Slang Research Project took place in California State Polytechnic University. The College Slang Research Project centered around the use of slang as a communication means by college students. The project considered the nature of slang, its usage and the effects of its usage.
History of the Research.
One day the director of the project, Judi Sanders, was listening to speeches in her class, where the student was talking about someone bagging [1. to tease; 2. to nag or complain] on her and she couldn't quite certain understand what he was talking about. Then she thought she knew it from the context, but with some doubt. Then she understood the obvious: she was no longer hip [1. in style; 2. knowledgeable] enough to speak the language of the pancake steps [the steps outside of college campus] even though she spent much time talking with college students. She thought like an outsider and experienced the boundary of a speech community. The college students experience this (and a kind of bilingualism) everyday. Thus, slang could serve as a site to study the relationship between communication and culture and be relevant to the experiences of students.
Slang terms are collected by having college students to listen to other college students speak in natural environments.
Slang, when used as a noun, refers to nonstandard terms or nonstandard usage of standard terms. It is a kind of informal language that generally follows the grammatical patterns of the language from which it stems but that reflects an alternate lexicon with kind of informality. Slang provides different symbols from which communication messages can be constructed.
Slang is more than just words. Like communication in general, slang is a process. The process of slanging involves the creation and use of slang. It may entail both nonverbal and verbal cues. For example, the intonation with which a term is spoken can transport it from standard English to slang. Slang characterizes a communication environment as casual and familiar.
As in any language, slang reflects the experiences, beliefs and values of its speakers. Yet college slang is not a complete language. College slang doesn't contain terms for everything the student discusses. However, items that are frequently encountered by college students or are important to college life are often given slang symbols. There are many terms to say that something is good or bad or to evaluate persons positively or negatively. College slang is also descriptive and contains many symbols for food or eating, effective or ineffective performance, money, intoxication and college places.
Why do Students Speak Slang?
This is a good question though and one we are currently exploring in a study that examines speakers' reasons for slanging. The preliminary data indicate that students do slang because it is cool [1. calm; 2. fine, acceptable; 3. neat; exciting; interesting; very good].
Slang is cool in several different ways. First, it is cool in the sense of being hip and in style. When we speak, we are communicating not only a message about the content of what we are saying but also a message about who we believe we are, our identity. Using slang artfully is a kind of performance and shows that the speaker is in tune with times. Slanging says: I'm cool dude! [1. person, especially male; (interjection) a greeting or salutation; 3. (interjection) an indication of surprise]. Second, slang is cool in the sense of being acceptable. Students don't use slang all the time. The usage of slang is reserved for circumstances and communication partners that accept this usage. Students almost always deny that they use slang intentionally...but they do intentionally slang in the sense that they assess the circumstances and people involved in the communication and choose to use slang or not to do so. Typically, slang is used in informal environments and avoided in formal settings (like work in classroom). This is because usage of slang in such circumstances could have a negative influence on speaker's evaluation and the desire to avoid it is high among college slang speakers.
College slang speakers also consider their communication partners when choosing to use or to avoid slang. Slang is usually not used to exclude people who don't understand it. However, slang is most often spoken only among friends and close social peers. To use slang with mere acquainted people or strangers could result in disapproval and so is avoided. Rapping [talking; or rap as a noun: talk, statement; a kind of music sometimes called hip-hop, characterized by lyrical talking] like a hep cat [someone who is hip, aware, knowledgeable, in tune with the times] won't win you a lot of friends. Excessive use of slang by nonfriends is almost always viewed unfavorably.