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Investigation into the Judgements of Slang

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Language Investigation into the Judgements on Slang Ben Rutter ........................................................................................................................... Introduction Whenever we open our mouths, judgements are made on our social class, intelligence and even personalities. These judgements are based on various speech elements, such as our accent, dialect, vocabulary and use of slang. It is the latter that this study is based on. The particular type of slang I intend to focus on has recently emerged alongside a new speech pattern known as Multi Ethnic Youth Dialect. (MEYD) My aim is to investigate whether there is a correlation between slang use and negative judgements made on the user. Secondly, as slang is frequently compared to Halliday's Anti-Language hypothesis, I intend to see if it can rationally be seen as such. I also wish to investigate whether specific lexical items a slang user deploys will affect the judgements. Much of the slang used takes origins from gang and drug culture and as a result my hypothesis is that if speakers use slang that holds its origins in these backgrounds, people are likely to extend the negative attributes that are assigned to gang members and drug users and thus label the speakers as violent drug users. I also hypothesise that users of slang will be judged more negatively than non-users of slang. ............................................................................................................................. Methodology In my study I will research the slang itself and the opinions people have on slang speakers. I will use recordings of slang speakers which I will analyse, and I shall conduct a survey to collect data on people's opinions. I have gathered four different recordings of youths speaking slang to varying degrees. I am aware that controlling extraneous variables will be difficult but I have attempted to do so by ensuring all speakers use non-standard English (evidenced by their universal use of glottal stops) and that all use either MEYD or Estuary English (EE). Though it would be preferable to have all speakers using MEYD I found that as slang is so deeply entwined with usage of this dialect I was not able to find speakers who used lesser amounts of slang in this dialect. ...read more.


The regular rules of pluralisation have been applied to the irregular plural "men". Though the word "mans" would seem the most logical plural to apply it is grammatically incorrect as "men" is a plural group noun and thus it is highly likely judgements would be made on intelligence and education. The attributive adjective "hot" is used to mean "wanted by police". The term has British origins and was initially used by thieves to describe stolen goods around the time of 1925. Broadening of the term has since occurred and not only objects but also people can be described as hot, this is demonstrated by the use of the adjective in reference to a person. It is not hard to see how the origins of the term may increase people's likelihood to assume criminality in the speaker. The word "cake" serves as a synonym to "hot". It is also notable that through the speaker's use of slang he is unlikely to be viewed as well spoken and this may be judged to be of low intelligence. Alongside this, if we accept the suggestion of MEYD as a type of anti-language the speaker may be deemed as rebellious or associated with criminality. Lexis (Speaker 2/Strong slang) The second speaker does not use as much slang as the first; however it is still necessary to have a familiarity with the vocabulary he uses to gain a full understanding of his speech. He can for this reason be seen as an example of strong slang. He uses the verbal phrase "tripping out" which originates from 1970's slang. The initial term being "Acid Trip" which described a hallucinogenic experience caused by LSD. The verbal phrase originated from this and broadened to mean being under the influence of any type of drug and later to simply mean "acting crazy or funny". Regardless of the effect of broadening many people still take the phrase to mean being under the influence of drugs and thus may associate the speaker with drug use. ...read more.


This is suggested in the strong slang speaker (who used slang derived from drug culture) being judged more likely to take drugs than the very strong slang speaker. ............................................................................................................................. Evaluation In any investigation, an inquiring mind is necessary, and for this reason there are several issues of validity that we must discuss. Our only evidence for suggesting that specific lexical items impact the judgements made is that the strong slang speaker was judged higher than the very strong slang speaker in his likelihood to take drugs. However, the strong slang speaker is not judged particularly higher than the very strong slang speaker thus we cannot completely assert that it is indefinitely due to his specific vocabulary, although we can speculate. Were the suggestion correct, only a small difference would be expected, as judgement on specific lexical items requires participants to have knowledge of slang used and it is unlikely that they all would. The results do not hold infinite validity, and there are undoubtedly extraneous variables however they are consistent, though we cannot completely label the results as coming from the suggested cause: One could potentially put the results down to people judging the two females higher or judging the two northerners lower. But this would still not answer the question as to why participants rated the individual females or northerners in the order they did with such consistently. One alternative explanation is that there was an apparent correlation between the class speakers were judged to be, and the participants perception of these speakers (the lower the speaker's class, the worse they were judged) The class measurement was, however, simply a judgement made of the speakers, not an actual measurement, and so one would have to explain why the speakers were judged to be the class they were, which seems to take us full circle, and back to their usage of slang as an explanation. While the results do not prove the hypothesis, they undoubtedly suggest it. To know the hypothesis' results for sure, further study would be needed. Bibliography, Appendices and Data .......................................................................................................................................... ...read more.

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Response to the question

Overall this is a very good report, there is a good response and a good level of analysis, it just needs a few expansions to make it superb. This is a really good response to the topic of slang and ...

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Response to the question

Overall this is a very good report, there is a good response and a good level of analysis, it just needs a few expansions to make it superb. This is a really good response to the topic of slang and perceptions surrounding it. By talking about anti-language and those connotations as well as looking at the specific perceptions the student shows a well rounded knowledge of the topic. I would perhaps have quoted from a few more studies looking at slang in order to see if the data fitted the trends they'd found as with such a small sample it's tricky to draw conclusions, also it's important to write down who the people filling in the questionnaires and making the judgements are as this can highly influence the findings. I would also discuss further what may have caused the perceptions of people to be negative towards slang and anti-languages as this then shows that the student is looking beyond the results and trying to work out the attitudes behind the results which are the really important things which help us sociolinguistically.

Level of analysis

The analysis is good on the whole. By defining specific slang words and their etymological history the student shows a large understanding of the topic. In the results section it would have been nice to see a table with mean ratings for each characteristic as well as just the graphs as this would give the reader a more in depth view of what is going on. As previously mentioned it would be good to see more analysis of why these attitudes occur and also perhaps to look into how the subjects may know what's going on and thus demand characteristics could skew the results. Also it is always useful to look into how you would further the study, not just by using more participants but things such as looking at how different age groups view slang or how different genders use slang.

Quality of writing

The quality of the writing is very good, the terminology (voiceless dental plosive, glottal stop) is great as it shows a proper knowledge of what is going on phonetically in slang rather than just making assumptions based on stereotypes and observation. This shows linguistic research very well. The tone is kept formal and investigative throughout which is essential both in essays and scientific reports.

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Reviewed by greeneyedgirl 23/02/2012

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