Guide Slanguage Dictionary: Caribbean and Latin American Slang words and Phrases

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Contents:
  1. Green's Dictionary of Slang
  2. Radio: Mind your slanguage | From the Observer | The Guardian
  3. Product details
  4. Related Words

In origin was a variety of Northern English, but down to the sixteenth century it occupied a position both in speech and in writing on a plane with English. Most of the colonists came from Scotland and England. Colonising Ulster with loyal settlers was seen as a way to prevent further rebellion, as it had been the region most resistant to English control during the preceding century.

This part of the island was at that time exclusively Gaelic-speaking. Thus English in the northeast of the island developed in relative isolation from other English-speaking areas such as Dublin, Northern Ireland has continued to develop a linguistic tradition that is distinct from the rest of Ireland. Scots, Irish Gaelic, seventeenth century English and Hiberno-English, the English spoken in the Republic of Ireland, have all influenced the development of Northern Irish English, and this mixture explains the very distinctive hybrid that has emerged.

Speech in the whole of Ireland is for instance rhotic. Pairs such as pull and pool are often homophones, boot frequently rhymes with foot and phrases such as good food are pronounced with vowels of equal length. A broad Northern Irish accent is characterised by a very noticeable tendency to raise the pitch towards the end of an utterance, even if the speaker is not asking a question.

The Industrial Revolution saw a massive influx of English speakers at the start of the nineteenth century. English began to replace Welsh as the mother tongue of many speakers in that part of the country. In rural west and north-west Wales, the population remained predominantly Welsh speaking, Baugh A. By the start of the twentieth century Welsh was no longer widely spoken as a mother tongue in the densely populated urban areas in the south and along the border with England. Educational policy during much of the first half of the last century was a constant threat, although Welsh survived remarkably well in rural areas as a community language.

In recent years the compulsory teaching of Welsh in schools, and a renewed sense of political and cultural pride has led to a steady increase in the number of Welsh speakers. The accent and dialect of South Wales is strongly influenced by the English spoken in neighbouring areas, such as Bristol and the West Country; the English spoken in Mid-Wales bears some comparison with that spoken in places like Shrewsbury and other Midlands border areas, and the English spoken in North Wales has a strong resemblance to the variety spoken on Merseyside. Welsh has also exerted a strong influence on the English spoken in Wales because many speakers were and are bilingual in English and Welsh, and because the two languages have existed side-by-side within the same communities for generations.

Another characteristic derives from the different stress placement, rhythm and timing of Welsh English. From the time of the Union of Parliaments in , the official written language of Scotland became aligned with that of England. As such, Standard English has been used as the language of religion, education and government and so it became the socially prestigious form adopted by the aspiring middle classes. The linguistic landscape of Scotland is complex with a broad range of dialects. Gaelic has for some time been restricted geographically to areas of the Highlands and the Western Isles so the language suffered catastrophically in the eighteenth century.

Nonetheless it remains a community language in some parts of Scotland, especially in the Hebrides. Alongside Standard Scottish English, exists a local vernacular language, Scots, a dialect descended from Old English and closely related to Northumbrian which has maintained a strong presence, especially in rural communities. The distinction between those who speak Scots and those who speak Standard Scottish English is rather blurred.

Green's Dictionary of Slang

It is common in Midwest, but it is spoken everywhere in the USA. People who are said to speak "without an accent" are actually speaking with this levelled-out form of speech that developed from the mid-Atlantic stretching westward through the Ohio valley. It was usually said to be characterized by the flat a in fast, path, etc. Most features of Standard American developed from a levelled mixture of dialects mostly from the poorer classes along the middle Atlantic seaboard who immigrated west after the American Revolution to find a better life.

Regional dialects in the United States reflect the elements of the language of the main immigrant groups in any particular region of the country, especially in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary. The main differences between them are in accent and vocabulary. Some rhyme the word pairs cot and caught and Don and dawn, but others do not rhyme them. To say how they got into the swimming pool last summer, some would say dived, others dove. There are various possible pronunciations, word choices and grammatical constructions for almost anything that any American would ever 34 Miner M. In large terms, the speech of people from one region is generally more similar to the speech of people from the same region and less similar to the speech of people from other regions.

Geography is one of the most important factors for sharing variant linguistic features. The relative association of particular features of English with Americans from some particular part of the country has its roots in American history. These dialects have their primary source in New England. Furthermore, as a dialect area of the northeastern United States, it must also include New York City. Although originally most closely bound to Hudson Valley in New York State and its Dutch heritage, the metropolitan area might sensibly be regarded a major regional dialect area in itself, according to its social history of the past two centuries.

Nevertheless, each helps to characterize the historical base of the regional pattern. Northern speech includes few general phonological features that distinguish it from the other three patterns. Indeed, the major phonemic features of the area are common to all current dialects of the English language. These dialects contain features from the Northern and Southern ones.

Only a few general Midland lexical forms extend across Algeo J. The North Midland division extends the pattern south out of Philadelphia and west out of Pittsburgh. Louis in the west. The South Midland subregion extends the northeastern Philadelphia pattern deep into the southern United States, where it merges with upcountry dialects in the east and delta speech to the west.

Every foreigner can recognize the 40Algeo J. Historically, Southern dialects of American English begin south of the Potomac River in the east and extend across the domain of the old Confederacy, including Texas as well as the more recently settled Indian Territory Oklahoma and the border states of Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri, especially south of St. This region includes three primary speech patterns, coastal, interior, and delta.

Two of the greatest population movements in American history shaped the cultural composition of the South. First, the migration out of Pennsylvania settled the Carolina piedmont and then the upper and lower reaches of the interior and extended historical Midland forms across the territory. A number of lexical features mark the area, from the coast northward and across the entire South Midland territory. Although rarest in cultivated speech, the deleted copula and auxiliary verb occur all over the South, as in he big and he done it, respectively. From tidewater Virginia to the southernmost Texas coast, and across the piney woods beyond that coastal strip, certain generalized features characterize Southern speech, including lexical, grammatical, and phonological features.

General coastal word formations include past participial drove and drank. Elsewhere, the dominant forms of American English grammar mark the speech of the coastal strip, now dominated by urban patterns. In the interior, its domain extends up the Lower Mississippi and as far north as the Louisiana-Arkansas border.

Interior Southern preserves most of the hallmarks generally associated with American Southern dialects. Within the Western dialects there are increasing differences. For example in south- western dialects there are a lot of influences of Mexican Spanish. All major 45 Algeo J. The Mississippi Valley, however, is the primary source of Western dialects; there regional speech extended and reformed the three primary eastern patterns. The northern third of Iowa preserves a basic Northern pattern.

The Southern pattern extends northward to the Louisiana-Arkansas border. Northern speech then extends westward across eastern South Dakota and southwestern North Dakota, where it enters the Rocky Mountain region in the Black Hills. Besides the delta subdivision that reaches up the Mississippi, Red, and St. Francis river basins to the Missouri boot heel, interior Southern speech extends westward across the Louisiana and East Texas piney woods to merge with plains Western beyond Dallas and Forth Worth.

At the centre of this zone, St. Louis became the primary source of Western dialects that developed following express routes, wagon trails, and later railways, east to west. The Mississippi Valley region includes two subregions that divide north and south in Iowa. The northern sector, centered at Minneapolis and Saint Paul, is a western extension of the Inland Northern dialects, and the southern sector, centered at St.

Louis, combines Northern with Midland features. The easternmost varieties are of great importance because they form basic centers of communication for the transmission of Eastern forms into the West. The primary source of dialects in this area seems to proceed from Western Pennsylvania. Nineteenth-century demographics, however, show a secondary source that proceeded into the same territory along an extended and circuitous route, the great migration out of eastern Pennsylvania.

An essentially Southern dialect base extends across the delta regions. Its distinctive contributions to Western dialects, emerge as the local patterns reach westward. The incidence of features such as baby buggy, coal oil, green beans, and skillet, as well as the low-back vowels mentioned above, unite the middle and 49Finegan E. Settlers of this area were the Mormons and a large number of Americans of European birth or parentage. Their domain narrowed to the state of Utah and the border regions of Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada.

These include corn shucks, roasting ears, slop bucket, and souse. Probably more important are the Southern lengthened free vowels and in gliding checked vowels that characterize the Southwestern drawl. The patterns of regional dialects in the Far West with focal areas in Seattle and San Francisco include a considerable number of features that today approach general currency in American English. These Western dialects suggest the immediate future of the national language. The explanation for this mixed character lies primarily in the settlement history of the country, for both 53 Crystal D.

On the other hand, Britain has also made an enormous contribution to the settlement of English-speaking Canada with their immigration, especially along the Canadian- American border, where most of Canada's population is still concentrated, these newcomers came into contact with already established Canadians. The part of Canadian English which is neither British nor American is best illustrated by the vocabulary, for there are hundreds of words which are native to Canada or which have meanings peculiar to Canada.

As might be expected, many of these refer to topographical features, plants, trees, fish, animals, and birds; and many others to social, economic, and political institutions and activities. Eh is the expression, or filler word, most widely associated with Canadian English. Eh has many uses, of which at least ten have been identified. What was that you said? This short two letter interjection has been the subject of much academic study and debate, and these studies are preoccupied with exactly how Canadian eh is.

