Expressing Teen Identity by Using Slang: Attitudes and Opinions Towards the Slang of Teenagers

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Expressing teen identity by using slang:attitudes and opinions towards the slang of teenagers

Introduction

One of the most significant elements which people notice while meeting with someone is the person’s language. As Trudge (2000:2) points out, the manner in which we use our language has a great importance while “establishing social relationship and while conveying information about the speaker”. Ethnic background, gender, education, social class, age and many other aspects may influence the way we talk. And the way we talk may influence other people’s perception about us. Language in the society also differs in the formality levels. When talking about any specific kind of a language we use the term language variety. The variety of the language which is used in a particular situation is called style. Styles are mainly characterized by the vocabulary differences, but also by syntactic ones. Styles range on the scale from very formal to extremely informal. Vocabulary which is at the extremely informal end of the continuum is known as slang.[1] Some people might think that slang is only a young people issue. However the truth is that all of us use some kind of slang, and this usage is influenced by many factors. It is obvious that slang creates barriers between people or groups of people. So if you do not want someone, who is not a member of your group, understand what are you saying, you may use a particular slang, which is inherent only for your group. Using slang may also be part of a person’s identity. Therefore the main task handled in this paper is to examine the use of slang among teenagers and the sources they are influenced by. This essay presents a view on teenage slang as a means of expressing their identity. It also includes society perspective and opinions on the adolescent use of slang. The teenage language was for a long period under-represented in language corpora. In order to repair this, a very comprehensive teenage language corpus, the Bergen Corpus of London Teenage Language (COLT, 2002), was created. This large material is focusing on the spoken language of teenagers between 13 to 17 years in London. It consists of five hundred thousand words and it is a part of the British National Corpus.[2] As a basis for my arguments I will be mainly using corpus compilation, analysis and findings named Trends in Teenage Talk published in 2002 by Anna-Brita Stenström, Gisle Andersen and Ingrid Kristine Hasund, because as it consider the teenage slang language, it is the most relevant corpus for this essay.

Slang and teenage language

It is hard to give a definition of slang, because there is a difficulty of distinguishing it from jargon (special vocabulary used by particular profession), colloquialisms (special use of vocabulary according to geographical region), usage of vague terms (statements with unclear message) or neologism (new coinages or senses of words or phrases). Definitions do, however, exist, and the online Oxford English dictionary (2012) classifies slang into the three types:

The first type consider slang as the special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type. Another definition is that it is the special vocabulary or phraseology of a particular calling or profession; the cant or jargon of a certain class or period. And finally the last one says that it is the language of a highly colloquial type, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.

Slang is natural part of each language. It is the non-standard vocabulary usually connected with particular group of people. When discussing slang, we should consider its history and development. Slang has its origin in the middle of the 18th century. In that time slang was seen as a low level language, since it was used primarily by criminals, revelers and drunken people...
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