A Mythunderstanding of Slang

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by gendanken, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    I bet Gen just loves "Clueless Husband's" posts.

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  3. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is not "slang" and is not objectively inferior to other dialects of English, including what might be considered more standard American English.

    The truth is that all languages go though a process of evolution over time, with various dialects forming. Eventually, certain dialects become so markedly different that they wind up being classified as a separate (albeit related) language.

    It's a somewhat modern affectation to view certain dialects as "superior" to others, based in part on the effect of modern uniform eduucational standards. People imagine that the version of English taught in schools is in some sense "official" and that deviations from that official version reflect ignorance. That is not what a modern liguist would say, though. In fact there is no single "official" American English (and even if there were, the logic could be used to suggest that that version is ignorant, since all American English is a perverted offshoot of British English...though which dialect of British English should be considered "pure" is a tough call).

    AAVE has its own consistent grammar and syntax, as you noted. It isn't random, and someone well versed in it could identify constructions as "wrong" under the rules of AAVE in the same way you could using the rules of your preferred dialect. The issue is simply that the rules are different from dialect to dialect.

    One might as well argue that Kansas City Barbecue is ignorant and wrong because it uses beef and generally deviates from the older, venerable Carolina Barbecue.
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  5. Ripley Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps any off-shoot version of an established language such as English or French is accurate or acceptable in its structure but, oh, give me marble and sweeping vaults over asphalt and congestion anytime.
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  7. Light Travelling It's a girl O lord in a flatbed Ford Registered Senior Member

    The difference is in that a national language is recognised as just that, a national language. Sub dialects within a nation are classed as slang.
  8. Light Travelling It's a girl O lord in a flatbed Ford Registered Senior Member

    The correct English is the queen’s English, every Englishman knows that. All other dialects are slang. All other versions of English; American ; Australian etc are less pure because English English was there first, you might not like it but it is an irrevocable fact..

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  9. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    hell, language is ours, we are not language's. I figure we can do whatever the hell we like. Natural consequences tend to be rapid, it works or it doesn't.

    Likely that conversational snippet worked because it was correct in whatever relationship(s) this person was working in. Words were used to convey.

    I wouldn't really call that sentence slang, by the way.

    Slang I love. It is often very creative and uses many of the tropes we admire in Shakespeare or whomever, if we do that is.

    Is language really not ours to be creative with? A sense of play is brought to language, ownership too.

    And gedanken, one of your strengths, it seems to me, is that you do not adhere to normal language usage.

    Hell, you coined a term in the title. You made highfalutin' slang.
  10. Ripley Valued Senior Member

    —of course one doesn't need slang to prove one's creativity. But the option is there to incorporate slang succinctly into one's demeanor if one feels so inclined. Because a delivery of language, the enunciation of it, also affects a chain reaction in our psyche. No?
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No. Laymen usually call it "Black English," but as someone explained already, linguists refer to it as "African-American Vernacular English." It's not slang; it's a dialect. One might argue that it's really a cant, a language variant crafted consciously by a community in order to thwart understanding by outsiders, like Shelta. But unlike Shelta they make no secret of it and we're all welcome to use it, so it doesn't really qualify as a cant.

