Youth language

Authored by: Rickard Jonsson , Henning Årman , Tommaso M. Milani

The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138938168
eBook ISBN: 9781315675824
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter addresses research on youth language in linguistic ethnography. It explains the value of researching young people’s language for understanding language variation and language change, focussing specifically on work on urban youth styles in multilingual settings in contexts of migration. The chapter starts by defining the term ‘contemporary urban vernacular’ and arguing for its value in referring to youth language practices. It provides a historical overview of work on youth styles, identifying a shift from a more structuralist approach to the more practice-oriented perspective which has now become the dominant paradigm. It identifies critical issues and debates in the field, including problems associated with the labels used for youth language varieties, and the role of sociolinguistic researchers themselves in enregistering youth styles as indexical of Otherness particularly with relation to ethnicity and gender. Three current research areas are then discussed: the study of language ideology and the enregisterment of contemporary urban vernaculars; research which aims to move beyond bounded conceptualisations of language, developing the concept of everyday languaging; and research which locates youth styles in relation to global flows. Future directions identified include the potential for more work focussing on humour, and developing attention to space and mobilities.

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