The Notion Of Sleng & Its Types

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, slang is; a type of language consisting of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than in writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, slang is:

  • Language that is peculiar to a particular group: such as: A: argot, B: jargon.
  • An informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.

From the various definitions, slang can be described as language that is highly informal, particular to a group and rebels against standard rules of grammar. Most definitions of slang tend to agree that in its initial stages of development, slang is used to distinguish in-groups from out-groups. One of the most prolific scholars of slang, Eric Partridge, put forward a list of fifteen reasons on why people use slang, and his thirteenth and fourteenth reasons were to: show that one belongs to a certain school, trade, or profession, artistic or intellectual set, or social class or ‘to be in the swim’ and to hence show or prove that one was not ‘in the swim’ (Partridge, 1934).

The Criterias to determine what qualifies or disqualifies terms as slang:

  • Its presence will markedly lower, at least for the moment, the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing.
  • Its use implies the user’s familiarity either with the referent or with that less statusful or less responsible class of people who have such familiarity and use the term.
  • It is a tabooed term in ordinary discourse with persons of higher social status or greater responsibility.
  • It is used in place of the well-known conventional synonym, especially in order (a) to protect the user from the discomfort caused by the conventional item or (b) to protect the user from the discomfort or annoyance of further elaboration.

For terms to qualify as slang they have to meet at least two of the rules set out in the criteria. Slang is common to major cities in the world today because it stems from a need to communicate in spaces where there are diverse linguistic communities. Tom Dalzell, a slang collector (American Slang) describes it as being wittier and cleverer than standard American English. According to him, it is through slang that each subculture or counterculture is able to exercise its creativity by being able to generate its own lexicon. He describes its function as being that of establishing commonality among its speakers.

Most countries around the world have their own form of slang. For example, the French have a form of slang known as verlan which is a play on the term l’envers literally, backwards. In this type of slang words are inversed either morphologically or phonetically. Commonly, the syllables of a word are reversed. For example zarbi=bizarre. In Cameroon, a form of pidgin known as Camfranglais is widely spoken. It is a blend of words from the indigenous Cameroonian languages, Cameroonian French and Cameroonian English.

According to (Kouega, 2013), Camfranglais is a composite language variant, a type of pidgin that blends in the same speech act linguistic elements drawn first from French and secondly from English, Pidgin English, widespread Cameroonian languages, and other European languages like Latin and Spanish. In South Africa, a form of slang known as Tsotsitaal is widely spoken in the townships. It arose because of the multilingual setting of the townships. It is particular to some townships such as Soweto, Sebokeng, East Rand and Adderidgeville and each area has their own variant of the register. (Magdalene, 2006) Slang is also highly cultural. Most slang terms come up within sub-cultures and counter-cultures for example among the youth, matatu crew, or other distinct groups from a society.

As stated in the definitions this is because it is used to delineate the members of a society (In-groups vs out-groups). Indeed sociologists (Schwartz & Merton, 1967), for example, have hypothesized youth culture as consisting of "those adolescent norms, standards, and values which are discussed in language particularly intelligible to members of this age grade." Lewis (1963) also has suggested that the child is a member of "two linguistic communities," one employing a language of adults, another employing a language of peers. He suggests that the slang of the adolescent culture serves to identify youth as culturally distinct; to transmit values and norms; to express approval, hostility, and other attitudes; and to reinforce the selective perceptions and categorization of the social environment.

18 March 2020
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