • Illustrated the complexity of American Indian languages.
  • Proved that these languages were not primitive.
  • Showed that these languages were structurally close to Old World Languages such as Latin, Greek, and Slavic.
  • Suggested that the study of American Indian languages coupled with the study of American English could provide the foundations for a national literature. 
john pickering 1777 1856

John Pickering1777-1856

  • Lexicographer, Philologist, and Lawyer
  • Lived in Massachusetts
  • Studied American Vocabulary and Published the First Book on “Americanisms” (1816)
  • Contemporary of Noah Webster
interested in the purity and improvement of the english language

Interested in the Purity and Improvement of the English Language

Received Masters of Arts in 1799 from Harvard University

Studied Law in Philadelphia

Secretary for U.S. Minister to Portugal and U.S. Minister to Great Britain

Spent Time in England before the War of 1812

on the english language

On the English Language

“In the first place…there is greater uniformity of the [English] dialect throughout the United States…than is to be found throughout England; yet none of our countrymen…will contend, that we have not in some instances departed from the standard of the language. We have formed some new words; and to some old ones, that are still used in England, we have affixed with new significations: while others, which have long been obsolete in England, are still retained in common use with us.”



    • “A love of America and preference of her interest.”
  • —Webster’s Dictionary
    • …denotes “a use of phrases or terms, or a construction of sentences, even among persons of rank and education [in America] different from the use of the same terms of phrases, or the construction of similar sentences in Great Britain.”

To like very much; to be very fond of.

  • This verb is much used in New England in expressions like the following: I should admire to go to such a place; I should admire to have such a thing…. It is never thus used by the English; and among us it is confined to the language of conversation.




An obliging correspondent observes, that “this word is here applied to almost everything;” and then adds…that, “In England it is used only in reference to the human countenance.” It is thus mentioned as an Americanism in the Quarterly Review: “The country thus far had presented few striking features, but was generally what the Americans call handsome.” Review of Lewis and Clarke’s Travels.

pickering s legacy

Pickering’s Legacy

  • He ultimately rejected the idea of having a unique American language.
  • However, the constant flow of new words and phrases made inevitable a continuous debate about Americanisms.
  • The debate over a distinct American linguistic standard was exacerbated by the steady barrage of British criticism of American speech.
  • Gave rise to the notion of a uniform American language, an idea of a pure national speech.
joseph emerson worcester 1784 1865

Joseph Emerson Worcester1784-1865

  • Lexicographer and Teacher
  • Lived in Massachusetts
  • Dictionary rival of Noah Webster
  • Disputes over plagiarism and British vs. American Orientations of Dictionaries
noted geographer

Noted Geographer

  • 1811 Graduate of Yale College
  • LL.D. Brown University 1847
  • Many publications on geography
dictionary wars 1828 1865

Dictionary Wars1828-1865



  • 1828 – new edition of Johnson’s Dictionary
  • 1829 – abridged Webster’s American Dictionary
  • 1830 – Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory English Dictionary
  • 1846 – Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language
  • 1860 – Dictionary of the English Language ( 4 vol.)

1828 – American Dictionary of the English Language

1841 – Revised Edition

1847 – New and Revised Edition

1859 – Revised and Enlarged Edition

1864 – Merriam issued new American Dictionary of the English Language

dictionary wars 1828 186518

Dictionary Wars1828-1865

Worcester had worked as Webster’s assistant and was accused by Webster of having stolen many of the definitions Worcester included in his dictionary; stating that Worcester had "pilfer[ed] the products of the mind, as readily as... the common thief."

Rivalry between their publishers continued long after both men had died; ending with the noteworthy publication of Webster’s International Dictionary in 1890 and 1900.

worcester s legacy

Worcester’s Legacy

  • Unlike Webster, Worcester adhered to British pronunciation and spellings, calling them "better," "more accurate,” and "more harmonious and agreeable.”
  • He opposed Webster's spelling reforms (e.g., tuf for tough, dawter for daughter), to Webster's disapproval.
  • The commercial rivalry between the two built up significant public interest in lexicography and dictionaries.
sequoyah 1770 1843


  • Native American (Cherokee), Linguist, Silversmith, and Soldier
  • Lived in Oklahoma
  • Formulated Cherokee Syllabary, Providing Path to Literacy for Thousands

Sequoyah’s mother Wut-teh was known to be Cherokee

  • His English name was George Gist or Guess
  • An early hunting accident left him crippled, so he developed a talent for craftsmanship, making silver ornaments and blacksmithing
  • Sequoyah married several times and had a large family
  • In Alabama, he became captivated by the white man's ability to communicate by making marks on paper and reading from "talking leaves."

After the War of 1812, Sequoyah began in earnest to create symbols that would make words.  

  • He and his daughter Ayoka played games using the symbols.  
  • Sequoyah became a recluse in his obsession to perfect the writing system.
  • He endured constant ridicule by friends and even family members, who said he was insane or practicing witchcraft. 
cherokee syllabary


After  twelve years, he finally reduced the complex language into 86 symbols, each representing a unique sound of Cherokee speech.

In 1821, the Cherokee Nation adopted his alphabet, now called a 'syllabary'.  

sequoyah s legacy

Sequoyah’s Legacy

  • Within a year after its introduction, 90 percent of the Cherokee people could read and write the syllabary because it was so logical to the native speaker. This rate of literacy was unheard of at that time, or even today. Sequoyah was rewarded for his achievement with a silver medal in 1824 from the General Council of the Cherokee Nation. Sequoyah’s syllabaryenabled the Cherokees to communicate in a more widespread and permanent fashion during a very serious moment in their history. They began publishing a newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, in 1828; it was printed in both English and Cherokee. It was the first bilingual, native newspaper in the United States.
dolley madison 1768 1849

Dolley Madison1768-1849

  • US First Lady and Socialite
  • Hosted White House gatherings for bachelor President Thomas Jefferson as well as for her husband President James Madison


She gained a reputation as a charming hostess, frequently entertaining large gatherings at the White House. In fact, the night she left the White House, the dinner table was set for 40 guests.

the war of 1812

The War of 1812

  • Hostilities in the War of 1812 made it necessary for Dolley to finally flee the White House.
  • After defeating the Americans at Bladensburg, Maryland, the British advanced toward Washington in 1814.
  • Taking with her the full-length portrait of George Washington that had been torn from a White House wall, Dolley fled the city.
letter to her sister just before leaving the white house

Letter to Her Sister just before leaving the White House

  • Dolley wrote in a letter to her sister:  “I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvass taken out. It is done, and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping.”
fleeing the white house

Fleeing the White House

The night after Madison had penned the letter to her sister and fled the White House to safety, the British arrived. After consuming the meal that had been prepared for American military and cabinet officers, the British soldiers looted and set fire to the White House.

madison s legacy

Madison’s Legacy

  • A vivacious woman with an astute political mind, Dolley Madison became the first president's wife to carry the title "First Lady.”
  • Dolly Madison was a political icon in the new nation.
  • While women did not vote and did not hold political office during the early years of the new republic, by Dolley Madison's time they had taken on a political role the "Founding Fathers" never envisioned.