British slang and its classification — страница 4

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order, and slang words and phrases typically fit into an appropriate grammatical slot in an established syntactic pattern. Furthermore, the productive morphological processes responsible for slang are the same ones responsible for the general vocabulary, i.e., for English, compounding, affixation, shortening, and functional shift. II. MAIN PART Slang derives much of its power from the fact that it is clandestine, forbidden or generally disapproved of. So what happens once it is accepted, even in some cases embraced and promoted by ‘mainstream’ society? Not long ago the Oxford English Dictionary characterized slang as ‘low and disreputable’; in the late 1970s the pioneering sociolinguist Michael Halliday used the phrase ‘anti-language’ in his study of the speech of

criminals and marginals. For him, theirs was an interestingly ‘pathological’ form of language. The first description now sounds quaintly outmoded, while the second could be applied to street gangs – today’s posses, massives or sets – and their secret codes. Both, however, involve value judgments which are essentially social and not linguistic. Attitudes to the use of language have changed profoundly over the last three decades, and the perceived boundaries between ‘standard’ and ‘unorthodox’ are becoming increasingly ‘fuzzy’. Today, tabloid newspapers in the UK such as the Sun, the Star and the Sport regularly use slang in headlines and articles, while the quality press use slang sparingly – usually for special effect – but the assumption remains that

readers have a working knowledge of common slang terms. There has been surprisingly little criticism of the use of slang (as opposed to the ‘swear-words’ and supposed grammatical errors which constantly irritate British readers and listeners). The use of slang forms part of what linguists call code-switching or style-shifting – the mixing of and moving between different languages, dialects or codes. 0 2.1 The origin of slang Slang was the main reason for the development of prescriptive language in an attempt to slow down the rate of change in both spoken and written language. Latin and French were the only two languages that maintained the use of prescriptive language in the 14th century. It was not until the early 15th century that scholars began pushing for a Standard

English language. During the Middle Ages, certain writers such as Chaucer, William Caxton, and William of Malmesbury represented the regional differences in pronunciations and dialects. The different dialects and the different pronunciations represented the first meaning for the term "slang." However, our present-day meaning for slang did not begin forming until the 16th or 17th century. The English Criminal Cant developed in the 16th century. The English Criminal Cant was a new kind of speech used by criminals and cheats, meaning it developed mostly in saloons and gambling houses. The English Criminal Cant was at first believed to be foreign, meaning scholars thought that it had either originated in Romania or had a relationship to French. The English Criminal Cant was

slow developing. In fact, out of the four million people who spoke English, only about ten thousand spoke the English Criminal Cant. By the end of the 16th century this new style of speaking was considered to be a language "without reason or order". During the 18th century schoolmasters taught pupils to believe that the English Criminal Cant (which by this time had developed into slang) was not the correct usage of English and slang was considered to be taboo 0. Because most people are individuals who desire uniqueness, it stands to reason that slang has been in existence for as long as language has been in existence. A slang expression may suddenly become widely used and as quickly die (23-skiddoo). It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its original

slang meaning (bus from omnibus, taxi, piano, phone, pub mob, dandy) or with an altered, possibly tamed meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotations). Some expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (booze for alcoholic beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded up both the circulation and the demise of slang terms. Television and novels have turned criminal cant into slang (five grand for 5000). Changing social circumstances may stimulate the spread of slang. Drug-related expressions (such as pot and marijuana) were virtually a secret jargon in the 1940s; in the 1960s they were adopted by rebellious youth; and in the 1970s and ’80s they were widely known. But this must be done by those whose mother tongue is English. They and