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World map showing the Americas
The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World consisting of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. The Americas cover 8.3% of the Earth's total surface area (28.4% of its land area) and contain about 14% of the human population. The term the Americas is a relatively recent alternative to the term America, which is ambiguous as it may refer to either this entire landmass or just the United States of America.


[edit] Naming of America

The earliest known use of the name America for this particular landmass dates from 1507. It appears on a globe and a large map created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. An accompanying book, Cosmographiae Introductio, explains that the name was derived from the Latinized version of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci's name, Americus Vespucius, in its feminine form, America, as the other continents all have Latin feminine names.

Vespucci's role in the naming issue, like his exploratory activity, is unclear and most probably a tale. [citation needed] Some sources say that he was unaware of the widespread use of his name to refer to the new landmass. Others hold that he promulgated a story that he had made a secret voyage westward and sighted land in 1491,[citation needed] a year before Columbus. If he did indeed make such claims, they backfired, and only served to prolong the ongoing debate on whether the "Indies" were really a new land, or just an extension of Asia.

However, as Dr. Basil Cottle (Author, Dictionary of Surnames, 1967) points out, new countries or continents are never named after a person's first name, always after their second name (with the exception of some places named after the first names of monarchs or princes, such as Carolina). Thus, America should really have become Vespucci Land or Vespuccia if the Italian explorer really gave his name to the continent. Christopher Columbus, who had first brought the region's existence to the attention of Renaissance era voyagers, had died in 1506 (believing, to the end, that he'd discovered and colonized part of India) and could not protest Waldseemüller's decision.

Map of America by Jonghe, c. 1770.

A few alternative theories regarding the landmass' naming have been proposed, but none of them has achieved any widespread acceptance.

One alternative, first advanced by Jules Marcou in 1875 and later recounted by novelist Jan Carew, is that the name America derives from the district of Amerrique in Nicaragua. The gold-rich district of Amerrique was purportedly visited by both Vespucci and Columbus, for whom the name became synonymous with gold. According to Marcou, Vespucci later applied the name to the New World, and even changed the spelling of his own name from Alberigo to Amerigo to reflect the importance of the discovery.

Another theory, first proposed by a Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, in 1908 was that America is derived from Richard Amerike, a merchant from Bristol, who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497 as found in some documents from Westminster Abbey a few decades ago. Supposedly, Bristol fishermen had been visiting the coast of North America for at least a century before Columbus' voyage and Waldseemüller's maps are alleged to incorporate information from the early English journeys to North America. The theory holds that a variant of Amerike's name appeared on an early English map (of which however no copies survive) and that this was the true inspiration for Waldseemüller.

A third earlier possibility, hardly known to western historians, may be a medieval Arabian origin of America's name from 11th century. In that time Spain was under the rule of Moorish moslems, and among them important military leaders were Wadha El-Ameri (1009-1013) and Zohair Al-Ameri (1018-1041), both arabized seafarers native from Adriatic islands of Dalmatia. In 11th century they organized the Moorish oceanic expeditions across Atlantic to oversea 'Westlands' (in Moorish Ard-Maykola); these expeditions then were described also by the medieval Arabian historians Al-Idrisi (1099-1166)[citation needed]

[edit] Usage

CIA map of the Americas

[edit] America/Americas

In many parts of the world, America in the singular is commonly used as a name for the United States of America; however, (the) Americas (plural with s and generally with the definite article) is not and is invariably used to refer to the lands and regions of the Western hemisphere. Usage of America to also refer to this collectivity remains fairly common.

While many in the United States of America generally refer to the country as America and themselves as Americans,<ref>Burchfield, R. W. 2004. Fowler's Modern English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-861021-1) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; p. 48.</ref> many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as appropriation of the term in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided. In Canada, their southern neighbour is seldom referred to as "America" with "the United States", "the U.S.", or (informally) "the States" used instead.<ref name="oxfcdn">Fee, Margery and McAlpine, J. 1997. Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-541619-8) Toronto: Oxford University Press; p. 36.</ref> English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.[1][2]

[edit] American

[edit] English usage

Whether usage of America or the Americas is preferred, American is a self-referential term for many people living in all of the Americas. However, most of the English-speaking world (including Canada) uses the word to refer solely to a citizen, resident, or national of the United States of America. The word pan-American is used instead as an adjective to refer to the Americas.