    Government employees once coined the name Ebonics for AAVE. It is still used in some schools and other government agencies.
    Huh??? You're not speaking for linguists, sociologists, or any community of scholars I can think of. Not to mention, lumping "slang" and "poor language" together manifests either a lack of understanding of some pretty basic concepts of linguistics, or else a flouting of those concepts. You're setting yourself outside the universe of discourse on this board, either deliberately or by lack of knowledge.
    Creole is not primitive language. It's a blend of two or more existing languages, with its own phonetic and grammatical rules. Pidgin is primitive language but I've never heard an American of any ethnicity speak pidgin.
    Who's going to make the obvious joke that only a "lower-class" person would be in a Wal-Mart in the first place in order to hear that?
    Double negatives are quite common in other languages. French is hardly unique. Spanish, Yiddish, Russian...
    The average educational level on SciForums puts us at least one sigma out from "normal," and perhaps two.
    A language is only "inferior" if it doesn't do its job, which is to facilitate communication. If two people speak two different languages, or two variants of the same language, and they have difficulty understanding each other, there is no rule inscribed in stone somewhere that says one is "inferior" to the other. Many elitist scholars would, I'm positive, insist that Latin and Sanskrit are "superior" to Spanish and Hindi, respectively, and point to their canons of "great" literature as evidence. But what good is a language if it doesn't have what you need to to plan a highway trip or complain about your cable TV service?
    An ass is a donkey. The (almost always sterile) hybrid of a male ass and a female horse is a mule. The offspring of the much rarer opposite mating is a hinny.

    Oddly enough, even though it's Standard British English which is a non-rhotic dialect (R after a vowel is silent: fathuh for father, hawn for horn), American English has several words in which an R between a vowel and S has been elided. In addition to ass for arse, we have passel for parcel, bass for barse (a fish), cuss for curse, etc.
    Electronic media and the major surge in migration for work has gone a long way toward leveling American English into one standard dialect, and it is doing the same for AAVE. You'd have to go into a somewhat isolated rural area to hear a distinctly different variant of either one. There's still a difference in accent (which means the variance is only in phonetics) between the American South (the old Confederacy and a few "border states") and the rest of the country in both standard American and AAVE, but it might take a linguist to notice a difference between two major cities outside the South.
    It most certainly is not. We're most familiar with the Indo-European languages, which derive from a common ancestor. The structure of the Semitic languages is somewhat familiar too; this may be a coincidence, or perhaps their proximity has resulted in a Sprachbund. But other languages present a much different view of the universe. Our languages have a subject-verb-object syntax, and we consider it a major difference if it happens to be subject-object-verb. The syntax in Japanese is topic-description. Some of the Native American language families have a world view and a resulting syntax whose description doesn't even quite make sense until you study it.

    Chinese is fairly comfortable for English speakers, yet it has no gender, no number and no tense. That's not important to them. In a case where it happens to be important, you just insert specific nouns and verbs for clarity.
    In the U.S., when we write Creole with a capital C, it means the language of Haiti, although it also might mean the variant of Haitian French spoken in Louisiana. (Not to be confused with Cajun French, which was brought from Canada by the Acadian colonists.)
    No. It's a way of saying that "creole" is a whole category of languages rather than a single language. Haitian Creole, Mauritian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, Seychellois Creole, Belizean Kriol, Liberian Kreyol, etc.
    How often do we get to see a new species learn language? Chimpanzees and gorillas are learning English better and faster, but they can't speak and therefore are using American Sign Language. This doesn't use exactly the same part of the brain as spoken language.

    If we ever have a breakthrough with the cetaceans it will be cause for celebration. So far we've figured out that individual dolphins have names, and each pod has an identifying phrase, sort of like a war cry or a national anthem.
    My family is all adults and we still do that. We've got a couple of family words that I can't translate into English with fewer than about twelve syllables. Many of our slang words are made up, like humongous. Rambunctious is a made-up word, but it's so well established now that no one realizes that. Another 19th-century Western American made-up slang word is "absquatulate," which means "to leave furtively, hoping that no one will notice, but in such an odd manner that if someone did notice they would find it humorous." I kind of wish that one had caught on too.
    I agree. Never stifle creativity. He may grow up to be a writer.
    On the other hand, sometimes slang becomes respectable. "Okay," for example.
    No they're not. Slang and dialect are two different things. Dialects are spoken by two different communities, and over time they often diverge to the point that intercomprehensibility is reduced. Slang is a vocabulary that is only used in informal speech or writing, or for humorous effect, etc. People who use slang all the time are basically always speaking informally. Slang may become jargon if it's only used by certain communities, professions, etc., so that it is not understood by outsiders. And, as I noted earlier, it becomes a cant if the effort not to be understood by outsiders is deliberate.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2010
  12. jpappl Valued Senior Member


    I just have a question.

