July 6, 2017

Is slang influenced by culture?  


Slang is not only influenced by every particular culture. It is also inseparable from the cultural background. Slang is an opposition to a normative, literary language and refers to numerous subcultures that have been always used specific lexicon. Subcultures are small parts of the large national culture even though they are devalued. Which is more, subcultures influence the formation of a popular culture no less than the standard literary language.

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Today linguists take interest in the processes of slang formation and development. Russian lexicographer Vladimir Yelistratov has written several dictionaries and books about Russian slang. The linguist put down the words he heard from people in the streets. Those words were neither obscene lexicon nor standard Russian language, but if people used it, these words must have been derived from some more general bulk of lexis. In his book Slang and Culture, Yelistratov explains that slang contains loan words as well as national lexis that preserves its cultural and social referents.

The structure of slang is similar to many languages, not only Russian. Every culture has subcultures of certain social or professional background. All these people sooner or later develop a type of language characteristic only to their community.

A part of slang is very mobile. In one of the interviews, prof. Yelistratov admitted that most of the slang he has recorded in the 1990s is no longer in use. The bulk derived from popular culture (movies, music) is still recognizable,  but the language specific to narrower groups vanishes as soon as they break up.

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