Some academics insist that it is uniquely Canadian. For 54 Gold E. Don Mills, , Ontario, p. For instance, eh exists in Africa, but it is purely used as an affirmative sound and is usually more drawn out: ehhhhh. In pronunciation, as in vocabulary, Canadians are neither American nor British, though they have much in common with both. Although most Canadians pronounce docile and textile to rhyme with mile, as the British do, it is probable that most pronounce fertile and missile to rhyme with hurtle and missal, as the Americans do.

But no doubt Canadians pronounce some words in a way that is typically Canadian. Many have, for example, been adopted by Canadian newspapers, especially those in the larger centers, and by magazine and book publishers.

Radio: Mind your slanguage | From the Observer | The Guardian

Young people seem to use such spellings as color, center, defense, medieval, program, skillful, and traveler much more frequently than was formerly the case, the implication being that at least some American forms are accepted as proper in many Canadian schools. The fact is that usage is very much divided, varying from province to province and often from person to person. For the most part, however, Canadians respond to these variants with equal ease. English in the Caribbean The countries of the Caribbean face multilingual situations.

The varieties of English spoken in the Anglophone Caribbean today reflect the linguistic contributions of the English-speaking explorers and settlers who exported the language from the British homeland to the region in the early 16th century, as well as the range of peoples that have inhabited the region for the past years, either 57Gold E.

This resulted in Creole, a distinct language system with words derived from English but with phonology, semantics and morphosyntax influenced by African languages and other forces. After it became established as the first language of entire communities, this creolised English was transmitted like any other language. Over the years, because of language contact phenomena, Creole came to influence, and be influenced by the standard and regional varieties of English brought from Britain.

These uncreolised varieties survived among a few relatively isolated groups made up largely of whites, and Standard English survived as the language of administration and education in all the territories that remained British colonies. There are fine shades of differences between speakers, although there are a number of elements that characterise most forms of Caribbean English. Final syllables in Jamaican Creole frequently have rising tone, reflecting the West African tone language spoken by the slaves, who carried their own phonology into their reinterpretation of a Germanic language with light and heavy stresses.

A large number of words can be traced clearly to African languages like nyam to eat or juk to prick, poke, spur, jab, and stab. The meaning is always clear, despite the apparent simplification. Some levelling of dialects had probably already taken place in England or even at sea. The first settlers were especially important in setting the direction of linguistic development in the new land.

Australia now has three layers of social accent: cultivated, used by about 50 percent of people and sounding very like British English; broad, a working-class accent used by a similar number of people, and general, an accent falling between the two and used by the great mass of people. Within Australia there are possible difficulties in the different patterns of General Australian, the dialect of the great majority, and Cultivated Australian, a minority accent that approaches the received standard of England.

The Australians call a rowdy street loafer a larrikin, where an American talks of a ranch, the Australian speaks of a station62, billabong stands for a brackish body of water, didgeridoo for a kind of trumpet, bombora for a navigable stretch of river containing dangerous rocks, and of course boomerang, koala, outback, and kangaroo. The new natives also quickly showed a gift for colourful slang: tucker for food, slygrogging for sneaking a drink, bonzer for excellent, and, more recently, technicolor yawn for throwing up.

Often these are just everyday words shortened: postie for postman, footy for football, arvo for the afternoon, roo for kangaroo, compo for compensation. And then of course there are all those incomparable Australian expressions: don't 61 Mitchell A. In Australia, people eat cookies, not biscuits; politicians run for office, not stand as in Britain; they drive station wagons rather than estate cars; give their money to a teller rather than a cashier in a bank; wear cuffs on their pants, not turnips; say mail, not post; and cover small injuries with a Band-Aid rather than a plaster.

They spell many words in the American way—labor rather than labour, for instance—and, perhaps most significantly, the national currency is the dollar, not the pound. The British first arrived in India in the early s and soon established trading posts in a number of cities under the control of The East India Company. This date is often taken as the start of what is referred to as The Raj — a period of British rule in India that lasted until Independence in English was to serve as a transitional language with Hindi until , but it has continued to be used as an official language.

Whatever the stated policies may be in the future, it is certain that the English language will be spoken and written by a small but influential minority of the Indian population, including leaders in government, education, and the press. It is also certain that the variety of English recognized as standard in India—and in Bangladesh and in Pakistan—will be a 63 Bryson B. English was increasingly accepted as the language of government, of the social elite, and of the national press. After Independence, India became a nation state, and it was intended that English would gradually be phased out as the language of administration.

But there was no simple solution as to which language should replace it. At first Hindi, the most widely spoken language, seemed the obvious choice, but in a country with over million people and more than a thousand languages it is difficult to choose a single national language. English is widely used in the media, in Higher Education and government and therefore remains a common means of communication, both among the ruling classes, and between speakers of mutually unintelligible languages.

In addition there are speakers of English in other parts of South Asia, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where English plays a similar role. Influenced by traditional Hindi grammar, speakers often use progressive tenses in statements, such as I am believing you or she is liking music. From the very beginning, Singapore prospered economically, and throughout the rest of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, English was an important language of government, business, and education.

This brought to a growing inability of Malaysians to read English by the mids, so recently, the Malaysian government has quietly begun to reemphasize English. Hong Kong, although more than a thousand miles across the South China Sea from Singapore, has similarities in the use of English because of its British colonial history. Here English is much less frequently used for oral communication. English was used by the remaining whites of British background, and by the increasing numbers of the black population. There is thus a linguistic side to the political divisions which marked South African apartheid society: Afrikaans came to be perceived by the black majority as the language of authority and repression.

English was perceived by the Afrikaner government as the language of protest and self-determination. Many blacks saw English as a means of achieving an international voice. A good number of English words are used in quite new senses. South African racial policies gave a new meaning to location as an area in which black Africans are required to live.

Lands in South Africa are just those portions of a farm that can be used for cultivation of crops, camp refers to the fenced-in portion of a farm, and the leopard Afrikaans tier, from tyger is sometimes called a tiger. English colonizers began to visit West Africa from the end of the fifteenth century. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the increase in commerce and anti- slave-trade activities had brought English to the whole West African coast. With hundreds of local languages to contend with, a particular feature of the region was the rise of several English-based pidgins and creoles, used alongside the standard varieties.

Some nations have deferred making the choice of an official language and continue to use English simultaneously with one or more of the African languages. Even more complex than the choice of an official language is the question of a standard. Among speakers who learn English as a second language there will inevitably be a wide range of varieties, from pidgin at one extreme to a written standard of international acceptability at the other. In Nigerian English, beat and bit have the same tense vowel, distinguished if at all by length.

The processes that allow expansion of vocabulary and new meanings of words are very interesting in countries where English is mainly a second language. Extensions and narrowing of meanings of words occur in corner a bend in a road , globe a light bulb , wet to water [flowers] , environment neighbourhood , gallops potholes , and bluff to give an air of importance.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish general West African usage from a national variety—Nigerian English, Ghanaian English, and Cameroon English; the following words and expressions occur in West African English, some with quite widespread currency: bata sandals, shoes , move with court, go out with , wedding bells invitation to a wedding , takein become pregnant , be in state be pregnant , give kola offer a bribe , have longlegs have influence , cry die wake, funeral rites.

The morphology and syntax of English in Africa have generally the same structures as those of the international varieties of Standard English, although one may note formations with the plural suffix of words that are not ordinarily count nouns: equipments, aircrafts, deadwoods, offsprings. Some nouns in Kenyan and Tanzanian colloquial speech have a plural form but are treated as singulars: behaviours, bottoms, laps, minds, nighties, noses, popcorns.

The influence of Bantu is clearly apparent. The Bantu language Kiswahili is the most important African language throughout East Africa, and from its influence the East African variety of English has acquired some of its characteristic phonological patterns. From this language also have come loanwords that have passed into international currency: safari, simba lion , bwana master , jambo hello.

The linguistic and sociological issues that are raised by these varieties of language in daily contact have already been suggested with respect to Jamaican English. The study of present-day English in all its worldwide varieties is useful not only in itself but also in the illumination that it gives to some of these most basic issues in language and cognition. There are probably over two hundred pidgins and creoles in the world today. They are hybrid language-systems based on many different languages.

A creole, like a pidgin, is based on two or more languages, but unlike a pidgin it is learned as a native language, and it contains fuller syntax and 76 Baugh A. A particularly large number are based on English. They fall into two main groups, the Atlantic and the Pacific. A pidgin can fulfill a wide range of functions and sometimes speakers use a pidgin more frequently than their native language. In these pidgin expressions, prepositions and word order rather than inflectional endings signal the grammatical and semantic relationships. A pidgin tends to preserve the absolutely minimal grammatical structures needed for effective communication.

Pidgins can present aspectual distinctions some never explicitly marked in the verb phrase. For example, habitual or continuing action is indicated in Hawaiian Creole by including the particle stay in the verb phrase, and other creoles have similar markers: I stay run in Kapiolani Park every evening indicates habitual or repetitive action rather than action completed at a certain point. The accomplishment of purpose is made explicit in creole languages around the world.

Such ambiguity must be resolved in Hawaiian Creole. If the speaker knows that John saw Mary, the appropriate sentence is John bin go Honolulu go see Mary. If John did not see Mary or if the speaker does not know whether John saw Mary, the appropriate verb form expresses intention without expressing completion: John bin go Honolulu for see Mary. Another important factor of language in general which the study of pidgins and creoles clarifies is the idea of a linguistic continuum.

