English youth culture



Keywords: english youth culture
Description: One of the richest influences on American speech in the new millennium will certainly be youth culture, the diverse and rapidly changing stylistic practices that many teenagers and young adults draw

One of the richest influences on American speech in the new millennium will certainly be youth culture, the diverse and rapidly changing stylistic practices that many teenagers and young adults draw on in the construction and display of their identities. As an important component of these cultural styles, language constitutes a flexible and omnipresent set of resources. Although styles and situations constantly change, the symbolic use of language to perform identity will endure as long as language itself.

The numerous youth identities that developed in the twentieth century, with their distinctive fashions in clothing, hairstyle, music, dance, and language, were facilitated through the concomitant growth of the mass media. Now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as we witness the rise of interactive digital media such as the Internet, conditions are even more conducive to the production of innovative styles of youth culture. Language will necessarily take on new forms and uses in a world in which communication has become mediated to a heretofore unprecedented degree. And given that many of the most enthusiastic, expert, and creative users of new media are youth, it is likely that the cultural identities such media make possible will be most closely associated with this age group.

The rapid transmission of culture, and hence language, is perhaps the most obvious effect of the new media. What is often overlooked, however, is that Web-based communication still relies heavily on written language, and thus literacy itself is changing due not only to the medium but also to the needs of a new generation of users. Vernacular literacies developed by and aimed at youth are already evident in cultural documents from musical liner notes to graffiti to zines, and they are equally central to the Web pages, chat rooms, and other forums that support youth culture online. Also noteworthy is the possibility of mediated communication between individuals who might otherwise not have been able to interact. A shared interest in some form of youth culture can unify individuals across lines of nation and language, and despite the fact that standard English predominates as the language of the Internet, the influence of other languages and dialects in youth-centered cyberspaces cannot be ignored.

Likewise, while the widespread dissemination of American popular culture both online and off ensures that English will continue to shape the youth styles of other cultures, far less attention has been paid to the fact that the process of cultural and linguistic borrowing moves in both directions. The urban styles of other areas of the world, especially Asia, are already having a significant impact on American youth, who regularly encounter mediated forms of international youth culture in music, film, and fashion. In addition, transnationalism, new patterns of immigration, and increasingly multicultural populations in urban, rural, and suburban settings across the country create more direct lines of contact through which youth culture and language will reinvent itself in the coming century. While these changes may herald the "new ethnicities" of a panethnic youth culture described by researchers of British youth, it is important to keep in mind that in the North American context, many forms of youth culture are renewed mainly through cultural and linguistic appropriation, leaving unequal racial and ethnic configurations unchanged.

Among the linguistic phenomena most widely investigated in relation to youth culture are slang and sound change. Slang has long been a popular research topic, and clearly it is the most noticeable linguistic component of youth-based identities. Researchers have effectively documented the use and function of slang as an in-group marker, and some scholars have traced the origins of particular slang terms. Still in need of further exploration are questions concerning the use of slang to differentiate youth identities from one another and the process whereby slang is transmitted and transformed in its movement from group to group.

But if slang is remarkable for the rapidity with which it changes, the slower changes associated with phonology have greater linguistic consequences over the long term. Unlike slang, sound change is not age-graded; it is tied not to a life stage but to a generation. Its connections to youth identity.






Photogallery English youth culture:


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