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There are several varieties of the English Language in the Americas, from Alaska to the Falkland Islands. To mention just a few:

  • American General and its varieties
  • Canadian General
  • Bajan
  • Falklander
  • Newfoundland English
  • Guyanese
  • Bahamian
  • Trinidadian
  • Bermudian
  • Belizean
  • And several other varieties, not to mention dialects, pidgins and creoles.

Some varieties - not mentioned above - may have existed and gone extinct. Of course languages change all the time. Barbadian English as it is in the twenty-first century, is not the same as it was when the first English settlers arrived in 1627-1628. Even so, we can consider that Barbadian English was born at that time, even though a language changes and receives influences all the time. Among those that are neither vulnerable nor endangered, and considering the time when the first settlers arrived, what variety of English has been in the Americas longer than any other? In other words, where was it that the English Language first arrived in the Americas and is still spoken in 2014 in a way that allows us to call it a variety of English? (not a dialect or pidgin).

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    No. They don't have birthdays and they constantly change, just like any language -- especially the creoles. There are no useful sociolinguistic data on how these languages were spoken centuries ago, let alone how much influence they've had on each other. How can one tell "longer than" when one hasta put quotes around "alive and well"? I.e, the question doesn't make sense. – John Lawler Sep 3 '14 at 16:41
  • By "alive and well" I obviously mean "not extinct", "not dead", "not endangered", "not vulnerable". – Centaurus Sep 4 '14 at 0:04
  • @Kristina Lopez tchrist Josh61 choster Rory Alsop I've re-written my question and tried to make clearer what I'm asking. Please, read it and reconsider. – Centaurus Sep 5 '14 at 0:02
  • @Luis I already voted to reopen before your comment even. :) – tchrist Sep 5 '14 at 0:27
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    @Luis I think you also need to consider the age of the dialect that came to the Americas. If settlers came from, say, the London area, or anywhere near there, then they probably spoke the most modern dialect. But some settlers who came from some of the more remote areas of the UK brought with them much older dialects than was spoken at the same time by people in London. So if you're looking for oldest it's not merely about when settlers first arrived but also the antiquity of the dialect that arrived. If area B is settled 20 years later but with a dialect 100 years older that matters. – Brillig Sep 5 '14 at 23:42
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There has been research done on this subject.

The Qualls Concise English Grammar claims that:

"The Appalachian dialect is the oldest of English dialects in British North America..."

This source focuses on populations exceeding 2 million so it includes groups from the USA, Canada, and Jamaica. It is also interesting to note that Qualls believes that several of the the North American dialects are the oldest in the world, in that they retain so many elements of 16th century usage.

If I wanted, I could post other sources that support other regions like Newfoundland being the oldest dialect in North America (and I mean including everything north of of South America).

I could further then get into to the debate of whether the North American dialects are really oldest, and could argue a dialect like that from the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area ('Geordie' accent) is even older since it retains so many elements from the 5th century, as this blog claims.

But I don't think that Qualls or the blog about the Geordie accent or any other source I might cite that would argue a different dialect being oldest is correct. I prefer the description given by this Brief History of the English Language.

Also significant beginning around 1600 AD was the English colonization of North America and the subsequent creation of American English. Some pronunciations and usages "froze" when they reached the American shore. In certain respects, some varieties of American English are closer to the English of Shakespeare than modern Standard English ('English English' or as it is often incorrectly termed 'British English') is. Some "Americanisms" are actually originally English English expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost at home (e.g., fall as a synonym for autumn, trash for rubbish, and loan as a verb instead of lend).

The American dialect also served as the route of introduction for many native American words into the English language. Most often, these were place names like Mississippi, Roanoke, and Iowa. Indian-sounding names like Idaho were sometimes created that had no native-American roots. But, names for other things besides places were also common. Raccoon, tomato, canoe, barbecue, savanna, and hickory have native American roots, although in many cases the original Indian words were mangled almost beyond recognition.

Spanish has also been great influence on American English. Mustang, canyon, ranch, stampede, and vigilante are all examples of Spanish words that made their way into English through the settlement of the American West.

A lesser number of words have entered American English from French and West African languages.

For any of the varieties and dialects that exist in North America, some (like Qualls) may try to argue that because certain historical words persist in that dialect, that the dialect is older, but what no one can deny is that all English dialects around the world include many newer words which have been introduced to the language over time, and these newer words are spoken side-by-side with the older words, so none of the dialects is really the same as was spoken in historical times.

If interested in further investigation, this source provides a lot of current information on North American dialects in the USA and Canada, in how they differ and where they are located, but not so much their date of origin.

