The Language of Adolescents
Cambridge University Press 2016
Teenagers get a lot of bad press. Whether it’s how they look, how they dress, the things they say, the way they say it – it sometimes seems as if they can’t get anything right. And when it comes to language, it’s clear that teenagers are special. But though anecdotal evidence abounds, just how special, and in what ways, has rarely been the subject of detailed empirical research.
Sali Tagliamonte’s book Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents (Cambridge University Press, 2016) is the first step towards filling that gap. Using a variety of data sources and approaches, the book zooms in on some of the “funky features” that set teen language apart. In this interview, we discuss several of the words and structures featured in the book: “just”, “stuff”, “weird”, “awesome”, and the much-maligned “like.” We also discuss the special ecological niche that teen language has in the process of language change.