These intermediate grammars are known as mesolects. There is often an observable hierarchy of linguistic features associated with various points on the continuum for example, different past tense formations of verbs, some closer than others to the standard. If a speaker has a nonstandard feature located near the basilectal extreme, it is likely that the speaker will also have all of the other nonstandard features that are increasingly closer to the standard language. Typically the standard features near the basilectal end of the implicational scale are learned first, and those near the acrolectal end are learned later if at all.

The study of language acquisition leads finally to a convergence in the concerns of creolists and generative grammarians. It is clear, however, that Standard English is not "a language" in any meaningful sense of this term. Standard English, whatever it is, is less than a language, since it is only one variety of English among many. Standard English may be the most important variety of English, in all sorts of ways: it is the variety of English normally used in writing, especially printing; it is the variety associated with the education system in all the English-speaking countries of the world, and is therefore the variety spoken by those who are often referred to as "educated people"; and it is the variety taught to non-native learners.

But most native speakers of English in the world are native speakers of some nonstandard variety of the language, Standard English is thus not the English language but simply one variety of it. Standard English has nothing to do with pronunciation. It is widely agreed, though, that while all RP speakers also speak Standard English, the reverse is not the case. RP is in a sense, standardised, it is a standardised accent of English and not Standard English itself. Standard English speakers can be found in all English-speaking countries, and it goes without saying that they speak this variety with different non-RP accents depending on whether they came from Scotland or the USA or New Zealand or wherever.

There is considerable confusion concerning the relationship between Standard English and the vocabulary associated with formal varieties of the 80Lerer S. Styles are varieties of language which can be ranged on a continuum ranging from very formal to very informal. Formal styles are employed in social situations which are formal, and informal styles are employed in social situations which are informal. Speakers are able to influence and change the degree of formality of a social situation by manipulation of stylistic choice.

All the languages of the world would appear to demonstrate some degree of stylistic differentiation in this sense, reflecting the wide range of social relationships and social situations found, to a greater or lesser extent, in all human societies. In many areas of the world, switching from informal to formal situations also involves switching from one language to another. English as it is employed in areas where it is the major native language of the community, such as in the British Isles, North America and Australasia, is a language which has the fullest possible range of styles running from the most to the least formal.

This obviously does not mean to say, however, that all speakers have equal access to or ability in all styles. Sociolinguists agreed that Standard English is a dialect. Standard English is simply one variety of English among many. It is a sub-variety of English. Sub-varieties of languages are usually referred to as dialects, and languages are often described as consisting of dialects. It is for example by far the most important dialect in the English-speaking world from a social, intellectual and cultural point of view; and it does not have an associated accent.

Unlike other dialects, Standard English is a purely social dialect. Because of its unusual history and its extreme sociological importance, it is no longer a geographical dialect, even if we can tell that its origins were originally in the southeast of England. In the English-speaking world as a whole, it comes in a number of different forms, so that we can talk, if we wish to for some particular purpose, of Scottish Standard English, or American Standard English. But the most salient sociolinguistic characteristic of Standard English is that it is a social dialect.

Historically, we can Barber C. Subsequent developments have reinforced its social character: the fact that it has been employed as the dialect of an education to which pupils, especially in earlier centuries, have had differential access depending on their social class background. There are differences between Standard English and the nonstandard dialects. This differences are not phonological, and that they do not appear to be lexical either. Standard English is a social dialect which is distinguished from other dialects of the language by its grammatical forms.

Standard English of course has most of its grammatical features in common with the other dialects. Slang is used in many different types of media and situations. Standard English: the widening debate, Routledge, , London. However, slang occurs in oral communication all over the world. Slang is an area of lexis in a permanent state of flux consisting of vivid and colorful words and phrases which characterize various social and professional groups, especially when these terms are used for in-group communication.

They exhibit great social dynamism and are receptive to changes in fashion: in clothes, look, style, and also in speech. Also Shakespeare used a lot of slang in his plays, such as, clay-brained instead of stupid. In the sixteenth century the English word blockhead was first used, and it is still in use today.

Even journalists are beginning to use slang in their writing. Hip-hop is a culture that has a language of its own jargon which is very hard to understand if you are an outsider, e. Slang is mainly a question of vocabulary usage as there are not many grammatical features of slang. Within the hip-hop culture, a lot of newly 84 Crystal D. To fully conform to the style and exclude outsiders it is also very important how to dress and what music to listen to.

What is slang to one generation may not be slang to the next generation, since language is constantly changing, and words and expressions can move from one form of it to another. The point of slang is often to be amusing or shocking. When words lose their shocking or amusing effect they need to be replaced with new words. This often goes hand in hand with other groups accepting these words and beginning to use them in everyday-language usage.

Slang does not differ from other trends but is often invented in big cities and then spreads out to the rest of the country. The slang that people use may differ vastly according to age, gender, social class, social groups and context. Young males seem to be the most frequent users of slang and males are also the ones who are most unlikely to avoid the use of slang no matter what situation they find themselves in.

Many young people, regardless of their ethnic background, now use 87 Andersson L. In many instances, things are misspelt in order to defy restrictions which are put in place to ensure that taboo words are not able to be used within environments such as chat rooms and forums. American English includes a very large number of ethnic dialects.

Pennsylvania Dutch is actually a variety of High German brought to American by early settlers and here mixed with English. The Jewish dialect, derived from Yiddish, is important in New York, but has had pervasive influence on informal speech throughout the country. Scandinavian, especially Swedish, immigrants to Wisconsin created a distinctive ethnic dialect there. Louisiana has Cajun dialect, so called because the French-speaking settlers came from Acadie or Acadia , their name for Nova Scotia.

The Appalachian region has a distinctive dialect derived in part from its early Scotch-Irish settlers. The United States has had settlers from all over the world, and wherever communities of immigrants have settled, an ethnic dialect has sprung up. They originally came through the Caribbean in the 17th century and later directly to the USA 18th century. The distinctive African-American vocabulary exerts a steady and enriching influence on the language of other Americans; for example, nitty-gritty came from black use, as did jazz earlier, and yam much earlier.

One is that blacks may have first acquired their English from the whites among whom they worked on the plantations of the New World, and therefore their present English reflects the kind of English their ancestors learned several hundred years ago, modified by generations of segregation. Another is that blacks, who originally spoke a number of different African languages, may have first learned a kind of pidgin—a mixed and limited 93Algeo J.

Because they had no other common language, the pidgin was creolized, that is, became the native and full language of the plantation slaves and eventually was assimilated to the English spoken around them, so that today there are few of the original creole features still remaining. The historical reality was certainly more complex than either view alone depicts, but both explanations doubtless have some truth in them. The most usual context for deletion of such consonants is before a word beginning with a consonant.

Among the grammatical features of African American English, the verbal system is especially interesting in its systematic differences from Standard English. Hispanic American English is unique among the major varieties of English in being the result of languages in continuing contact within a bilingual culture, and yet the complexity of the linguistic situation is such that some scholars have questioned whether it is a dialect at all.

Many of the features of Hispanic American English do not appear in Spanish, and many of its speakers have low proficiency in Spanish or are monolingual in English. These facts make clear that the variety is learned and spoken like any other variety of English. Yet the situation is complex, because the community of speakers includes those who are fluently bilingual, those who are much more proficient in Spanish than in English, and those who are much more proficient in English than in Spanish. While features of pronunciation and intonation may remain stable, the selection of those features depends on numerous variables, including the context of speech and the attitude of the speaker.

The categories of borrowed words include politics, from which we get Sandinista, Contra, Fidelist; food and drink, represented by nachos, burrito, sangria, margarita; and ethnicity, with Chicano and Chicana, Latino and Latina as prominent designations. A few of these words have become part of world English. Contact between Spanish and English will be a continuing source for the introduction of new or revived Spanish words into regional varieties of English. Formal language is often used in official public notices, business situations, and polite conversations with strangers.

Formal language has stricter grammar rules and often uses more difficult vocabulary. It is more commonly used in writing than in speech. The passive voice is often used to make the speech more impersonal. It is better organized and thought out. The past tense of modal auxiliaries is common, and so on. Clear and precise 97 Baugh A.

Likewise, a lot of synonyms are used in order to avoid the repetition of the same words. Also, much vocabulary derived from French and Latin is used.

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When spoken, words are more carefully and more slowly pronounced than in informal English. English is often spoken informally especially in the States, Canada, and Australia. Informal language is all right for friends, co-workers, host family, or service staff at a restaurant for example.

Informal language has less strict grammar rules and often has shortened sentences. For example: sentences are often short and simple; subject-verb agreement is not necessarily observed; contractions and acronyms are very common; the active voice is often used; Words that express rapport and familiarity are often used in speech, such as brother, buddy, man, you know and when spoken, words are less carefully and more quickly pronounced. Vocabulary is often different as well.

Informal language is usually spoken more than written. Because it is spoken, informal language can be very different in every area. Informal language is also constantly changing. New words are added all the time and people stop using older words. This can make it difficult for a learner to understand the language.

