COVERSHEET & PLAGIARISM DECLARATION
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COURSE CODE: AXL1301S LECTURER: Alida Chevalier TUTOR: Elizabeth Horn
ESSAY TITLE: South African Languages and Slang ESSAY DUE DATE: 07/09/2018
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Extension granted? Minus late penalty Medical certificate attached? Minus referencing penalty Admin signature Final mark In interpersonal relationships, language can be used to convey information from one person to another, whether it be about one’s personality, social status, or emotions. We adjust our languages to each different group of people we encounter. We do this by adjusting language patterns to our conversational patterns, this can either be a conscious effort to fit in or subconsciously merely integrating with the group we are around at that given time. Slang occurs when we are ‘adjusting’ our speech and is restricted to certain subcultures or subgroups in society. Slang is seen to have a highly informal, unconventional vocabulary that is mainly for general use among younger age groups. Tsotsitaal and Gamtaal are one of the many variants of slang use in language, which are seen as ‘below’ the standard of ‘correct’ formal usages and is socially seen as less acceptable in formal discourse.
Slang originates from diverse groups of people who met at cultural cross roads of the ancient market day, and it flourished in more diverse and occupationally interdependent medieval cities. With the organisation of a diverse society, slang emerges and serves to maintain and change social structures or power relationships among social groups. Society will always have diverse groups, thus, slang is an inevitable cultural product of a plural, complex, dynamic, and highly interdependent modern society. Slang in late 1700s and early 1800s was seen as ‘street language’ and was mainly spoken by the lower class, rural society, and criminals – making it an unorthodox use of vocabulary. Popular speech is surrounded by older forms of folk speech, which is usually slang as it associated with the rural class. Sociologically, it is the urban part of popular speech and historically many people refer to it in the socially diverse urban setting.
Slang is an indefinite class of words and its definition is on a broad spectrum which cannot be enclosed into one pure explanation. Its informality and unconventional expression leads it to be a more causal way of speaking, making conversations playful and light-hearted. Slang can be seen as more of a register of speech, through its diction, as it is almost poetic by its acute expression and use of occasional ingenious metaphors, alliteration and rhymes.
Slang is typically used by small and familiar subcultures such as teenage groups that have common interests and a high degree of shared knowledge. Namely, slang reinforces group membership with a restricted code, connotations and an extensive mutual understanding. It flourishes in groups which conflicts in some way with the dominant culture which emphasises values, attitudes and interest of subculture, and with this, marks a social or linguistic identity. Its exclusive nature leads to a lack of belonging and those who are not part of this close-knit group feel isolated. Thus, slang is used as means for social climbing and indicates that a speaker belongs to a certain subculture and converses with them, which means they obtain a prestigious reputation.
Studies show that in the past, slang was used more by men and it was ‘taboo’ for women to use slang as it was not socially constructed as ‘ladylike’. Even in recent years, the confidence that is associated as a male quality and their hierarchies within their social groups often relates to why they are more likely to use slang, to show dominance, which is not eminent among females. This shows that slang is semi-restricted to male youth subculture, and the connotations attached to these subcultures can cause stressful situations for males as they are forced to use certain slang to fit into these subcultures. However, in the 21st century it is more socially acceptable for women to use slang which shows a postmodernist collapse of an old social categorisation.
Gamtaal is a dialect of Afrikaans spoken in Cape Town, within the district of the Cape Flats. The slang words used in Gamtaal are lexically full ‘content’ words and syntactically versatile as they can act as adjectives, verbs or nouns. Such as smaak (‘to like something or someone’/ ‘to smell’) or perv (‘to fancy sexually’/’the one fancied’). South African English slang is mostly borrowed from Afrikaans and sometimes shifts, but this slang is used to accommodate the needs of its speakers. Words like klap (‘slap’/’smack’), vrot (‘rotten’/’no good’), nooit (’empathetic negative’) are borrowed from Afrikaans to use as a slang in English to usually emphasise or create a more full meaning to a sentence.
Similarly, Tsotsitaal is a constituted deep slang that consists of a common vocabulary of slang term with ‘anti-linguistical’ intentions. The term pertains to semantic fields of gang activities and the interest of urban male youth. Is used through another language, and no particular structure of its own. It borrows words from many different South African Languages such as poonda/pundus (Xhosa impundu) ‘buttocks’, skebenga (Zulu isigebengu ‘bandit’) ‘ruffian’, and pelile (Nguni) ‘finished’. This slang is limited to people of a certain age or gender, showing that it more likely for young males to know most Tsotsitaal slang.
Slang is has high birth and death rate as it is develops quickly and dies out as soon as a certain trend ends. It is largely verbal and localised, and its change is inevitable in any living language as it grows and absorbs change. Slang is rich with diversity and creates a platform for many to express a captivating way of transforming South African English to something that encapsulates heterogeneous and different to express thoughts. Tsotsitaal and Gamtaal are just some of the many dialects speakers use to do this. The youth’s playful use of language and inventing unique words affect language in today’s urban societies. Some might say that this a digression in language, however, it as the possibly to be enhance language and become an all-inclusive discourse through its divergence of the languages.
Allen, I. L, Slang: Sociology, In Rajend. Mesthrie (ed). Concise Encyclopedia of Sociolinguistics, 2001.
De Klerk, Vivian, Brown, Keith, Slang, Sociology. In Keith Brown (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics_. Elsevier, 2006.
Giles, Howardd, Baker, Susan C., Communication Accommodation Theory, In The International Encyclopedia of Communication, W. Donsbach (Ed.) S. C., 2008, doi:10.1002/9781405186407.wbiecc067.
Mesthrie, Rajend Ellen Hurst, Slang registers, code-switching and restructured urban varieties in South Africa, Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 2013.