British slang and its classification — страница 3

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linguistic processes are used to create and popularize slang as are used to create and popularize all other words. That is, all words are created and popularized in the same general ways; they are labeled slang only according to their current social acceptance, long after creation and popularization. To fully understand slang, one must remember that a word's use, popularity, and acceptability can change. Words can change in social level, moving in any direction. Thus, some standard words of William Shakespeare's day are found only in certain modern-day British dialects. Words that are taboo in one era (e.g., stomach, thigh) can become accepted, standard words in a later era. Many prove either useful enough to become accepted as standard or informal words or too faddish for

standard use. Blizzard and okay have become standard, while conbobberation ("disturbance") and tomato ("girl") have been discarded. Some words and expressions have a lasting place in slang; for instance, beat it ("go away"), first used in the 16th century, has neither become Standard English nor vanished. Language is dynamic, and at any given time hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of words and expressions are in the process of changing from one level to another, of becoming more acceptable or less acceptable, of becoming more popular or less popular. Slang is very informal use of words and phrases for more colorful or peculiar style of expression that is shared by the people in the same social subgroup, for example, computer slang, sports slang,

military slang, musicians’ slang, students’ slang, underworld slang, etc. Slang is not used by the majority of native speakers and many people consider it vulgar, though quite a few slang phrases have already come into standard usage. Slang contains many obscene and offensive words and phrases. It also has many expressions that are acceptable in informal communication. Slang is highly idiomatic. It is flippant, irreverent, indecorous; it may be indecent or obscene. Its colorful metaphors are generally directed at respectability, and it is this succinct, sometimes witty, frequently impertinent social criticism that gives slang its characteristic flavor. Slang, then, includes not just words but words used in a special way in a certain social context. The origin of the word

slang itself is obscure; it first appeared in print around 1800, applied to the speech of disreputable and criminal classes in London. Language is the property of a community of speakers. People rarely speak, or write, with only themselves as the audience. It should not be surprising then that some components and forms of language are socially motivated. Slang is one kind of vocabulary that serves the social nature of language. In an important article in 1978 Bethany Dumas and Jonathan Lighter make the crucial point that slang must be identified by its social consequences, by the effects its use has on the relationship between speaker and audience. Dumas and Lighter posit four criteria for identifying a word or phrase as slang .0 1. Its presence will markedly lower, at least for

the moment, the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing. 2. 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 special familiarity and use the term. 3. It is a tabooed term in ordinary discourse with persons of higher social rank or greater responsibility. 4. 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. They conclude that "when something fits at least two of the criteria, a linguistically sensitive audience will react to it in a certain way. This reaction, which cannot be measured, is

the ultimate identifying characteristic of true slang". In other words, Dumas and Lighter's formulation requires that the type of lexis called slang be recognized for its power to effect union between speaker and hearer. Whether or not the particulars of their definition are necessary or sufficient, Dumas and Lighter are right. Slang cannot be defined independent of its functions and use. Despite the difficulties of defining the term, slang does have some consistent characteristics.0 Slang is lexical rather than phonological or syntactic, though, in English at least, body language and intonation are often important in signaling that a word or phrase is to be interpreted as slang. Nor is there a peculiarly slang syntax. Slang expressions do not follow idiosyncratic word