Discussion and Examples of Language Varying to Reflect Identity

Discussion and Examples of Language Varying to Reflect Identity

This article has been written by Liam McAlary, a Years 7 – 12, VCE Legal Studies and VCE English Language Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Liam then please check out his page here.

Hey guys, here is my September article. This article discusses Unit 4, Area of Study 2, which is individual and group identity. This article will focus on the variation of language across various social groups, as well as discussing examples of where language is used to reflect individual and group identities.

Firstly, variation across social groups. The study design lists factors which can contribute to the variation of language that we see in Australia (there are obviously many more but these six are definitely worth being across for assessment purposes, because they are expressly stated on the Study Design). The six that are listed on the study design are age, gender, occupation, interests, aspiration and education.

One example of variation according to age which is particularly interesting is teenspeak. Teenspeak is not just interesting because of some of its key features, but it is also interesting to observe as this language is likely to become more and more commonplace in society as teenagers (who are quite obviously the people who use teenspeak) grow up and become more prominent in society. Teenspeak is commonly used by teenagers to promote individual and group identity by excluding those who do not understand it (usually older generations such as their parents) also reflecting an identity as somebody who is, ‘modern.’ As a result of teenagers developing language to exclude their parents, websites such as this (https://parentinfo.org/article/online-teen-speak-updated) have developed and are incredibly useful for our purposes, as they give you a list of lexicon, and its meaning. Additionally, a closer read of that website also showed that teenagers use a lot of initialisms and acronyms (beware of the difference, it is an initialism if you say the letters, it is an acronym if you say it as a word). Moreover, in terms of syntactic features, a lot of teenagers end their sentences with the coordinating conjunction, ‘but,’ which is obviously non-standard, however it does help to create identity.

Secondly, jargon is one feature of language which is particularly effective at conveying identity. Jargon can convey group identity in terms of occupation as the use of the, ‘technical vocabulary’ (David Crystal) enables people within an occupation to communicate quickly and efficiently. For example, doctors use the adjective, ‘greenstick,’ to describe a minor fracture of a bone, and the initialised noun, ‘ASA,’ for Acetylsalicylic acid (commonly referred to as aspirin). The mutual understanding of this jargon fosters individual and group identity, whilst its ability to exclude outsiders and, ‘erect successful communication barriers’ (Kate Burridge) can further promote group identity. In addition to occupation, jargon also helps to promote identity as it pertains to interests. For example, when I am talking to some of my friends who are football (I am referring to association football in this context)  fans, I might use words such as, ‘Bosman’ (a term to describe a player moving clubs on a free transfer upon the expiry of their contract), ‘number 10,’ (an attacking midfield player who plays behind the main striker (another one) and traditionally wore the number 10 shirt), or the phrase, ‘park the bus,’ (a tactic commonly employed by a weaker side whereby they allow the opposition to have a majority of the ball and the primary aim is to be hard to break down and score against), in order to convey my identity as a person who is interested in football.  I could write all day about how jargon conveys identity, and it will not be hard for you to find really good examples to use in your essays (think of the language you use at work\, interest groups, sporting clubs, or even school).

Anyway, I hoped you have found this article helpful.

If you loved this article, you will LOVE all of our other articles, such as: What To Expect As A First-Year University StudentSocial Purpose and How it Relates to Informal Language and The Summer Holidays and Formal Language Examples.


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Discussion and Examples of Language Varying to Reflect Identity