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Old 08-22-2012, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Jersey
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I am writing a book that takes place in Colonial American, circa 1740-1780. I am heavily researching the religion and government, as well as clothing, building styles and names as they relate to the geographical region. It is going to be located in the Delaware valley region (NJ, PA, DE) though I havent decided precisely where, I am trying to reconcile the vision in my head with an actual location. That being said, the biggest trouble Im having is with language. Does anyone have any recommendation of any site or book I could reference to get a good idea of how they would have spoken? Also any other information you think I might be overlooking?

Also..common surnames?

Last edited by Dave5150; 08-22-2012 at 02:31 PM.. Reason: more to add
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Old 08-22-2012, 02:49 PM
 
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Dave, I posted this link in the "local history" thread, but you may find it very interesting.

Trinity Episcopal "Old Swedes" Church: History

This church is located in Swedesboro, NJ, which is in the Delaware Valley about 25 miles or so south of Philadelphia. It was one of the original settlements of the New Seden Colony. The church is one of the oldest continuous congregations in the US and traces its time from 1638 to present. The various church leaders kept extensive records for much of that time that discussed not only local happenings, but larger events as well. The records are summarized at the link I provided, but much more extensive ones are available as the church is a preserved historic site.

The records contain information regarding the spiritual lives of the people and also have extensive coverage of the Revolutionary War period and peoples personal feelings and attitudes about what was going on. It even goes into detail about families being split apart over their loyalties and towns becoming divided. These stories descend into periods of brutalization by both sides against the other. All of which was exhaustively documented by the pastor of the church.

Reading through it, by that time English was certainly the dominant language. The writings from the church are all in English and give a great example of "common written language" at the time. For instance, people wrote "winder" instead of "winter", which gives some clues on how it would have been pronounced.

Some of the records from 1748 talk about how intermarriage between the local Swedes and the Finnish, German and English settlers had virtually eliminated the Swedish language and traditions, being replaced with a hodge-podge of "American" customs. There are also many lists of names from various time periods sprinkled throughout the articles at the link that will give you some clues as to common names and surnames.
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Old 08-22-2012, 02:56 PM
 
Location: Jersey
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WOW Thanks Goat! I cant wait to go through it. Yeah I thought that most people were speaking english, or some variation of it. What Im more concerned about and having trouble with it dialect. Like you mentioned Winder. Most of the historical dialect will be in dialogue, but I would like to be as accurate as is possible without being ridiculous.
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Old 08-22-2012, 05:49 PM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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For common surnames, look through the 1790 census.
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Old 08-22-2012, 06:36 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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I could help you out more if your book were set in Virginia. However, I'm not sure the extent of the difference between the Northern and Southern colonies. I think there was also a difference between East and West, at least here in VA as the frontiersmen in the Western counties probably sounded somewhat different than the tidewater gentry.

You should probably find letters from the time and place of interest as I've noticed those were often written phonetically.
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Old 08-22-2012, 07:47 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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So, what is the plot which you have in mind? You can get the details as authentic as can be, but if the story isn't a grabber the book will fail. And if you hope to sell it to Hollywood for a film version, you will need to make it marketable for today's audiences.

I think we should help out Dave5150 with some ideas. Let's see....

1) Ben Franklin teams up with a time traveling Sherlock Holmes to try and vanquish the vampire which has making zombies out of the members of the Continental Congress.

2) While crossing the Delaware, George Washington and his men are swept into a strange inter dimensional vortex and emerge in a parallel world where the British have already supressed the rebellion and have thrown the surviving rebels into concentration camps. George and his boys have to rekindle the flame of revolt and liberate this parallel nation before they can return to their own dimension.

3) The tea thrown into Boston Harbor turns out to be toxic and combines with other waste chemicals in the water to create a giant lobster which attacks the city.
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Old 08-22-2012, 09:38 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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4. Colonists and Aliens!
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Old 08-22-2012, 10:46 PM
 
31,371 posts, read 33,825,860 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
Some of the records from 1748 talk about how intermarriage between the local Swedes and the Finnish, German and English settlers had virtually eliminated the Swedish language and traditions, being replaced with a hodge-podge of "American" customs. There are also many lists of names from various time periods sprinkled throughout the articles at the link that will give you some clues as to common names and surnames.
By 1748 the Swedes had long since faded away as a factor in Philadelphia. For example the the Old Swede's Church was a mile south of the city in a marsh area with few roads and where small boats were used for basic transportation. By 1750, the predominate cultures were English, German and Irish. The Swedes, the few that were left, lived south of Philadelphia an area that was for the most part tidal swamps and marshes.

But to answer the question, there are ample examples of the Old English that was spoken if you go to the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. Just as an example, I found this jewel from a 1702 "police" report about two men arrested for have too much fun in Quaker Philly:
"being maskt or disguised in women's apparel, stalking openly through the street of this city from house to house on or about the 26th of the 10th month it being against the Law of God, the law of this province and the law of nature, to the staining of the holy profession and the incordigine of wickedness in this place."
Frankly, I think that you would be better served by watching Deadwood and taking a lesson or three from David Milch. He certainly perfected capturing early American speech patterns for a modern ear.
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Old 08-23-2012, 07:55 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
But to answer the question, there are ample examples of the Old English that was spoken if you go to the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. Just as an example, I found this jewel from a 1702 "police" report about two men arrested for have too much fun in Quaker Philly:
"being maskt or disguised in women's apparel, stalking openly through the street of this city from house to house on or about the 26th of the 10th month it being against the Law of God, the law of this province and the law of nature, to the staining of the holy profession and the incordigine of wickedness in this place."
Frankly, I think that you would be better served by watching Deadwood and taking a lesson or three from David Milch. He certainly perfected capturing early American speech patterns for a modern ear.
Old English was spoken in early medieval times. It's a completely different language, you would not be able to read it. It evolved into Middle English in the mid to late middle ages, which evolved into Early Modern English (what the Tudors used) and in the 17th century, finally into Modern English which is what we still speak today. Spelling wasn't standardized and they may have used words which are no longer commonly used but the language spoken in colonial times was not Old English, it was the same Modern English we use today.

Also keep in mind that formal documents will have a formal style of writing to them, not always indicative of how people spoke in conversation.
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Old 08-23-2012, 09:30 AM
 
Location: Jersey
870 posts, read 1,333,183 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
So, what is the plot which you have in mind? You can get the details as authentic as can be, but if the story isn't a grabber the book will fail. And if you hope to sell it to Hollywood for a film version, you will need to make it marketable for today's audiences.

I think we should help out Dave5150 with some ideas. Let's see....

1) Ben Franklin teams up with a time traveling Sherlock Holmes to try and vanquish the vampire which has making zombies out of the members of the Continental Congress.

2) While crossing the Delaware, George Washington and his men are swept into a strange inter dimensional vortex and emerge in a parallel world where the British have already supressed the rebellion and have thrown the surviving rebels into concentration camps. George and his boys have to rekindle the flame of revolt and liberate this parallel nation before they can return to their own dimension.

3) The tea thrown into Boston Harbor turns out to be toxic and combines with other waste chemicals in the water to create a giant lobster which attacks the city.
You guys are great. i have no aspirations for hollywood fame, although I would love to cast the characters! My book is about a girl who comes from a long line of witches, and her ancestor killed/had killed some sort of paranormal entity (i cant decide what) and she has to defeat him by going back in time/astral projecting/ something like that.
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