In addition, some Canadians resent being referred to as Americans because of mistaken assumptions that they are U.S. citizens or an inability—particularly of people overseas—to distinguish Canadian English and American English accents.<ref name="oxfcdn" />

[edit] Portuguese usage

In Portuguese the adjective americano refers commonly to the whole of the Americas. Dictionaries such as Aurélio (1999) also include americano as referring to "U.S. citizens and things" as the third meaning in usage list. The second one refers to americano as being a fan of one of many soccer teams that have America as part of their names.

Normally the adjective norte-americano is used when referring to the United States. In more formal language estadunidense can also be used instead. More recently the usage of americano as referring to people and things from the United States has grown in areas with deeper influence of U.S. culture (especially Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), but it is not considered the norm in other parts of the Portuguese-speaking world.

The landmass itself is called América. More recently As Américas (the Americas) has been growing in usage in areas more influenced by the United States culture (as mentioned above). This usage has not yet been added to Portuguese dictionaries, and it is considered to be an Anglicism.

[edit] Spanish usage

Calling a U.S. citizen simply americano or americana in Spanish is considered offensive by many Latin-Americans (estadounidense for both males and females is the correct Spanish word). Sometimes "gringo" or "yanqui" is used but those terms tend to be disrespectful. In Spanish, americano or americana is used to refer to people from the American continent, much like europeo or europea is used for those living in Europe. The term norteamericano or norteamericana technically refers to any person living in North America but is also commonly used to describe U.S. citizens (even by people in Mexico and Central America). Often context clues are needed to know if a speaker is referring to a U.S. citizen or any person living in North America.

[edit] French usage

In French, as in English, the word Américain can be confusing as it can be both used to refer to the United States, and to the American continents. The noun Amérique technically refers to the continents; the United States is generally referred to as les États-Unis d'Amérique, les États-Unis, or les EU. However, the usage of Amérique to refer to the United States, while technically not correct, does have some currency in France. The adjective américain is most often used for things relating to the United States; however, it may also be used for things relating to the American continents. Things relating to the United States can be referred to without ambiguity by the words étatsunien, or étasunien, although this usage is rather rare.

[edit] Demography

[edit] Ethnology

The American population, is made up of the descendants of three large ethnic groups and their combinations:

The majority of the people live in Latin America, named for its dominant languages, Spanish and Portuguese, both of which (as well as French) are descended from Latin. Latin America is typically contrasted with Anglo-America where English, a Germanic language, prevails: namely, Canada and the United States (in Northern America) have predominantly British roots and are quite different in terms of linguistical, cultural, and economic situation from other countries in the Americas.

[edit] Languages

Various languages are spoken in the Americas. Some are of European origin, others are spoken by indigenous peoples or are the mixture of various idioms like the different creoles.

The dominant language of Anglo-America, as the name suggests, is English, though French is also official in Canada and is the predominant language in the Canadian province of Quebec, and along with English is an official language in New Brunswick, Ontario and in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Due to heavy immigration from Latin America to the south, Spanish has become widely spoken in much of the United States and is one of the official languages in the U.S. state of New Mexico. High levels of immigration have brought great linguistic diversity to Anglo-America, with over 300 languages known to be spoken in the United States alone, but most languages are spoken only in small enclaves and by relatively small immigrant groups.

The dominant language of Latin America is Spanish, though the largest nation in Latin America, Brazil, and parts of Honduras, speak Portuguese. Small enclaves of French- and English-speaking regions also exist in Latin America, notably in French Guiana and Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast, respectively, and Haitian Creole, of French origin, is dominant in the nation of Haiti. Native languages are more prominent in Latin America than in Anglo-America, with Nahuatl, Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní as the most common. Various other native languages are spoken with lesser frequency across both Anglo-America and Latin America. Creole languages other than Haitian Creole are also spoken in parts of Latin America.

The nations of Guyana, Suriname and Belize are generally considered not to fall into either Anglo-America or Latin America due to lingual differences with Latin America and geographic and cultural differences with Anglo-America; English is the primary language of Guyana and Belize, and Dutch is the primary language of Suriname.

Most of the non-native languages have, to different degrees, evolved differently from the mother country, but are usually still mutually intelligible. Some have combined though, which has even resulted in completely new languages, such as Papiamentu, which is a combination of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (representing the respective colonisers), native Arawak, various African languages and, more recently, English. Because of immigration, there are many communities where other languages are spoken from all parts of the world, especially in the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Canada, four very important destinations for immigrants.

[edit] Mutinational organizations in the Americas

[edit] See also

[edit] Trivia

[edit] Notes


[edit] References

[edit] External links

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