The speech is less organized and thought out. The spoken language is primary in the sense that it is learned before the written language is. Indeed, speakers of a language can be fluent and creative users of the language without necessarily being literate at all.


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The written language is, in the sense just mentioned, secondary, but it is not just a reflection of the spoken language from which is somehow abstracted. It relies on different ways of expressing the distinctions which speech makes by means of tempo, pitch, intonation, and stress, but it cannot replicate them fully, just as it cannot reflect the voice quality of the individual speaker. On the other hand, handwriting, too, in very individual and cannot be copied by speech style or voice quality. Furthermore, the written language can make use of symbols e. The spoken language is more immediate usually restricted to people close by , generally more short-lived, more spontaneous, and more individual while the written language is more independent of the circumstances of its production, accessible over a longer period of time, often carefully planned and even edited, and subject to conventions of standardization, including spelling in particular.

As far as English is concerned, 99 Gramley S. On the other hand, as English spreads across the world as a global language there are probably very many users of the language who are more comfortable with the written than the spoken language, especially since spelling is highly fixed while accent varies enormously. It is important to remember that the first British settlers in America would have spoken varieties of Early Modern English.

Initially, then, varieties of English in America would have sounded like varieties of English in Britain. Over time, though, differences emerged as a result of numerous factors: contact with other languages, the influence of other cultures and power struggles. The forging of a national identity distinct from that of Britain was also responsible for developments in the language.

The Colonial, the National, and the International period. The first British settlers in America came from a variety of places in England. London was just one of these. Additionally, settlers originated from such counties as Gloucestershire, Somerset, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Essex and Kent. What is particularly important here is that the early British settlers were drawn Menken H.

Knopf, Inc. Research in sociolinguistics suggests that change and development in language is generally instigated by the middle-classes. Some of the factors that caused the development of English in the earliest American colonies include: the numerical majority — the dialectal forms that were most frequent in the colonies were the ones that were most likely to survive and develop into American English, for example, the larger was the group of settlers from a particular area of Britain, the more likely their regional dialect was to have an influence on what became the norm in the developing American English variety.

Another factor could be the prestige — the linguistic forms used by community leaders would most likely have been viewed as prestigious and adopted into American English for this reason. Last but not least the lack of contact with Britain influenced the making of American English. Conversely, the experiences of colonial life were more likely to affect the development of American English. Contact between English and other languages played a similarly important part in the development of American English during the Colonial Period.

Contact with Native Americans brought into English a number of words having particular reference to their way of life: wigwam, tomahawk, canoe, toboggan, mackinaw, moccasin, wampum, squaw, and papoose. These are Native American words, but there are also English words formed at the same time and out of the same experience: war path, paleface, medicineman, pipeofpeace, big chief, war paint, and the verb to scalp. Many other words illustrate things associated with the new mode of life: back country, backwoodsman, squatter, prairie, log cabin, clapboard, corncrib, popcorn, hoe cake, cold snap, snow plow, bobsled, and sleigh.

Dutch contributed chiefly to the vocabulary and to a small extent to public culture. Among the words which entered American English from Dutch we find cookie, cole slaw, pot cheese, and waffle. Boss also comes from Dutch, as do yacht, stoop, snoop, spook, dope, dumb, and maybe even Yankee. From the French colonists they learned portage, chowder, cache, caribou, bureau, bayou, and others. The standard that gradually emerged was not as socially charged as written Standard British English and Received Pronunciation, most likely because the social hierarchy of Britain had not been transplanted to the American colonies.

English in the United States is most uniform in the domain of syntax and most variable in pronunciation. This is an observation also made by contemporary observers of American English like H. Mencken and Marckwardt. This development came about in part because of the establishment of schools wherein children would be exposed to standard forms.

It is often the case that the form is still in use in dialects of British English other than Standard English. Archaisms in American English are often simply forms which are no longer in use in Standard British English. Albert H. However, druggist remained in use in the American colonies. In contemporary American English, while druggist may be used in the mid-West or on the East Coast, other dialects prefer pharmacist.

Just to confuse things, you may find that pharmacist is now replacing chemist in some British English dialects. Older forms of English are preserved in American English, but it is also the case that these forms continued to be used in British English dialects. The only sense, then, in which they are archaic is when compared against Standard British English.

By any matter the current status of English as a global language makes an untenable position to take and to imply that Standard British English is the measure against which all other varieties are to be judged. The National Period, beginning with the American Declaration of Independence from England in , brought political and cultural independence for the United States. This included linguistic self-awareness for Americans. With political independence achieved, many of the colonists began to manifest a distaste for anything that seemed to perpetuate the former dependence.

An ardent, sometimes belligerent patriotism sprang up, and among many people it became the order of the day to demand an American civilization as distinctive from that of Europe as were the political and social ideals that were being established in the new world. Webster saw the arrival of American Independence as an opportunity to get rid of the linguistic influence of Britain. The new nation needed a new language with a fresh identity. In his Dissertations on the English Language he proposed the institution of an American Standard.

It was hardly possible for British English to continue to be the model for the American people. England was too far away. He was concerned with issues of spelling and suggested a moderate spelling reform. He respelled British words into American forms that are still used today, for example, simplifying honour to honor and colour to color.

He favored the elimination of certain silent letters or of letter clusters that are not pronounced. Webster also recorded newer American pronunciations. In the pronunciation guide to his dictionary, he advised pronouncing full syllable counts in words. But it was also distinctive in style. Another aspect of cultural independence was the development of a distinctive American literature written by American authors acknowledged internationally for their contributions to English literature.

Developments which moulded the language of Americans during the nineteenth century included the settlement of the West, the extension of the railroads, the growth of industry, the labour movement, the invention of the telegraph and telephone, the expansion of education at all levels, and the publication of textbooks and dictionaries. In turn, such US institutions as the movie industry in Hollywood, jazz and popular music from the South, participation in World War II, post-war technological developments such as the computer, and the activities and products of major US corporations and publications, from Coca-Cola to Time magazine, have helped disseminate Americanisms throughout the world.

Finegan E. Sayce Pronunciation Differences in vowel and consonant pronunciation, as well as in word stress and intonation, combine to create American and British accents. As a result latter and ladder are pronounced the same. The l at the end of words and between vowels like in bill, and pillow is typically dark: pronounced with the back of the tongue lifted toward the roof of the mouth. Secondary stress is normal on the penultimate syllables of words like laboratory and secretary, so that these words end like Tory and Terry. At the same time, syncope is common in words like fam'ly, fed'ral, happ'ning.

Received Pronunciation developed at the end of the eighteenth century, during the period of the American Revolution. At that time there was no pronunciation by which people in America could be distinguished from people in England. In view of the foregoing it would be hopeless to attempt to exhibit all the differences between English and American pronunciation, for many of them are extremely small and subtle, and only their aggregation makes them plain. The most important of them do not lie in pronunciation at all, properly so called, but in intonation.

At the end of the eighteenth century southern England began to change from what is called a flat a to a broad a in these words, that is from a sound like the a in man to one like the a in father. The change affected words in which the vowel occurred before f, sk, sp, st, ss, th, and n followed by certain consonants. Next to the retention of the flat a, the most noticeable difference between English and American pronunciation is in the treatment of the r.

In the received pronunciation of England this sound has disappeared except before vowels. It is not heard when it occurs before another consonant or at the end of a word unless the next word begins with a vowel. In America, eastern New England and some of the South follow the English practice, but in the Middle States and the West the r is pronounced in all positions.

Thus in the received standard of England lord has the same sound as laud and there, the American r is either a retention of older English pronunciation or the result of north-of-England influence.


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  • This caused more comment than any other distinction in American pronunciation. A distinction less apparent to the layman is the pronunciation of Menken H. There are other differences of less moment between English and American pronunciation, because they concern individual words or small groups of words. Thus in England been has the same sound as bean but in America is like bin. Leisure often has in America what is popularly called a long vowel but in England usually rhymes with pleasure. There, too, the last syllable of words like fertile and sterile rhymes with aisle.

    Americans do not suppress the final t in trait or pronounce an f in lieutenant. A more important difference is the greater clearness with which Americans pronounce unaccented syllables. Bernard Shaw said he once recognized an American because he accented the third syllable of necessary. There is, of course, more in speech than the quality of the sounds. There is also the matter of pitch and tempo. Americans speak more slowly and with less variety of tone.

    There can be no gainsaying the fact that American speech is a bit more monotonous, is uttered with less variety in the intonation, than that of Britain. Other differences are sporadic and on the whole negligible. The differences between British and American pronunciation are not such as should cause any alarm for the future, any fear that the British and Americans may become unintelligible to each other. Verbs like dictate, donate, locate, migrate, placate, pulsate, rotate have first-syllable stress in GA and second- syllable stress in RP. There are exceptions where both pronunciations agree, as in abate, checkmate, duplicate, evacuate, graduate, imitate.

    Longer verbs ending in -ate are pronounced the same in GA and RP. Examples of this Algeo J. This change also implies a shift in stress in GA, which is not generally found in RP. In GA the stress in adverbs falls on the antepenultimate syllable, as in arbitrarily, contrarily, momentarily, or ordinarily. By making a major pitch change, higher or lower, on the stressed syllable of the focus word, the speaker gives emphasis to that word and thereby highlights it for the listener. This emphasis can indicate meaning, new information, contrast, or emotion. Stressed and unstressed syllables occur in relatively regular alternating patterns in both phrases and multi-syllable words.

