Sociolinguistics


Slang and Jargon

A register used in situations of extreme informality is slang. Used in this type of situation, slang is characterized by an extreme form of linguistic informality. While not all informal vocabulary is automatically slang, all slang is highly informal. In contrast to informal talk, the more general term slang implies a high degree of ungrammaticality. Particularly popular among teenagers, though not limited to this group, slang can include the use of in-group vocabulary with an in-group meaning different from its usual meaning. Such slang expressions can function as identity markers because they distinguish in-group members from members that are not part of the group. Their use expresses a desire for social distance to language users outside the group and their mainstream values.

Any speaker of any age and any educational or socioeconomic status can legitimately use slang if the appropriate speech situation is given.

Examples: diss, wasted, kick ass, bling-blings


Similar to slang, jargon implies the use of specific words. Jargon, however, refers to the specialized vocabulary characterizing the language use of various groups of people, often occupational or recreational groups (e.g. the medical jargon or the law/legal jargon). The specialist words and expressions of a particular jargon may be incomprehensible to outsiders. This is why we can find dictionaries which translate such words into more common words. The internet provides such dictionaries, for example for the medical and legal jargon.

In contrast to slang, jargon is not restricted to situations of extreme informality and generally lacks the rebellious undertones connected to the use of slang expressions.

There is another definition of jargon which exists in connection with the developmental stages of a pidgin language (see Pidgins).

(Information adapted from Finegan, 2004)


Click here for two examples of jargon