Deciphering Teenage Grunts. DUH.


Linguists Try to Decipher Teenage Grunts
Clearly, linguistics exists just so we can give a technical description of those hard-to-spell sounds that erupt from callow youths. yeeah.

The eye-rolls are vital.

Discussion Ideas:

  • Alveolar glides, affricates, glottal stops. Do students think linguists invented these terms to better understand teenage speech patterns?
    • Unlikely. These are words or descriptions that apply to very specific sounds made by people of all ages, speaking hundreds of languages, all over the world. They may help linguists better describe a language’s speech or grammatical patterns.
  • Our encyclopedic entry on anthropology devotes a short section at the beginning to linguistics. “Linguistic anthropology is the study of how language influences social life. Linguistic anthropologists say language provides people with the intellectual tools for thinking and acting in the world. Linguistic anthropologists focus on how language shapes societies and their social networks, cultural beliefs, and understanding of themselves and their environments.” How do students think sounds like the ones described in the article and video help shape teen society?
    • It creates a shared vocabulary distinct from both children and adults.
    • This delightful New York Times article describes how teenagers, mostly young women, “make linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.” Some linguists, the article says, suggest that young women “are more sensitive to social interactions and hence more likely to adopt subtle vocal cues. Others say women use language to assert their power in a culture that, at least in days gone by, asked them to be sedate and decorous. Another theory is that young women are simply given more leeway by society to speak flamboyantly.”
  • Can students identify any other sounds—not words, pronunciations, or regional dialects—that teenagers use in everyday speech?
  • Do students think the author has a good understanding of teenage linguistics? In other words, do they think he understands the “annoying teenage sounds” he describes?

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