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American Speech 76.1 (2001) 104-108
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Digging the Lingo of European Teens
University of Gdansk
Recent years have seen a growth in interest internationally in the language of young people. Youth language has long been viewed as an important parameter of language variation--alongside region, ethnicity, class, gender, and so on--yet academic attention to the phenomenon has been mostly confined to the study of slang or neologism. Nevertheless, some linguists, especially in Europe, have begun to consider this sociolinguistic theme as a new and independent field of research, stretching beyond slang or neologism. While their reasoning is perfectly justifiable in view of developing a more interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenon, for several reasons youth language is still not fully regarded as an established area of sociolinguistics--among them the general concentration on fieldwork at the expense of developing a more integrated theoretical framework or the rather isolated character of research, restricted to a given country and a given language. In any case, studies conducted in languages other than English have sometimes received little attention from the mainstream English-oriented sociolinguistic community. All these facts have hardly provided an ideal background for the development of the study of youth language.
The volume edited by Jannis K. Androutsopoulos and Arno Scholz represents an important step to remedying this situation. The outcome of a colloquium held at the University of Heidelberg in 1997, it offers a fresh and comprehensive view on the subject. In the editors' own words, "The volume is an attempt to present the current spectrum of research on youth language and to document the interdisciplinary orientation that has come to be characteristic of this field. It shows that important research is carried out in languages other than English, which mainstream sociolinguistics can no longer afford to ignore" (xii). The volume is a collection of 16 papers by various authors, most of whom contributed to the colloquium. The interdisciplinary and multilingual nature of such a diverse collection makes the task of the reviewer especially difficult, as, given the confines of space, one [End Page 104] may decide either to concentrate on a handful of selected papers and ignore the rest, or to abandon a more in-depth analysis but comment on the most important ideas prevailing throughout the volume. Since the latter seems a more feasible option, I have decided to divide the 16 contributions into the main topical groups and outline the focal points of each paper. This division generally reflects the arrangement of papers in the collection.
The first set of papers addresses theoretical and methodological aspects of research on youth language. "Forschungsperspektiven auf Jugendsprache: Ein integrativer Überblick" (1-34), by Jannis K. Androutsopoulos, offers a handsome theoretical framework of youth language based on the interplay between three research perspectives: correlative sociolinguistics, traditional (lexical) slang studies, and interactional sociolinguistics (the ethnography of speaking). The author shows the interrelations of numerous features of youth language and demonstrates how his integrative analysis could improve our understanding of the phenomenon. "Methodological Problems of the Sociolinguistic Study of Youth Slang: Paris Teenagers' Argot Commun" (49-57), by Dávid Szabó, discusses methodological problems of data collection, drawing on the author's own experience as a field-worker. It gives a step-by-step account of his recordings-based survey on argot commun 'popular slang' in Paris vocational schools and contains many insightful comments on the methodology of youth slang studies. "Ein italienisches Jugendsprachewörterbuch der Mikrodiachronie: Der Dizionario della Lingua Parlata dei Giovanni 1982-1992" (59-70), by Edgar Radtke, analyzes several methodological issues of data collection and lexicographic presentation pertaining to his dictionary of youth slang, based on a corpus of interviews. By using a special system of notations, the author demonstrates how a dictionary can reveal the discrepancies between two spoken and written vocabularies.
The next two papers focus attention on questionnaire-driven research on youth slang. "Vergleichende Beobachtungen zum Sprachgebrauch jugendlicher verschiedener regionaler...