    The reputation of English spelling is, however, notoriously bad. This lies in the fact the realization of the principles draws on a large number of traditional spellings which themselves go back to differing conventions of both spelling and pronunciation. Above all, English orthography has been relatively resistant toward a spelling reform. Among the important traditions we must count the presumed phonetic quality of the vowels associated with the letters of the Latin alphabet in OE times; French writing conventions which were adopted in part in the period after the Norman Conquest; differing regional spelling traditions based on sometimes clearly differing regional pronunciations of English; the unhistorical remodeling of spelling to conform to the etymological sources of individual words; the maintenance of older spellings despite often major changes in the pronunciation, as due, for example, to the Great Vowel Shift ; and, finally, widespread borrowing from other languages along with the foreign spelling conventions.

    All of this is coupled with a great inertia in undertaking reform. There were some modest, but widely accepted changes in the Early Modern English period or shortly after it. But even the limited reforms generally prevailing in American English have not been embraced within the British English spelling tradition. He also changed "tongue" to "tung. Principles Involved in the Reformation of Spelling Principles involved in the reformation of spelling are the principles of simplification, regularization, derivational uniformity, reflection of pronunciation, including stress indication, and spelling pronunciations.

    Much of the variation, lies in the greater willingness on the part of American English users to accept the few modest reforms that have been suggested. Simplification is a principle common to both the British and the American traditions, but is sometimes realized differently.

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    Double letters are more radically simplified in AmE, which has program instead of programme. Other examples are waggon and AmE wagon; counsellor and AmE counselor, woolen and woolen. On occasion British English has the simplified form as is the case with skilful and wilful for AmE skillful and willful. BrE fulfil, instil, appal may be interpreted as simplification, but AmE double -ll- in fulfill, instill, appall may have to do with where the stress lies.

    AmE may drop of the -ue of -logue in words like catalog, dialog, and monolog but not in words like Prague, vague, vogue, or rogue. This seems justified since there are no systematic criteria for distinguishing between the two sets in BrE: neighbour and saviour, but donor and professor; honour and valour, but metaphor, anterior and posterior.

    Within BrE there are special rules to note: the endings -ation and —ious usually lead to a form with -or- as in coloration and laborious, but the endings -al and -ful, as in behavioural and colourful, have no such effect. New York Times, Give us an honest answer. Pearl Drummers Forum, Finally, there is the noun- and adjective-forming suffix -o. Moreover, they have a rather fixed structure and are often composed of elements functioning together as a whole whose meaning cannot be inferred from these individual elements; in that, they are similar to idioms. Examples include: chip off the old block, completely different animal, cut a long story short, heads will roll, on the right track and with all your heart.

    Phrases are extensively used in African American slang. One of the reasons may be its tendency for emotive expression and exaggeration. This is because phrases are very effective in translating even the most complex meanings into visual images. Another reason may be their rhythmic qualities, which are highly valued in African American slang.

    Phrases can be divided into several types. In African American slang, one of the most productive phrase patterns involves a combination of verbs and other parts of speech, especially nouns, which are sometimes accompanied by prepositions. Dre, 2. As observed by Biber , some of them have a substitutionable slot that can take several fillers, although these are usually constrained semantically. Such usage is also popular in African American slang, where there are numerous strings of synonymous phrases.

    Petersburg Times, Enough with this foreplay. They involve a combination of a noun and another part of speech, often other nouns, sometimes accompanied by a preposition. The resulting combination functions as a noun. Who the motherfucking boss? Again, the resulting combinations often operate on a figurative level and should not be understood literally. Although associated with an elevated style of literary language, rhymed phrases form a significant part of African American slang. Much like rhyming compounds, such phrases are mostly based either on assonance, which is repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds, or alliteration, which is a repetition of the same consonant, or both.

    Again, they render a verbal promptness and forcefulness, augmented by syncopated rhythm. How do you do; or, Houston, we have a problem. Their meaning is often idiomatic or figurative. Did 1 forget to mention? They are made from a verb and a preposition alternatively labeled adverbial particle as in come off, give up, take on or turn in. They are typically used with an idiomatic meaning that may be misleading and quite different from the literal meaning of the individual words. For this reason, they are considered especially difficult for learners of English.

    Interestingly, they are formed and used in very creative ways which are often different from general American slang or standard English phrasal verbs. It is also signaled in pronunciation: the stress falls on their first elements. McArthur observes that in standard English most phrasal nouns relate to situations, but those relating to things and people tend to be slangy.

    There are many such creations in African American slang, most with idiomatic or figurative meanings. See the following citational examples: Mr. People often use slang to express ideas quicker or to convey a complicated meaning in a concise way. This tendency is evident in a sizeable portion of words which are monosyllabic or abbreviated in various ways. Monosyllabic words are also highly popular in African American slang, a fact duly noted by Eble This is also in line with the general tendency in American slang to be short in form, corroborated by Flexner in Chapman xxii.

    Their abundance is striking but can easily be explained by the aforementioned function. This very productive mechanism involves clipping, initialisms and acronyms. All these are evident in African American slang, and are presented below. Elements may be eliminated from the beginning e. Such shortened forms are almost always less formal than their longer sources. However, it is important to notice that clipping itself does not make a given word slang, while other factors of a social or stylistic nature must also be present. Moreover, as noted by Adams , clipping can indicate familiarity and intimacy, and is also popular for these reasons.

    In African American slang, just as in standard English, a word may be shortened by back clipping, front clipping, or both. Back clipping also termed hind clipping is highly productive in slang. It involves the removal of the final syllable s of a word. This rare process involves clipping various endings such as -er, -ion, etc. What remains of the word is assumed to be a stem, but is actually a newly created word, for instance enthuse, housekeep, intuit, liaise, self-destruct or televise.

    Note that the resulting form changes in part of speech, and typically becomes a verb. As observed by McArthur , back formation can also be used for effect, and for this reason is sometimes used in slang. The removed syllable is typically unaccented, while the base word is bi- or polysyllabic; note that there is often an apostrophe to indicate where letters are missing. Note that these clippings are often spelled with an apostrophe or hyphen to indicate where letters are missing. Some are used as euphemistic devices to mask expressions perceived as taboo.

    As observed in my earlier work, the clipping - in this case also called an ellipsis - may occur at the beginning or at the end, and may involve the whole word or simply a part of it. There are numerous elliptical expressions produced in this way in African American slang. Either the first or the second element may be clipped in this way, and both are often connected with a hyphen. Such clippings are very popular in African American slang because of their succinctness and, possibly, their somewhat cryptic character; they may also be used as euphemistic devices to mask expressions perceived as taboo.

    It consists of the initial letters of a series of words pronounced in sequence. Note that initialisms are ordinarily spelled using capital letters, often followed by periods. African American slang uses initialisms extensively. This is particularly discernible in phrases, which are frequently abbreviated into the initial letters for each word. Again, the motivation may be twofold: brevity of expression or cryptic character.

    To which one may also add their rhythmic qualities. You lost? In contrast to initialisms, they rarely have periods separating the letters; they are also more typically spelled without capital letters. As a result, they lose their connections to the individual words from which they are derived and become words in and of themselves. Acronyms are also featured in African American slang, although they are much less frequent than initialisms, favored for their rhythmic qualities.

    In this process, a word changes its usual grammatical function into another without undergoing any alteration in form. For instance, advance gives no clues about its grammar and, viewed out of context, could be a verb, noun or adjective. Changes from and into various parts of speech are possible, but the most common types of conversion are verbification and nominalization. Conversion is aimed at word economy, so it is commonly used in slang, which favors succinctness and brevity.

    Conversion is also very productive in African American slang and attests to the creativity and flexibility of its users. It is also the single most popular type of conversion in African American slang. As the name suggests, it involves the changing of verbs into nouns. Still, there are numerous expressions converted in this way in African American slang. Citational corroboration yields the following: Mr.

    They are perceptibly less productive compared to verbification and nominalization, but still account for many expressions found in African American slang. Again, such processes attest to the creativity and flexibility of their coiners. For a second, I thought about putting on my gloves Paul Volponi. A classic example of such conversion is the African American slang word cool, which may function as an adjective, adverb, noun, verb or exclamation. Blend words sometimes called portmanteau words, fusions, amalgams or hybrids are formed by joining two words and simultaneously clipping part of the first or second word, or both.

    In English, they are usually used for their succinctness, innovation or catchiness, and are popular especially in product names and in advertising. Examples include: breathalyzer, brunch, croissandwich, docudrama, electrocute, gasohol 'or smog. They are, however, slightly more common in African American slang, which may be explained by an appreciation of verbal creativity and poetic innovation.

    Sound Opinions, Certain blending processes are enormously productive and popular in African American slang. Such is the case with numerous blends incorporating the once trendy suffix -izzle, which have become especially associated with hip-hop culture. As mentioned before, they have a rather ephemeral nature, and only a few most popular are listed in the Glossary. It is an umbrella term which principally involves lexical and semantic borrowing. The former entails one language borrowing entire words from another, with varying degrees of modification, while the latter pertains to the literal translation of a concept from one language to create an entirely new lexical entity in another language.

