No one has yet given a more or less satisfactory definition of the term slang. Slang seems to mean everything that is below the standard of usage of present-day English. Slang is represented both as a special vocabulary and as a special language. Slang is much rather a spoken than a literary language. It originates, nearly always, in speech.
The following stylistic layers of words are generally marled as slang:
1. Words which may be classed as thieves' cant, or the jargons of other social
groups and professions, like dirt (- 'money'), dotty (- 'mad'), a barker (= 'a
2. Colloquial words and phrases like for good, to have a hunch, a show (at the
theatre) and the like.
3. Figurative words and phrases are not infrequently regarded as slang and
included in special slang dictionaries, e.g. Scrooge (- 'a mean person'),
blackcoat (= 'a clergyman').
4. Words derived by means of conversion, one of the most productive means of
word-building in present day English, are also sometimes classed as slang,
for example, the noun agent is considered neutral because it has no stylistic
notation, whereas the verb to agent is included in one of the American
dictionaries of slang.
5. Abbreviations of the /яб-type, for example, rep (reputation), cig (cigarette)
ad (advertisement), as well as of they7w-type (influenza).
6. Set expressions which are generally used in colloquial speech and which are
clearly colloquial, are also marked with the notation slang, e.g., to go in for,
in a way, and many others.
7. Improprieties of a morphological and syntactical character, e.g., How come,
I says, double negatives as / don't know nothing and others of this kind.
8. Any new coinage that has not gained recognition and therefore has not yet
been received into standard English is easily branded as slang, leggo (let
Slang is nothing but a deviation from the established norm at the level of the vocabulary of the language.
In the non-literary vocabulary of the English language there is a group of words that are called jargonisms. Jargon is a recognized term for a group of words that exists in almost every language and whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social group. Jargonisms are generally old words with entirely new meanings imposed on them. Most of the jargonisms of any language, and of the English language too, are absolutely incomprehensible to those outside the social group which has invented them.
Jargonisms are social in character. They are not regional. In England and in the USA almost any social group of people has its own jargon.
Slang, contrary to jargon, needs no translation. It is not a secret code. It is easily understood by the English-speaking community and is only regarded as something not quite regular. It must also be remembered that both jargon and slang differ from ordinary language mainly in their vocabularies. The structure of the sentences and the morphology of the language remain practically unchanged.
There are hundreds of words, once jargonisms or slang, which have become legitimate members of the English literary language.
There is a common jargon and special professional jargons. Common jargonisms have gradually lost their special quality, which is to promote secrecy and keep outsiders in the dark. It belongs to all social groups and is therefore easily understood by everybody.
Professionalisms, as the term itself signifies, are the words used in a definite trade, profession or calling by people connected by common interests both at work and at home. Professionalisms are correlated to terms. Professionalisms are special words in the non-literary layer of the English vocabulary, whereas terms are a specialized group belonging to the literary layer of words. Like slang words, professionalisms do not aim at secrecy.
Professionalisms are used in emotive prose to depict the natural speech of a character. The skilful use of a professional word will show not only the vocation of a character, but also his education, breeding, environment and sometimes even his psychology.
d) Dialectal Words
Dialectal words are those which in the process of integration of the English national language remained beyond its literary boundaries, and their use is generally confined to a definite locality.
Dialectal words are only to be found in the style of emotive prose, very rarely in other styles.
There is sometimes a difficulty in distinguishing dialectal words from colloquial words. Some dialectal words have become so familiar in good colloquial or standard colloquial English that they are universally accepted as recognized units of the standard colloquial English. To these words belong lass, meaning 'a girl' and lad 'a boy' or a young man'.
Dialectal words fulfil a function of characterization in the literature.
e) Vulgar Words r^u^^ aVv^^1^*
Vulgarisms are defined as expletives or swear-words and obscene words and
expressions. There are different degrees of vulgar words. Some of them, the obscene ones should not even be fixed in common dictionaries. They are euphemistically called "four-letter' words. A lesser degree of vulgarity is presented by expletives, words like damn, bloody, son of the bitch, to hell, and others.
The function of vulgarisms is almost the same as that of interjections, that is to express strong emotions, mainly annoyance, anger and the like. They are not to be found in any style of speech except emotive prose, and here only in the direct speech of the character.
f) Colloquial Coinages
Colloquial coinages (nonce-words), unlike those of a literary-bookish character, are spontaneous and elusive. They are not usually built by means of affixes but are based on certain semantic changes in words that are almost imperceptible to the linguistic observer until the word finds its way into print.
Nonce-coinage appears in all spheres of life.
Lecture 8. Theme: Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices
1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices:
2. Interaction of different types of lexical meaning:
a) Interaction of dictionary and contextual logical meanings: metaphor,
b) Interaction of primary and derivative logical meanings: polysemy,
zeugma and pun;
c) Interaction of logical and emotive meanings: interjections and
exclamatory words, the epithet, oxymoron;
d) interaction of logical and nominal meanings.
3. Intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon:
4. Compositional patterns of syntactical arrangement:
a) stylistic inversion;
b) detached constructions;
c) parallel construction;
1.Galperin I.R. Stylistics. -M, 1971 -pp. 118-132, 136-175, 202-226.
2. Гальперин И.Р. Очерки по стилистике английского языка. М., 1958.
1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature (wind, sea, thunder, etc), by things (machines or tools etc), by people (sighing, laughter, patter of feet, etc) and by animals.
There are two varieties of onomatopoeia: direct and indirect. Direct onomatopoeia is contained in words that imitate natural sounds, as ding-dong, buzz, hang, cuckoo, mew, ping-pong, roar and the like.
Indirect onomatopoeia is a combination of sounds the aim of which is to make the sound of the utterance an echo of its sense. It is sometimes called "echo-writing". An example is:
'And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain' (E.A.Poe), where the repetition of the sound [s] actually produces the sound of the rustling of the curtain.