The experts weigh in on the American penchant for
creating new words, expressions and distinctive ways of speaking. Have
we become too informal? Are we lowering our standards? Can we control
language change? The answers may surprise you.
Language & Society
- The Truth About Change
Language sows its own seeds of change; social context gives it the
fertile ground to grow and spread. Walt Wolfram explains that the
language changes differently than we may think.
- Language & Society
Are we less literate than we used to be? Is E-mail ruining the
language? In America - as anywhere - language is shaped by contact,
conflict and incredible cultural complexity. Dennis Baron explains how.
- Americans are Ruining English
For more than 200 years people have complained that Americans trash the
English language. But is it corruption - or simply normal change? John
Algeo investigates how both American and British English have evolved.
Slang, Lexical Items & Non-Regional Dialect
- Campus Talk
Over the past two centuries, American college students have hit the
books and spoken slang with equal vigor. Connie Eble examines campus
trends in this colorful casual language, uttered by everyone from chums
to dweebs in words both out of sight and sweet.
- The Power of Slang
Slang tends to be a bit wittier and cleverer than Standard American
English, according to Tom Dalzell. Slang is everywhere, he says - and
youth slang, in particular, exerts enormous power.
- Slayer Slang
Television heroine Buffy, the Vampire Slayer was an unlikely source of
language change. Michael Adams tells how this unconventional teen
challenged linguistic taboos and introduced new slang words and phrases
in nearly every show.
- Born in the USA
Slang lets young people worldwide share a common culture. Jannis
Androutsopoulos explains how American slang has become a global code,
using colorful examples from the German music scene.
- Like, Quote Me
"Like" as a quotative - a way of indicating speech-has spread like a
global brushfire, cutting across ethnic and social lines. John Singler
explores the origins and use of "like" to introduce everything from
verbatim speech to inner monologue or, like, just a sense of things.
PBS NewsHour Correspondent Ray Suarez speaks with author Ilan Stavans
about his new book, Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, a
look at the new lexicon created by Latinos and Latinas who live in the
Lilly Gonzalez tells how her hybrid language of English and Spanish
draws pity and criticism but also helps her find best amigas. It's her
mother tongue: She grew up on the Texas-Mexico border so it sounds like
home to her.
Immigrant groups from every part of the world have routinely brought
their languages to the United States, except one: African Americans.
John Baugh explains why and shows how the term Ebonics came into being.
- Hip Hop Nation
Sociolinguists are intensely interested in the language of Hip Hop
Nation, a highly fluid, creative and constantly changing dialect. H.
Samy Alim explains how devotees "slice the system with the syntax."
Companion article: Street Conscious Copula Variation in The Hip Hop
Nation, by H. Samy Alim.
- Wired Words
Impersonal computer screens invite no-holds-barred communication that
is, paradoxically, very personal. Constance Hale discusses the impact
of the Internet and other new technologies on American English.
- World Wide Web of Words
The Internet is a petri dish for culturing and spreading language.
Paul McFedries explore how technology and language
interact in an increasingly wired world.
Back to Top
- The O.E.D.
The esteemed Oxford English Dictionary has set up an editorial office
in New York City to collect and edit material relating specifically to
North American English. Jesse Sheidlower, principal editor of the North
American Editorial Unit, describes its inner workings.