    Both are used in African American slang, although they are not very prominent. In English, a sizeable portion of the lexicon has been created in this way, especially with 2.

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    In recent times, loanwords have come from a broad variety of source languages, reflecting the increased diversity of the US population, and the speed and ease of modern communication. However, loanwords in African American slang have been relatively small in number. Moreover, much like jargon, borrowings are used primarily in writing for transmission of specific information among specialists rather than for casual communication.

    Accordingly, borrowings are extremely rare and often heavily modified. Put differently, only a handful of expressions in African American slang can be clearly traced to African origins. Some linguists such as Crystal 96 or Smitherman a: 25 explain this as a result of the policy of slave-traders which mixed Africans of different language backgrounds in order to prevent rebellion. This practice later resulted in diverse forms of speech used by African Americans; rather than resorting to old African expressions not universally known to all slaves, they either imitated the language of the white people or created their own expressions.

    Put differently, the meaning of a word or words from one language is literally translated into the form of another language to create an entirely new lexical entity. Such semantic borrowings alternatively called loan translations or caiques are well known in English, and include such expressions as brainwash from the Chinese xl ndo , flea market from the French marche aux puces or wisdom tooth from the Latin dens sapientiae.

    Semantic borrowing is also the source of a number of expressions in African American slang. The sources are chiefly languages of West Africa, the area from which most slaves came. Petersburg Times, There you go! Huffington Post, 2. Sometimes considered part of borrowings, these are expressions derived from personal names, often of inventors or creators, or names of fictitious characters.

    They are initially spelled with the first letter capitalized, but in time lose the capitalization. Examples include: stetson after John B. In African American slang, eponyms play a marginal role. This is because they normally require concrete knowledge which enables the speaker to associate the expression with the name. The exceptions include well- recognized people or fictitious characters who became icons for the popular consciousness. They are also employed for a similar effect. Baby Boy, film. Such usage is very popular in African American slang where there are numerous such expressions used especially for negative or positive categorization.

    These are names protected by legal trademarks and are used to distinguish one product from similar ones offered by competitors.

    With the growth of the mass-market economy and widespread information, many have become generalized, turning into generic words such as Coke, Jeep, Jacuzzi, Jell-O, Kleenex or Xerox. The assimilation seems unavoidable and visible in the loss of capitalization, as seen in aspirin, celluloid, dictaphone, escalator, velcro, Walkman and zipper.

    In African American slang, brand names play a marginal role. Again, they tend to undergo the process of generalization or assimilation and may lose not only their original capitalization, but also their original meanings. The white community used her and spit her out Ebony, Borrowing may also involve expressions taken from African American slang for use in general American slang. This phenomenon, labeled variously as secondary slang, lexical appropriation, or even Africanization of the lexicon, will be dealt with in the last chapter, which is devoted to functions of slang.

    Respelling is sometimes added to this category, although technically speaking, it involves the modification of existing words rather than the coining of new ones. According to Eble 26 , coinage accounts for almost no new words in English, and one can offer but a few examples: blurb, googol, hobbit, nylon and quark. This is possibly because these words themselves give no clue to their meaning Lieber This is also because rather than by coinage or root creation , most of words in English are produced in conformity with patterns already established in the language, such as by modifying or attaching new meanings to existing words.

    Coinage of new words is also rare in African American slang, which may be surprising since slang thrives on novelty. However, this corresponds with the aforementioned tendency in the English language to recycle old words. Most African American slang uses existing words, modified either morphologically or semantically.

    Still, there are a few African American slang expressions that seem to have been coined ex nihilo, and it is impossible to establish their etymology authoritatively. If so, many of the slang expressions mentioned so far - especially those created by compounding or affixation - are products of such neological creation. While they are composed of well-known words or affixes, either slangy or standard, the particular combination evokes a strongly novel and exciting effect. In this process, new words are formed from natural sounds, or they are adapted visually to suggest a certain sound, as is the case with bow-wow, ding-dong or tick-tock.

    There are a few dozen onomatopoeic expressions in English, but their application is fairly limited: they are particularly used as exclamations in comic books and advertising. Onomatopoeic expressions also play a rather marginal role in African American slang, although they can be useful thanks to their manner of associating sound and meaning.

    This is ghetto fabulous! Since the resulting forms always violate the norms of standard language, they are considered informal or colloquial. One would expect them to be frequent in slang. Surprisingly, this is not the case, possibly because their contrived form impedes understanding; the graphic representation of slang rarely diverges from the standard English spelling, and odd pronunciations and respellings simply are not commonly seen in slang.

    However, in African American slang, respelling seems to be much more frequent, if not common Brasch But in African American slang, this process seems to be used to make a political point: the 62 Forms deliberate violation of orthographical conventions signals an independent spirit and opposition to authority. It also feigns illiteracy, which suggests the low socioeconomic status frequently associated with African Americans.

    Note that this process may involve respelling either a standard or slang expression. As evidenced by lexicographic works on the subject by Widawski and Sheidlower , their respelled forms may run into a few dozen versions, many of them euphemistic. Black Voices, Respelling may also be linked to decoding or cryptic functions. Although this is relatively rare, slang may be formed from various code or cryptic devices, occasionally referred to as little languages. These are vocabularies formed from known words by adding specific, meaningless sounds or groups of letters at the beginning or end of a word, or more typically, before or after each syllable.

    This may be accompanied by some respelling or reordering of syllables in the word. Possibly the most widely known device linked with cryptic function is the infix -izz- or -iz- , which was mentioned earlier. While it contributes virtually no meaning, is it valued for its rhyming, jocular and especially cryptic qualities: as observed by Dalzell , it is often applied to hide the meaning of an expression.

    Other linguists see its use primarily as an intensifier Coleman I'm moving to St. It is formed by respelling a word backward, placing the last letter first, and so on; this may be 64 Forms done with the possible omission of one or more letters. While it enjoys some popularity in Britain, it is exceptionally rare in North America, and virtually non-existent in African American slang.

    In affixation, the infixes -izz- and -izzle- are conspicuous, particularly in hip-hop usage, although no longer in vogue. In phraseology, numerous phrasal verbs are formed in a creative way, either with totally new meanings or in unique combinations of verbs and particles; longer phrases and formulaic expressions, often proverbial in character, are also popular and typically reflect the African American experience.

    While numerous expressions are the result of combining, equally common is the short form and the shortening of already existing expressions. Monosyllabic words figure prominently in African American slang. Blending, a marginal wordbuilding process, appears to be surprisingly more common than one might expect. Conversion, especially verbification, is as pervasive as it is in standard English. Surprisingly, this also pertains to expressions borrowed from African languages or loan translations from these languages, all of which are relatively rare.

    Likewise, eponyms are also infrequent, except compounds based on first names which enjoy some popularity. Brand names constitute a marginal part of African American slang. Summary 65 Just as in standard English and general slang, creating entirely new words is not popular in African American slang. Coinage and onomatopoeia are seldom found.

    Respelling, on the other hand, is very frequent; the respelled forms reflect the standard AAVE pronunciation but are also used consciously for a number of sociological reasons stemming from the African American experience. Cryptic devices are virtually non-existent except for a variety of initialisms and clippings which have a more or less overt cryptic character.

    The lexicon of any language can be enriched by altering the form of existing words, borrowing foreign words, or inventing entirely new words. However, the lexical enrichment may also by done through a change in the meaning of existing words. Semantic change is a natural and well-established vehicle for language development. It principally involves two main processes: figuration, which makes use of metaphor, metonymy and related figurative means, and semantic shifting, which includes generalization, specialization, melioration and degradation.

    Although figuration is traditionally associated with poetic diction and shifting is commonly viewed in the context of historical change, both are productive in everyday speech and are as much a part of language as any other linguistic mechanism.


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    • In African American slang, figuration and semantic shifting are also important mechanisms. In fact, changes in meaning are at least as important as changes in form. First of all, these semantic processes are enormously productive and account for numerous slang expressions based on standard English. It entails a word gaining further, non-literal meanings, specifically through metaphor and metonymy.

      The English lexicon abounds in meanings created in this way; examples include: nature spoke, living death and crown of England. Although such figures of speech have long featured prominently in poetry, they are also used frequently in everyday language. In fact, as claimed and illustrated by Lakoff and Johnson ix , figuration is central to thought, cognition and ordinary, non-literary language. As mentioned previously, the form of slang rarely differs from that of standard English, so figurative meaning is essential.

      Literature scholars might take this to be surprising, but slang borders on poetry. Lighter in Algeo neatly compares the two: very much like poetry, slang is highly connotative and defamiliarizes the mundane world, and it implies that ordinary language is not quite adequate for certain tasks. Figuration is also a significant semantic process in African American slang, interestingly employing many of the same figurative devices found in poetic language: metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, allusion, hyperbole, meiosis, simile, personification and reification.

      Let us discuss them in detail. It can be generally understood as the application of a word or phrase to someone or something where it is not meant literally, but is rather used to make a comparison. In this way, it brings likeness or analogy between things that are fundamentally different. Metaphor is by no means exclusive to poetry and is used extensively in African American slang as well. In metonymy, an attribute of something is used to represent the thing itself. Accordingly, African American slang makes extensive use of metonymy as well.