    WTF was a snob like you doing at Walmart ?
  13. jpappl Valued Senior Member

    LOL. I bet her head explodes. It hurts me and I'm easy.
  14. Light Travelling It's a girl O lord in a flatbed Ford Registered Senior Member

    Not wishing to be a pedant here, but it is actually 'parcel'

    oh and actually in England we say (and write) Bass too, never heard of a barse, although I have since googled it.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Pedants are always welcome on this board! I should have proofread that post one more time. Thanks, I've corrected it.
    "Bars" originally meant "perch." Is the bass an American fish, so you picked up our name? I'm no fisherman.
  16. Light Travelling It's a girl O lord in a flatbed Ford Registered Senior Member

    I'm no fisherman either, this is UK site below. I am really assuming we actually are talking about the same fish.

    If so, thats some American spelling finding its was back over here...
  17. Spud Emperor solanaceous common tater Registered Senior Member

    Common names for fish, wow there's whole weird world of its own.

    I haven't heard of bars but bass is used for different species of fish all over the world as is cod, grouper, bream etc. etc.

    I'm a bastard when I'm being sold misnamed fish " Yes, deep sea bream sir, they're a kind of a deep sea... er bream.." .... " Really, looks more like blue morwong to me. You know Nemadactylus doaglasii??"... "No it's deep sea bream"
    "Sure, I'll take the snapper!"
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    You can't be a snob in the absence of that which you are a snob about.
  19. Kernl Sandrs Registered Senior Member

    I'm tired of hearing slang butchering the English language, too. But what I really hate is when people misuse your/you're and there/their/they're. It pisses me off.
  20. Ripley Valued Senior Member

    A utilitarian's point of view…

    I happen to be living in a bilingual society where the second "official" language is English. The first official language is a total drag for me—it just rubs me the wrong way. I can't connect with it and it certainly doesn't inspire me. Whenever I speak it I sense a strange transformation taking place inside of me, affecting my persuasion. When all the blah blah is being said and done, I'm realizing how my personality, my creativity, my spirit is being deflated and what a ridiculous figure I am cutting. This language, in effect, depreciates me, tearing me apart and then reassembling me into an inferior version of myself.
  21. Ja'far at-Tahir Grand Ayatollah of SciForums Registered Senior Member


    Do you also hate Yiddish like you do Ebonics?
  22. Ja'far at-Tahir Grand Ayatollah of SciForums Registered Senior Member

    This is why I don't use spell check.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The reason we invented the technology of language was to communicate. If a language does not satisfactorily facilitate communication, then it is inferior. Of course poetry and other literature are all forms of communication, if not the most "utilitarian" forms. Therefore a language must also support those uses, but obviously the most utilitarian purpose must be given somewhat more priority. A language that produces lofty poetry but is an impediment to the smooth day-to-day functioning of a community is not going to be held in high esteem.
    Obviously your primary language is not your society’s primary language. Almost all people are more comfortable and communicate better in their own primary language.

    Russians who can write poetry in French, Iranians who can give stirring political speeches in Turkish, and Japanese who can teach classes in English on the nuances of Chinese literature are naturally going to become successful, influential and famous throughout most of the world, but they are still one-percenters. I’ve been studying Spanish for more than 50 years and I’ve spent most of my life in places where I had opportunities to speak it every day; nonetheless it would be a struggle to hold down a menial office job in a Spanish-speaking country, and I certainly would not be making a living as an editor or moderating an internet forum.

    The language you speak shapes your thoughts. Trying to express those thoughts in a different language is like trying to play the guitar left-handed: you’re practically starting out all over again.

    All but a few people in your country with extraordinary language skills no doubt feel "deflated" when they have to speak English, just as Paul McCartney would be “deflated” by trying to play his instrument right-handed.

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