Think it’s obvi that teens are destroying language with all their slang and internet acronyms? JSYK, according to new research, that assumption is old AF.
What I’m trying to say is that new linguistics research in the Publication of the American Dialect Society challenges assumptions about the true impact of teenage slang on language.
According to study author Mary Kohn of Kansas State University, “we might be grossly overstating the role of teenagers” in driving sound change.
That’s because language use evolves over a lifetime, and not just in the teen years. It starts when young kids enter school, keeps changing through the teenage years, and continues to evolve after college when people enter the workforce.
The study also found that as a group, teenagers don’t actually stand out as a group that changes their language.
“Perhaps our stereotypes about how teenagers speak are often based on subgroups of teenagers that stand out to us as most distinct,” said Kohn. “We notice the kids who make bold fashion statements, so we also might notice the kids who are making dramatic linguistic changes.”
Further, Kohn considers that this language change is a positive thing.
“All languages, throughout history, change as generations grow up and move through life. As long as there are people who are living and breathing and speaking, we’re going to invent new words. We’re going to invent new ways of speaking.”
“Very commonly, people think that teenagers are ruining language because they are texting or using shorthand or slang,” Kohn said. “But our language is constantly developing and changing and becoming what it needs to be for the generation who is speaking it. As a linguist, I find this really exciting because it shows me that our language is alive.”
What about emojis?