      African American slang abounds in words which have acquired new meanings in this way. Nigga, did you hear me? It is a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole or, less commonly, vice versa. Synecdoche, too, is often encountered in African American slang. Again, the reasons are similar to those for metonymy, presented earlier. Forrest Gump, film, Allusion can be considered a form of metaphor.

      Many metaphors intensify their meaning by cultural allusions or via reference to an historical or literary event, person or place; quite often, allusion is based on popular culture and leisure activities such as sports, movies, television and popular music. They may be fully comprehensible only if one has the specific knowledge of the referents in question.

      This is because slang often relies on shared knowledge that can serve as a sign of belonging to a limited circle of people, exluding outsiders who do not have the specific knowledge in question. In fact, allusion is sometimes so specific that it makes slang incomprehensible for those not familiar with African American culture and history. In the English language, everyday idioms are often hyperbolic, for instance die of shame, million times, tons of money or waiting for ages.

      Hyperbole is normally used for emphasis, though overuse reduces its impact. Moreover, hyperbole as a way of exaggerating is especially typical of male talk, as observed by Flexner in Chapman xxv. Hyperbole is productive in African American slang possibly because of the sarcastic humor typically associated with it.

      The following citational findings reflect this: 3. She's a ho! Meiosis is also used is African American slang, again likely for its sarcastic humor. You interested? Men in Black II, film, Simile is yet another figure of speech used in figuration. It entails a somewhat fanciful or unrealistic comparison between one thing and another, employing 72 Meanings the words like or as. There are numerous expressions in English based on simile, for instance, as black as coal, as busy as a bee, as strong as an ox, eat like a pig or sleep like a log.

      Simile is also found in African American slang where it is normally used to strengthen or emphasize a given quality. African American slang also employs personification, with much the same effect as standard English. Very sensitive. It may be referred to as reification or objectification , and again is regarded as part of metaphor. This process is also common in African American slang. Consider the following examples: She's built like a brick. Peifect ten, man! Stone, film, I love Serena.

      This is a very common process and accounts for numerous African American slang expressions see below. In African American slang, too, there are several recurrent semantic patterns which are used in the production of new meanings. Food is one of the most popular images in African American slang. This is most likely because, besides water and oxygen, food is the most elementary substance needed for human existence; it can appeal to taste, smell, sight and touch. Examples of this theme abound.

      Again, this may be because the human body is one of the first things we learn about ourselves, and serves as the most basic reference system. This theme often involves words considered taboo, many of them with secondary meanings related to sex. Below is a selection of them along with citational corroboration.

      In African American slang, most expressions built around this theme refer to matters of race and skin color, which is not surprising given the aggregate experience of African Americans after over three hundred years of living in America. Expressions based on this theme typically involve an attribution of an animal nature or characteristic to a person or an object. Dreamgirls, film, Figuration based on numbers is another frequent pattern. Associating numbers with words or concepts has a long tradition, seen in numerology or the Hebrew 76 Meanings system of gematria.

      In African American slang this association is context- determined and its understanding requires the knowledge of concrete concepts to which numbers relate. As noticed by Dalzell metaphors based on the family serve the purpose of constructing a new, positive self-identity. This is largely the case, although there are also negative, ironic expressions related to this theme which refer to the subservience of African Americans. It involves such semantic processes as generalization, specialization, melioration and pejoration, all of which can affect both denotative and connotative meaning.

      Shifting is usually observed through the passage of time. In standard language, it is evident in shifts from older meanings into new ones, often important to consider in an historical context. By way of analogy, shifts in meaning of slang expressions can be compared to shifts in standard language throughout history. In standard English, many words have acquired their current meaning through this process. The meaning is widened with regard to standard words that become slang in this way, but also with regard to words that are already slang and have acquired additional meanings.

      Facebook, 3. It entails semantic change in which the denotative meaning of a word becomes narrowed, less general or less inclusive over time. Again, many current meanings in English lexicon have come about as a result of this process. Again, the meaning is narrowed with regard to standard words that become slang in this way, but also with regard to words that were already slang to begin with. This is because much of slang is negative and involves taboo references to sexual acts, body parts and bodily functions.

      However, through increased use, these expressions lose their shock value and become more positive. For instance, the world of African American music was responsible for popularizing the meliorated meanings of jam, jazz and juke, all of which originally had sexual references. Here are more examples of slang expressions with ameliorated meanings: Oh my God! You re the man! It is arguably among the most offensive racist slurs in the English language.

      However, when used by African Americans in reference to themselves, it often loses its negative meaning. Alice Walker, 3. Because of the generally negative tone of slang, pejoration is considered less evident than melioration Eble Our findings support this. Antiphrasis, as it is technically called, is the use of an expression to mean the opposite of its usual sense, for instance saying that's wonderful when one really thinks something is terrible. Smiling, talking to the audience and his opponents Ebony, Summary As demonstrated above, African American slang is also created by attaching new meanings to already existing standard English words.

      This is done by the 82 Meanings process of figuration which often involves various changes in meaning called semantic shifts. In that respect, African American slang is not different in any way from the standard English lexicon, where figuration and shifting are used extensively to form new meanings. Moreover, these two processes often feature in poetry, and their pervasive use in African American slang attests to great linguistic creativity and experimentation.

      Figuration in African American slang is extensive and involves metaphor, metonymy and several other processes; notable is the use of allusion specific to the African American culture and experience. Figuration themes are generally consistent with those used in general American slang and involve food, body parts, animals and a few others; however, certain themes, such as colors, are much more prominent.

      Semantic shifting is extensive as well. It involves all four processes: generalization, specialization, melioration and pejoration. All of them occur in standard English and are connected with historical change in the language; in slang, however, they happen quicker and are therefore more conspicuous.

      Most notable is the ameliorated meaning of the racial slur nigger , although this usage remains the exclusive bailiwick of African Americans, and remains offensive when used by outsiders. The lexicon of any language can be divided into certain thematic categories, technically labeled semantic or lexical fields. For instance, a semantic field for cars may include sedans , station wagons, convertibles or sport utility vehicles, while one for emotions may contain anger, envy, fear, joy, sorrow and so forth.

      Although devising a complete list of semantic fields is impossible, such categorization proves very useful. In this way, it offers valuable insight into what a given language community considers socially and culturally important. African American slang can also be categorized in this way. Some scholars even claim that it can substitute for standard English in nearly all ways. Of course, not all standard words have slang counterparts - for instance, scientific, technological or religious vocabulary.

      However, there are certain semantic fields in African American slang which are exceptionally prolific. These can be divided into two main categories: common themes which are shared with general slang, and culture-specific themes which are inherent to the African American experience. As evidenced by earlier studies Spears and Widawski , most of the slang lexicon has centered traditionally around the following themes: human body, physiology, sexuality, alcohol, drugs and evaluative categorization - all being socially taboo in mainstream American culture.

      Moreover, the great synonymity and profusion of expressions within these themes suggest that standard vocabulary is often an inadequate form of expression. African American slang is no exception. The common themes are exactly the same as those employed in general American slang and include all of the aforementioned themes.

      At the same time, their popularity is attributed to the very same reasons given above. From this perspective, a sizeable part of African American slang is no different from the aggregate of slang used in America. Naturally, there are also culture-specific themes which are pertinent chiefly to the African American experience; these, however, will be discussed later. On the other hand, social standards of propriety impose a different perception of this physical aspect. While the common attitudes about body parts - especially sexual organs or physical distinctiveness - have become more tolerant in recent decades, this theme still constitutes a cultural and social taboo.

      Slang overcomes the taboo by accepting these socially unsanctioned expressions. This necessarily limited but highly productive theme is also one of the largest themes in African American slang. It includes expressions for the body in general, body sizes and shapes, attractive and unattractive physiques, specific parts of the body, and many others.

      I'm filthy rich Chinese and I want to spend all my money! Malcolm X, film, 4. Bad Boys, film, 4. This is understandable since the theme is almost entirely made up of references to what constitutes a cultural and social taboo in American culture. Again, slang overcomes the taboo by accepting these socially unsanctioned references. This fertile theme includes expressions for types of physiological processes, conditions and products.

      Surprisingly, in African American slang this theme is somewhat underrepresented. HF Boards, 4. This is because sex is the most primal and desirable human activity. While the norms of social acceptance for sexuality have changed over the past few decades, sex still evokes strong emotions and still constitutes a taboo. The irreverent character of slang allows it to overcome taboo. Additionally, as observed by Spears : ix , the abundance of sexual slang expressions is attributed to the teasing nature of sexual wordplay.

      I in so proud of you! The extensive synonymity and broad scope of this theme can be attributed to the reasons mentioned above. Being intoxicated is socially taboo and may be punishable under the law, yet it is something normal, natural and inherently human. This theme is also a noticeable part of the lexicon of African American slang, although it is not as extensive as in general slang. The theme includes various expressions for 4. Gimmie an ice-cold Corona!

      For these reasons, it too is fertile ground for slang. This huge theme is also prominent in African American slang. It includes various expressions for drugs in general, drug users and dealers, the effects of drug use, types of drugs, and their quality, quantity and packaging. Overlexicalization is said to be conditioned by an endless search for originality or a constant need for secrecy, but it is also frequent in the speech of social groups which do not associate themselves with the dominant mainstream society.

