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Eureka: How do argots form ? Eureka: How do argots form ?
by Akli Hadid
2016-12-23 09:31:56
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argor01_400A language a single person uses is called an idiolect. A language a small group of people use is called an argot. A language a city or region uses is called a dialect. A language a national or ethnic group uses is called a language. When two or more people spend a significant amount of time talking to each other and are members of what sociologists call the same “ingroup” a new form of language starts emerging over time. The new language is based on a widely spoken language but with some changes to the language. Once members of that ingroup start talking to members of an outgroup, they go back the speaking the vernacular. In my experience talking to people, argot forms initially in the form of mockery and pleasantry or mere imitation, before it evolves to a mainstream linguistic concept within the ingroup. Note that there is no consensus on the formation and origins of argot within the linguistic community and that this is considered an unsolved problem.

Phonologic change

The phonology of the vernacular starts changing originally either to mock a non-native speaker or someone with a markedly different accent who was heard speaking, or simply after a member of the ingroup’s tongue slips. It could form when imitating someone else’s accent or in the form of mocking someone else’s accent before the new ways to pronounce or the intonation that goes with it are adopted.

Examples could be changing the “j” sound into a “z” sound or the “p” sound into an “f” sound on all basis, or depending what consonant precedes or follows the new sound. Vowels also change in argots, where an “ah” sound can change into an “ae” sound for example. Intonation can also vary, as in stressing some vowels over others or marking increasing stress instead of decreasing stress at the end of sentences.  

 Morphologic change

A morpheme is the part of a word that has semantic or grammatical meaning. A common form of change when argots are formed is dropping certain morphemes or adding certain morphemes. For example, English marks plural words with the “s” sound. When I spent a lot of time chatting with a group of English speakers in Korea, provided that most Korean speakers tend to drop the “s” to mark the plural, our group also gradually dropped the “s” when marking plurals, as in saying “two teacher” instead of “two teachers” or “apple are really cheap at the supermarket today” instead of “apples are really cheap at the supermarket today.” Another example of morphologic change is using acronyms instead of full words or phrases as in “ARC” instead of saying “Alien registration card” which is the card most non-Koreans carry with them or “beacon” which meant actually meant “beer and fried chicken.”

Grammar and syntax change

Grammar is the most resistant to change in argot but sometimes it does change. One common form of grammar change in argot is replacing the past tense with the present tense as in saying “you eat?” instead of “did you eat” or “you go to that party last night” instead of “did you go to that party last night.” In both cases here, the question marker “do” is dropped. Some can also drop articles, as in “where’s apple” instead of “where’s the apple” among other grammar changes.

Semantic change

One of the richest sources of change in argot is semantic change, where words change their forms or change completely, usually to accommodate concepts that only exist within the outgroup and that are rare in the outgroup. Semantic change can come in the form of borrowing words from another dialect or language, or hybridizing words that existed in other dialects or languages. In some cases, the order of syllables can be inverted, while in other cases phrases can change their meaning completely. An example would be calling a friend a “chum” or calling a woman a “red head” or other amusing changes.  

Pragmatic change

What is considered polite in the mainstream can be considered rude in the argot and the opposite can also be true. One form of argot could be changes in how one greets another person, how one asks a favor or what signs or body language are used to indicate meaning. For example saying “booyakasha” instead of “good morning” is a form or argot.

In conclusion

Argots form naturally with the groups that start forming and interacting with each other. Finally, in some workplaces when trying to outcast a colleague some colleagues start forming an argot that the outcast does not understand, which can be a source of stress for the outcast. In other cases, people get so comfortable with the ingroup that they start using argot with the outgroup as well. When such people are famous the words and expressions they use can become mainstream, while in other cases mainstream people simply think the person is awkward or a source of mockery.


      
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Emanuel Paparella2016-12-23 11:08:30
The necessary but neglected other side of the coin:

To reduce language to a mere tool of communication and study how, as such, it develops is to miss the crucial insight that language is the very essence of our humanity, the very origins of what makes us humans. When Vico discovered that insight he must esclaimed, consciously or unconsciously, "I found it." He subsequently taught it in his New Science.

The reductive logical positivists simply neglect that other side of the coin and thus reduce language to a mere tool in the hands of man to be utilized (the utilitarian approach) to bring about his inevitable progress and “enlightenment.” Ultimately they miss the essence of language.

For a more detailed philosophical analysis on how this subtle but harmful process of dehumanization works peruse today’s article on the centrifugal forces of dehumanization in our societies, and the anxious search for meaning in life.


Emanuel Paparella2016-12-23 14:39:07
P.S. Albert Einstein, who was a devotee of philosophy in general, observed once that our positivist age is characterized by perfection of means and confusion of goals.

By that observation he, as a consummate scientist who was also a humanist and could sense both sides of the coin of reality, he simply meant that the unfortunate jump backward that has occurred in the last 300 years or so within Western Civilization is one that goes from examination of the highest things the intellect can contemplate, to the detailed quantified analysis of trivial things which then reductionism and logical analysis presents as all important and indispensable for a modern empiric scientific credible view-point.

Perhaps the opportunity to explain the above Einsteinian insight to the Ovi readership (as the other side of the coin) may be considered a fortunate Eureka moment?


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