Smanova B.I., et al.: Slang and its analogues in modern English

Smanova B.I., Turaeva A.T., Smanova G.I.

 Slang and its analogues in modern English

Smanova B.I.
candidate of philological sciences, associate professor
Turaeva A.T. candidate of philological sciences, associate professor
Smanova G.I. candidate of pedagogical sciences, deputy associate professor
South Kazakhstan State Pedagogical Institute
Baytursynov str. 13, 160012 Shymkent, Kazakhstan


Studies of slang have rather recently become popular among linguists; that is why one cannot find one specific definition of slang that will explain the nature of this phenomenon. The definitions of slang that are used nowadays can be called contradictory. However, there are several peculiarities of slang that all linguists agree upon. The researchers selected over 5000 lexical items, taken from online dictionaries of Internet slang and analyzed them depending on their morphological characteristics.

Keywords: slang, colloquial language, jargon, argot, Internet slang

Slang is a phenomenon that has always existed in the language but it has been ignored by linguists for a very long time. Over the past few years, however, their interest towards this particular layer of vocabulary has risen. Such Russian and Ukrainian linguists as V.A. Khomiakov, I. Arnold, G. Antrushina, R. Ginzburg, I. Galperin and many others have studied this phenomenon. In the English-speaking countries slang has been studied mainly by lexicographers, although some linguists such as B.K. Dumas, J. Lighter, C. Eble, E. Mattielo, E. Partridge, P. Kegan and many others have started to study slang. One important peculiarity of slang is that it is a constantly changing open system. Thus, any attempt to describe slang, especially Internet slang, from the linguistic point of view is going to be current and up-to-date. The aim of our research is to study Internet slang from the point of view of its morphological characteristics. Our research deals with the study of the morphological structure of the words that belong to Internet slang. First of all, we have studied the phenomenon of slang and tried to figure out the definition of this phenomenon. As it turned out, studies of slang have rather recently become popular among linguists; that is why one cannot find one specific definition of slang that will explain the nature of this phenomenon. Actually, those definitions of slang that are used nowadays can be called contradictory. However, there are several peculiarities of slang that all linguists agree upon. First of all, slang is used by a restricted group of people, these can be either young people, teenagers, or people who belong to certain profession. Secondly, slang words usually have either amusing or pejorative qualities. Thirdly, they usually have short life, while some of slang words enter the literary language, the others simply disappear. V.A. Khomiakov defined slang as a stable for a certain period, widely used and stylistically marked lexical layer, common to colloquial language and existing as a part of a literary language [6, p. 43-44]. Some other definitions of slang identify it as a colloquial variant of language peculiar to certain professional or social groups and underline that when slang words get into the literary language or are used by people outside those professional or social groups they receive special emotional connotation [2, p. 419]. In some cases slang is considered to be the same as jargon [3, p. 161]. Such variety of attitudes towards the notion of slang resulted in the fact that I.R. Galperin suggested that slang cannot be called a separate linguistic category and the word ‘slang’ can only be used as a synonym to ‘jargon’ [4, p. 107-114]. We can see the similar picture in the English linguistics [8, p. 3].

In Webster’s “Third New International Dictionary” we can find the following definition of this term:
“1. Language peculiar to a particular group as:
a) the special and often secret vocabulary used by a class (as thieves, beggars) and usually felt to be vulgar or inferior: argot;
b) the jargon used by or associated with a particular trade, profession, or field of activity.
2. A non-standard vocabulary composed of words and senses characterized primary by connotations of extreme informality and usually a currency not limited to a particular region and composed typically of coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms, extravagant, forced or facetious figures of speech, or verbal novelties usually experiencing quick popularity and relatively rapid decline into disuse” [9].

Slang is defined by the “Oxford English Dictionary” as:
“a) the special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type;
b) the cant or jargon of a certain class or period;
c) language of a highly colloquial type considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense” [7].

Slang words are created according to the common morphological principles of the English language. Thus, we have identified the main means of word-building that exist in the language. These are derivation, compounding, shortening (abbreviation, clipping), back-formation, conversion, blending, sound imitation. And finally, we have analyzed over 5000 of lexical items that we have selected from an online dictionary of Internet slang. We have been able to identify the most productive ways of word-formation used to coin Internet slang words: shortening and abbreviation, compounding, derivation, and blending. Morphemes and words that are created with their help are considered to be the objects of morphology [5, p.13-14]. Other linguists limit morphology to the study of morphemes solely, calling them “the basic building blocks of meaning in language” or “the smallest units of form that bear meaning or have a grammatical function” [1, p. 77].

As a branch of linguistics, morphology deals with the structure of the words and how their parts related to each other, as well as how words are related to other words and how the structure of a word is dependent on other branches of linguistics, such as grammar, phonology, syntax or semantics. For example, blends are words created by combining first element of one word with the final element of the second word. Sometimes a blend includes elements which are common for both of the words [1, p. 141].

Depending on the kind of word-building linguists identify several kinds of blends. First of all, these are additives, when two independent stems are combined, e.g. French+English=Frenglish, Niagara+Falls=Niffles, breakfast+lunch=brunch, smoke+fog=smog. Shortening and abbreviation is the most productive way of word-building in English. The large group of lexical items created this way was coined in order to save time during online chatting; these are whole phrases and sentences. And, of course, there are abbreviations of special Internet terms. Compounding is also used to create a great deal of lexical items. We have been able to identify several words that are very common in compounds that belong to Internet slang, these are dot, geek, net, spam and web.

When we were analyzing words from the point of view of derivation, we were able to identify several prefixes and suffixes that are the most productive in creating Internet slang words. The prefixes are cyber-, de-, en-, giga-, hyper-, inter-, meta-, micro-, multi-, pre-, un-, techno-. We have identified only two suffixes that are the most productive in creation of Internet slang words: -ize and -ware. We also offer a number of exercises aimed at developing students’ awareness of Internet slang words and explaining some of the morphological processes that are commonly used to create new words in the English language in general. And finally, the third means of word-building is blending. We were able to find all the types of blends in Internet slang, i.e. additives, restrictives, and telescoping blends. Overall, we can say that from the point of view of morphology Internet slang has some peculiarities that make it stand out from other lexical items of the English language.


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