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Chapter 4

ANT253H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: African American Vernacular English, Denotation, Dennis Amiss

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marcel danesi

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Chapter 4: Variations in Social Space
Purpose of chapter looking at various aspects of sociolectal variation in F2F and CMC spaces.
Dealing with sociolinguistic phenomena such as slang, jargon, cants, registers, styles, and
language codes.
The variant forms of speech are called social dialects, extending the traditional geographical
notion of dialect to encompass variation in the social domain. They are now also commonly called
4.1 Sociolects
Speech community a group of people sharing a common language or dialect.
o To be considered part of speech community, an individual needs to have communicative
competence, that is, the ability to use language (or dialect) in a way that fits the situation.
Speech communities are based on specific forms of language, indicating that people use
language to convey their connection to distinct groups, from professional organizations, who speak
what is called a jargon, to groups such as school cliques, families, and gangs, which often speak slang.
People use slang more often in speaking than in writing, and more often with friends than
Slang bespeaks of friendliness and commonality; jargon does not.
Slang expressions become colloquialisms, that is, expressions used in everyday conversation
that are not considered appropriate for formal speech or writing.
Jargon and slang are variants of a language that are produced by social variation, not variation
geographical variation.
4.1.1 Slang
“lag is a esio of laguage that stallizes i etai peiods of a soiet’s histo, tpiall
arising within certain groups or communities for reasons of group solidarity or allegiance.
There is general and group-based slang
o Features of the former usually emerge in special situations
o The latter are for showing allegiance to a group.
Cants and argots are also group-based slangs, showing allegiance to the criminal group, at the
same time that they allow messages to be secretive and undecipherable by the authorities.
We hardly realize that colloquialisms such as jock, loony or chill out have become so much a part
of our everyday lexicon that we no longer realize that they originated from slang.
Tag questions a uestio that eds ith a tagged o phase that is desiged to seek
approval, agreement or consent.
Hedge a word or phrase that makes utterances less forceful.
o It’s kida good to sa this.
o “he sot of said that.
Filler a sound or word that indicates to other interlocutors that the speaker has not finished
speaking, but has simply paused to gather his or her thought. Common fillers are:
o Like/you know/well/so
Quotative a word or expression that introduces a quotation
o He’s like: I did’t sa that./ Ad she’s like: Oh es, ou did.
Slang that is diffused through the media has social appeal and is often used as a symbol of social
Slang is often transgressive of norms and stadad laguage distitios. A od suh as gus
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is now used by both males and females to refer to their gender peers equally, going contrary to its
Slang is also a trace to how people modify speech in accordance with social changes.
o The od dude it is o used i geetigs, elaatios ad so o. Histoiall, dude,
eat old ags – a dudesa as a saeo. “afe to sa that the eaig has tasitioed oe
the years.
o I the 5th etu, the od ool eat appoal, suggesting calm and refrain. But its
modern meaning comes from jazz slang.
Some terms that were born as slang evolving over time as colloquialism
o Geek referring to a person with an odd personality. In Victorian times, it meant a fool or dupe.
o Gross meaning disgusting. In the 15th century, it referred to large people who stand out and
were thus perceived to be disgusting
o Icon as in pop icon. The term is of religious origin and used for the first time in pop culture to
describe the American pop singer Madonna.
o Nerd stated as a isult  tees i the ’s agaist the ufashioale.
Io a also e a uosious pat of slag. Ua slag ites suh as epi o fl gil ae
really ironic jokes, satirical sketches that allow speaker to poke fun at specific aspects of everyday life.
The spread of slang, or more accurately colloquialisms derived from slang, is no doubt due to
the media culture in which we live.
Criminal slang, known as argot or cant, rarely spreads to society at large, given its in-group
coded functions. Such slang emerges in groups to whom secrecy is of utmost importance.
The use of so-alled thiees at as patiulal popula i the siteeth etu he the
leading Elizabethan playwrights and pamphleteers of the day.
Crypolect a type of slang that, like cryptographic writing in general, aims to disguise
o Knowing the cant of gang members can allow investigators to effectively understand and
communicate with them.
Indexicality terms that refer implicitly to specific referents or contexts, a slang item in group-
based situations is an index of identity vis-à-vis the group. It allows the speaker to allude to desired
qualities within the groups.
o Indexicality permeates all slang.
4.1.2 Jargon
Jargon form of slang, even though it is not always recognized as such. It has all the social
features of slang it is part of in-group behavior, it signals group membership, and it has a highly
specialized vocabulary.
o Slang is L sociolect while jargon is an H sociolect.
o Jargon is part of specialized speech generally of professionals or those with a high-class status.
Denotation this is the referential meaning of a word; that is, when used by itself, it points out
a referent that can be separated from any other use
o The od at he used i this a eas ad ol eas aals ith fou legs, log tail,
hiskes, ad etatile las.
Connotation this is one of the senses that a word takes on in social context. The connotative
eaig aifests itself he the od is used i phases o setees: He’s a ool at a attatie
peso; You let the at out of the ag seet; ad so o.
Connotations vary while denotations do not.
Jargon is denotative, when used among the members of the group it is precise and invariable
as to what it designates.
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