The Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, signed by the 13 English colonies in North America (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia), put an end to a chapter of colonial history that lasted a total of over a century and a half (fig. 3). 1.1 The colonial rule. The English empire in America had in fact arisen for strategic reasons with the foundation of Virginia in 1607 and had extended to cover (1763) an immense territory that included Canada, various continental colonies and Caribbean islands. The latter, large sugar producers, were the richest; but the continental colonies were strong and rapidly developing realities. ● To the north, in the area of New England, there were the colonies that arose from the Puritan emigration, which began in 1620, which was followed (1630) by a great expedition that had given life to Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Atlantic trade, fishing and shipbuilding had over time made the fortune of coastal cities such as Boston, the main center of the colonies also from a cultural point of view. The so-called central colonies were ethnically and religiously mixed. In the colony of New York, taken from the Dutch in 1664, coexisted Dutch, English, Scots, French, Germans and all sorts of Protestant sect and church. Pennsylvania had developed through the immigration of Rhenish Germans who fled during the wars of Louis XIV. The wealth of the colonies in the center was based on cereal agriculture in the large basins of the Hudson and Susquehanna rivers. In the southern colonies the presence of tobacco had given rise to the plantation system based on the slavery of the Blacks. ● Although so different from each other, the colonies were even more so than the England, and societies were born far less hierarchical and more individualistic than any European society of the time. Furthermore, the English Empire was not governed by the center in a bureaucratic way like the Spanish and French ones. Constitutional reasons and the prevalence in the British ruling class of a commercial rather than a territorial idea of empire had meant that the colonies were born as territorial concessions for economic purposes made by the king to private individuals. The power conferred by the Royal Charters on the concessionaires to govern those who immigrated there, guaranteeing them the rights of English subjects, transformed the colonies into autonomous political entities on the internal level and endowed with exemplary representative bodies on the English Parliament. The empire was governed as a unit only in the economic field as the Parliament, with the so-called Navigation Acts, made the empire a compact trading system, placed at the service of the motherland. The treaty of Paris of 1763, which ended the Seven Years’ War, freed the Americans from the French presence; despite the victory, the British government was concerned about the enormous public debt accumulated during the war and because the immense empire created problems that required costly central intervention. In the same 1763, the torrential advance of the pioneers on the frontier and the inability of the colonial governments to regulate it caused a terrible Indian revolt in the Northwest and King George III intervened with a proclamation that blocked the penetration into Indian lands. 1.2 The war of independence. In 1765 the Parliament, to finance the imperial administration and keep troops along the border, approved the Stamp Act, which extended the stamp duty in use in Great Britain to the colonies. To the immediate reaction to this law, the British response was that Parliament represented the nation and therefore virtually all subjects wherever they were. The two positions remained distant; the British became convinced that they could no longer leave their self-governing powers to the colonists and the latter created a network of political groups, the Sons of Liberty, to resist the ‘tyranny’. When in 1774 the British government decided to suspend the government of Massachusetts and close the port of Boston as punishment against the activities of the Sons of Liberty, the Americans responded by replacing colonial governments with other provisional ones almost everywhere and convened a Continental Congress of all colonies to jointly decide the actions to be taken against London. ● In 1775 military clashes began around Boston, which was besieged by American forces under the command of the Virginian G. Washington. Carried away by the enormous popular success of Common Sense, a pamphlet by a British radical just arrived in America, T. Paine, calling for independence, on July 4, 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence drawn up by another Virginian, T. Jefferson ; it proclaimed the natural rights to life, freedom and happiness, the principle of popular sovereignty and law of peoples to revolution and independence. The war that followed was long and dramatic. The British conquered New York (1776) and Philadelphia; Washington, however, managed to keep its small army operational and the many British offensives soon proved useless. Defeated in Saratoga Springs (1777), the English suffered a decisive defeat at Yorktown (1782) by Washington. In 1783 England ended up accepting American independence (Treaty of Versailles).
Compared to the English spoken in England (British), that used in the USA (Amer; ican English) has numerous lexical, syntactic and pronunciation differences. These variations are largely due to the massive migratory waves from continental Europe first and then from southern Europe, which overlapped the original colonization of British origin, and the contact with the varied Amerindian linguistic heritage. ● Among the most evident phonetic differences, Amer; ican English shows, compared to the British model, a general tendency to nasalization, the lenition of the intervocalic t, the variation of pronunciation of some vowels and diphthongs, the frequent retraction of the accent on the first syllable. On the orthographic level, frequent simplifications (honor for honor) and modifications in view of pronunciation (center and theater for center and theater; or s for c: defense per defense); on the lexical one, numerous and marked differences and substitutions of one term with another (railroad for railway, mail for post). ● In the second half of the twentieth century, the phenomenon of plurilingualism became enormously accentuated, so much so that the Bilingual Educational Act was issued in 1968, with rules designed to favor students of different ethnic backgrounds whose knowledge of English was inadequate or insufficient. The number of those, especially Hispanics, for whom English does not represent the mother tongue, is estimated at around 18% of the US population. with peaks of majority concentration compared to native English in some areas of Florida and California or metropolises such as New York. A phenomenon in its own right and much studied is that of the ‘social variations’ of the English language, the most important of which is black English, a form of vernacular due to a process of creolization of English with the introduction of strong elements of African origin., which later developed within the plantations, which represents the most widespread language of the African American population, especially in the Southern States and in large urban concentrations.