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  • Appalachia and Newfoundland also happen to be among the places in North America that retain the strongest connection to traditional folk music of the British Isles. I wonder if this is only a coincidence... – Sven Yargs Sep 3 '14 at 20:44
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    I've never heard of Qualls, but I would dismiss it on the basis of this account. The oldest of the English dialects is a meaningless phrase. It makes as much sense as the bluest of the English dialects or the most circular of the English dialects. – Colin Fine Sep 3 '14 at 20:56
  • I believe "oldest" here is intended to mean some combination of age of the dialect in England it was derived from and degree of change (or lack thereof) from that dialect. Looking at the actual research cited would confirm that. Given that reading, I believe the quote is entirely correct. – keshlam Sep 3 '14 at 21:11
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    Ah, well, that's just a matter of who landed when, not whether their dialect -- whatever it might have been -- is still spoken the same way today. – John Lawler Sep 4 '14 at 0:45
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    @Luis abundant fisheries off the coast of Canada brought fishing ships from Europe to reap the rich harvest there. A French ship arrived in 1504, the date you cite. For the next 400 years, ships of many nationalities came from Europe to these waters to fish. Over those years, some people settled in places like Newfoundland, mostly French-speaking but a few English-speaking, but usually would only settle for a year or two then return to Europe. See Heritage website. The Newfoundland language today is far from 1504 English. – Brillig Sep 4 '14 at 14:11
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NEWFOUNDLAND ENGLISH

According to Margery Fee, Department of English, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Candada, "The English language as used in the island and province of Newfoundland for almost 500 years is the oldest variety in the Americas. It derives primarily from the speech of early settlers from the English West Country and later Ireland, and is the outcome of long, stable settlement and relative remoteness. The isolation, however, should not be overemphasized: The women in these communities were isolated, while the men were not, because they travelled to find seasonal work sealing, logging, and cod-fishing. Many Newfoundland townies have features of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary that are distinct from the rest of Canada, and the varied dialects of the baymen are possibly the most distinctive in the country. Because of such factors, the English of Newfoundland is something more than a dialect of CanE, and can be described as a variety with a standard and dialects of its own." (The Oxford Companion to the English Language, page 689.)

References:

1. Fee,M. Newfoundland English, in "The Oxford Companion to the English Language", Oxford University Press, 1992. 2. Story,GM. Dictionary of Newfoundland English. Toronto University Press, 1990.

FOR FUN (vídeo) - A Newfoundland Language Lesson with Mark Critch

PS The Oxford Companion to the English Language says that "Appalachian English" has been regarded (popularly but incorrectly) as a kind of Elizabethan or Shakespearian English" and then goes on offering data to back it up.

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  • So let's review. You asked a question obviously fishing for a certain answer, admitted on Sept 3 that your reason for asking the question was because you wanted to see if anyone else thought what Fee said was correct, revised your question when it wasn't producing the answer you wanted, and when despite all this no one particually agreed with Fee, and continued to give you answers that weren't what you were fishing for, you answered it yourself on Sept 24 and awarded yourself the best answer. Heck, you might as well post it on Wiki next. Won't make it true though. – Brillig Oct 3 '14 at 19:24
  • @Brillig I posted the question on Sept 3rd, edited it on Sept 7th, trying to make clear that I wasn't looking for a dialect. Then I waited 17 days for answers. There was only one and I read it carefully. My question is about a variety of English and not a dialect. Your answer shows research effort and a considerable time spent posting all that. However it's about a dialect. Believe me, I didn't want to answer the question myself. I'd rather have found a convincing answer about a variety of English. – Centaurus Oct 3 '14 at 23:04
  • @Brillig And I posted that that was what I was looking for long before I decided to answer the question myself. I hope such small thing hasn't created any animosity. – Centaurus Oct 3 '14 at 23:05
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    when I posted my long and well-researched answer your question wasn't omitting dialects. You only made that change after my answer, so you could try to exclude my answer. But your change is just silly. All varieties of English can be referred to as dialects. The varieties you list in your question are no more distinct than the Appalachian variety. Numerous sources list Newfoundland speach as a dialect. dialectatlas.mun.ca and cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/… for instance. – Brillig Oct 3 '14 at 23:28
  • @Brillig When I first posted it, I mentioned "Variety of English" as you can check by on the edit history. When you answered it with the word dialect, I then edited and made it clear that I meant a variety. And a variety has a standard and dialects of its own, just like Newfoundland English. If you still have any more comments, then we should go to a chat-room. – Centaurus Oct 4 '14 at 1:42

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