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ELing 324 - History of the English Language (Library Paper): Assignment Description


Write an article on some issue from the history of the English language in Utah before 1950. The article may be based on library research or primary data research or both. It should be 1500-2000 words and should answer or at least attempt to answer a question. You may choose to write a Data Paper. See below for topic ideas.




Find out what is already known or can be known about these questions from looking up studies that have already been published or reviewing primary documents.

Language Contact with people already in Utah

  • What did the American settlers think about Ute and Shoshone?
  • How did they communicate?
  • What did the Mexican explorers think about Ute and Shoshone?
  • How extensive was the English/Spanish contact? Did any Spanish loanwords enter the language?
  • When Utah territory became part of the United States, how many Spanish speakers were there?
  • What contact effects do we see with native American languages?  Any borrowed words? How many place names?  Collect place names.

Language Contact with non-English immigrant languages

  • What kind of language contact was there with Danish (and Swedish)?  With Swiss German?
  • Did that language contact have any effect?
  • What first settlers patterns do we see in Utah English?  (Pro-predicate do? Ain’t?)
  • What non-standardization forces do we see?

Education about the English Language for  L1 speakers

  • How did they decide what should be taught in grammar school about English?
  • What was the curriculum of grammar schools?
  • What was the curriculum of university programs and high schools?
  • Was “English” on the curriculum?
  • What grammar books were used? What textbooks? What dictionaries?
  • What writing was held up as exemplary in school?
  • What activities did they use? Spelling bees? False syntax? Essay contests?

Effects of Register

  • What was the effect of Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-day Saints on Utah English?
  • What were some words or phrases used in the church? Did any of them become general?
  • How old are some particular pulpit constructions and how widespread did they become? (e.g. appositive ‘even’)
  • How early did they church members venerate the KJV?
  • How did vocabulary and phrasing change for general conference addresses?

Language Planning

  • What language planning activities do we see?
  • Was there any organized effort to teach English to Shoshone and Utes?
  • Was there any organized effort to teach English to European immigrants?
  • Was there any organized effort to teach English to Mexican settlers?
  • Was there any organized effort to learn Spanish or Native American languages?
  • How important was learning other languages, especially for missionary work?
  • Was any other language considered for church business? How has the church managed multi-lingual communication? What have been the considerations for translating official business into other languages?
  • How has the church approached translation of scriptures into other languages?
  • How often has “bad grammar” been corrected in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants?
  • Did anyone ever propose a name other than English for the English spoken in Utah?
  • What is the history of the Deseret Alphabet? Why was it implemented? How far was it implemented?
  • Did they recognize that Deseret was a different alphabet, but not a different language? Or did they regard Deseret as a separate language?

Language and Publication

  • What was the publication industry like in 19th-century Utah? Where did the printers come from?
  • What kind of training was needed to be an editor? A newspaper reporter?
  • What kinds of style guides did publication houses use?

Social Dialects

  • What terminology arose to label different groups of L1 speakers?  What differences in vocabulary arose between members and non-members?
  • What effect did the transcontinental railroad have on vocabulary?

Non-standard English

  • What kind of spelling variation do we see in journals? (May want to look at some actual journals/diaries)
  • What kind of stereotyping do you see in books or newspapers? Is there any kind of enregistering of Utah English?
  • When do we see the complaint tradition in Utah?

Naming practices

  • What generic geographic terms did the settlers use to name the topography? 
  • What proper names were used for place names?
  • How many “new” place names are there, like “New Harmony”?
  • Are there any personal naming practices that have been characteristic of Utah?


These papers require you to find some kind of data and analyze it.

  • Compare the Salt Lake Tribune with the Deseret News. Look for vocabulary and terminology differences.
  • Examine letters to the editor to see how many complaints are made about language usage.
  • Look at Utah publications–books or newspapers–for comments about language or portrayals of language. How do the books portray rural English? Urban English? Do they stereotype non-standard speakers? Do they stereotype immigrants? What devices do they use?
  • Examine writing from journals or letters. What kind of spelling variation do you see? What kind of grammatical variation? Do you see unusual terms?
  • Search the General Conference corpus for terms that have dropped out of use over time.
  • Search a newspaper corpus for tags that introduce new words (“so-called”, “what is called”, “which refers to”, etc.). Do these tags suggest words that are being introduced? Is there any stance shown?
  • Find a list of cities, towns, counties, and other political entities of Utah. Analyze the place name distribution. How many are named after contemporary people? How many for historical figures? How many come from the Bible? How many from the Book of Mormon? How many from Native American languages?
  • Compare Yellow-pages or business directories for a span of decades. Find some names that seem like they would be characteristic of Utah and trace their histories. How many businesses use “Zion” or “Deseret” or “Timpanogos”.
  • See if you can find any newsletters from any ethnic societies, like a Danish society or an Icelandic society or a Greek society. Find any comments about language they make. Note any loanwords they use.
  • Examine the Dictionary of American Regional English. Find any words that the dictionary editors have noticed as being characteristic of Utah.
  • Compare obituaries over time. Have there been some phrases that stand out? Have there been any changes in popularity?
  • Compare the writing of any other genre over time, like sports writing. Have there been changes in vocabulary or grammar?
  • Compare the writing from the Deseret News with that of a national newspaper. Are there any differences that might be characteristic of Utah English?