      However, it is frequently polarized into either very positive or very negative meanings. As evidenced by findings from our database, positive and negative expressions seem to be of equal proportion, just as our likes and dislikes. Positive categorization is very popular in African American slang. This is probably because it is strongly linked with human nature and the desire to express positive emotions such as joy or pleasure. Notice that some expressions have undergone the process of melioration discussed in the previous chapter , and 4. Daily News of Los Angeles, Mona, can 1 buy you a drink?

      Again, possibly because it is strongly linked with human nature and human emotions. While it is human to verbally express joy and pleasure, expressions of anger and contempt are similarly frequent. This vast theme involves expressions for all types of negative categorization of people, things, states and actions. Put differently, these are the themes which reflect reality as experienced and seen from an African American perspective.

      Our analysis shows that such specific themes include expressions connected with African Americans, Africana, racism, whites, violence, entertainment, luxury and geography. This is, understandably, a vast field, including expressions for various groups of African Americans, their cultural norms, and their lives. Soul Source, 4. Despite long-lasting efforts to enhance racial integration and impressive achievements in the movement for racial equality, racial discrimination against African Americans has not been completely eliminated from American life.

      Although commonly criticized and officially penalized, racism has not gone. This fact is strongly reflected in slang, which tends to provide a verbal mirror of prevailing social conditions. It is not surprising that the majority of expressions involving whites are clearly negative, with varying degrees of contempt or derision.

      As observed by Kowalczyk 91 , the abundance of these terms suggests strong emotional attitudes of African Americans, reflecting their historically conditioned mistrust toward white people and disappointment with the insufficient anti-discriminative measures. This is expressed in the imagery and deeply rooted in times of inequality, often equating whites with animals or the devil, thereby denying whites their humanity. Coach Carter, film, 4. Here we consider it from the African American perspective, and the associated socioeconomic disadvantages historically suffered by African Americans: finding legitimate upward mobility blocked, some turned to crime and started using language producing an image of toughness, severity and aggression.

      But the prominence of this theme in slang has also been caused by the attention given to it by the media: the entertainment value of crime has brought a growing influx of criminal slang into literature, film, radio and television. This vast theme includes expressions for various kinds and stages of crimes, the paraphernalia used to commit them, and the types of criminals and their victims.

      Moreover, there are numerous expressions relating to physical violence, destruction and killing. In African American slang, this is manifested in numerous expressions belonging to this theme, but is also evident in its continued influence on the lexicon of general American slang. As neatly summarized by Holloway , this influence started over a century ago with jazz and blues, then shifted to rhythm and blues, and for the past few decades has been seen in hip-hop and rap. The last phenomenon is of special importance to slang because of its heavy reliance on lyrics.

      It also fostered awareness of socioeconomic injustice. Importantly, hip-hop is not just music: its influence is seen in other cultural contributions such as dancing and visual art in the form of graffiti. This vast theme includes various expressions for music, musicians, fans, musical instruments, and ways of playing and singing. This theme is surprising when considered against the background of general American slang. And wouldn't mind a little bit of ass tonight TQ, 4. As evidenced by Widawski and Kowalczyk , geographical expressions especially toponyms constitute an important part of slang.

      These expressions are also very popular in African American slang where they function in a unique way, reflecting a purely African American perspective. This theme includes expressions for various geographical regions, cities and districts. Never mind Atlanta. They include: body, physiology, sexuality, alcohol, drugs and categorization. There are, however, a few surprises: the physiology theme is surprisingly small when compared to general American slang, as is the alcohol theme. The sexuality and drugs themes, on the other hand, are enormously productive, as is negative or positive categorization.

      Especially frequent are expressions involving matters of racism and discrimination, which is not astonishing given the history of treatment of African Americans in the United States and the aggregate of their experience. The other sizeable themes, violence and crime, reflect the generally low socioeconomic condition of African Americans resulting from discrimination. On the other hand, the proliferation of expressions involving entertainment and music may point to a generally joyful and hedonistic nature. A good notion of what slang is can be derived from answering why it is used.

      Analyzing slang in context, one can say that the aim of using this type of vocabulary is seldom the mere exchange of information. Besides the mere referential function, it serves other purposes. As evidenced in earlier works Lighter and Widawski , slang is used in place of standard expressions to convey some extra information of a social, psychological or rhetorical nature.

      Such use of slang seems to be universal and can be applicable to nearly any language. African American slang is used for similar reasons. This chapter analyzes numerous motives for using slang and is grouped according to the three main functions mentioned above. This important function will also be discussed in this chapter. The importance of this relation is clearly visible in slang. The social functions of slang include group identification, opposition to authority, phatic function and secrecy.

      Let us analyze each of these separately. Slang serves to distinguish specific groups within society and to identify members of these groups. The group-identification function is similar to evaluative categorization, 99 Functions and these often accompany each other. African American slang in this function is even more pronounced, possibly because of the heightened awareness of African Americans as a distinct ethnic group.

      Slang used in this function provides labels for subgroups distinct from the dominant culture, and sometimes for which there is no standard English expression. I'll fuck you up! This allegiance accounts for the dissemination of certain speech patterns, one of which is slang. Slang is used to show others and to remind ourselves of our background; to show our group interests, memberships, and patriotisms.

      Fat Boy Slim, Perhaps the most conspicuous instance of slang employed in this function is the meliorated use of racial expressions such as nigger or niggct. When used by African Americans in reference to themselves, these extremely offensive slurs often lose their negative connotations and become verbal markers of group solidarity or identification.

      In this way, African Americans make null and void racial slurs of white bigots, as Major xxxi observed. To paraphrase Adams 6 : while slang is used to fit in, it is also used to stand out. Analyzing slang in context suggests that it is often used to oppose the established authority or to distance oneself from it.

      Quite naturally, the prime users of slang in this function are criminals or people who live on the edges of society such as prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts and dealers, and who oppose the legal system and the existing order. Criminal slang reflects their scorn for regular life and law-abiding citizens as well as their disdain for authority. African American slang is no different here from the general slang used in America, and there are many instances of it used in this function.

      Jay-Z, 5. Slang in this function is used by people who have been forced to live unorthodox lifestyles in impoverished, crime-ridden and dangerous environments, all of which are birthing grounds for slang. It also shows disdain toward fellow African Americans who assumed the behavior of the dominant white society. Finally, it shows cravings for the luxuries of life which are absent in the ghetto.

      As has been signaled before, conveying information is not the main purpose of slang. More often, it is used to facilitate social interaction: it occurs in conversation for the purpose of establishing a mood and maintaining or ending social contact rather than for the mere exchange of information. There is a vast repertoire of expressions used in English for this purpose, for instance: eh, hello, huh, I guess, I mean, right, see you later, well, you know and you see.

      As demonstrated by Biber , these expressions are enormously frequent in any conversation. Much the same is true for African American slang. When used in this function, it occurs at the margins of conversation; it also incorporates formulaic and ritualistic terms of address, ice-breakers, feedback signals, or subject changers. Here is a selection of relevant citational examples: Hmm.

      You said his name was Slick? Heat, film. What up cuz! What up wankstas! Waiting , film, 5. Some linguists such as Chapman xii-xiv claim that slang is quintessentially a means of concealing secrets and its use is motivated by a desire to remain secret. Slang is used by such groups as criminals or teenagers who often find a shared 5. This is also true in the context of African American slang.

      Smitherman a: 26 calls secrecy a kind of a veiled code which has served the purpose of internal secret communication outside the dominant white majority. Since the days of slavery, this secrecy has served as a form of cultural self-defense against exploitation and oppression. Today secrecy still serves this purpose, although extensive lexical borrowing from African American slang into general slang has changed this as such expressions quickly catch on and enter general slang. Luckily, new expressions are coined to replace the over-used or crossed-over ones.

      Instead I got stuck in this shitty dorm! The choice of a particular expression is often motivated by Functions psychological processes in our minds. Some linguists like Chapman xii-xiii regard psychology as the most important function of slang: while general vocabulary reveals little about the speakers or their emotional attitudes toward the subject matter or audience, slang does so amply.

      Because our own slang lexicon contains many expressions used by choice, it can be one of the most revealing things about a person. This is also true about African American slang. Its psychological functions include the expression of emotions, humor and toughness, as analyzed below.

      Analyzing slang in context shows that it is especially proficient in providing verbal expressions for numerous emotional states and reactions; in this respect, it usually assumes the form of exclamations. Additionally, slang provides a means for the emotive categorization of people, things, states and actions; in this respect, it usually assumes the form of epithets. All of this applies to African American slang as well. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Do the math, motherfucker!

      This shit is hot! Public Enemy, Look at her. Most of her time spent in the office is on her knees, and the rest? Richmond Times, Shame on you Mr. The jocular element, evident in the obvious pleasure of wordplay, often serves the purpose of escaping the banality of standard expressions and suggests a departure from the established routines of everyday life. When it is used in this function, our life seems a happier place. The same can be said about African American slang which can instantly reduce the solemnity, haughtiness or excessive seriousness of a conversation.

      Taboo subjects like sex, body parts or bodily functions are prime examples. In slang, it finds an ideal verbal outlet. Numerous African American slang expressions are used in this way, often with varying degrees of derision or contempt. Modern society is getting more competitive and impersonal, and being strong, independent and disillusioned is regarded as a virtue.