Stilisierungen, Identitäten, mediale Ressourcen
Edited By Helga Kotthoff and Christine Mertzlufft
The Emergence of Adolescent Language
It is well-established that adolescents are the main linguistic innovators in industrial cultures. This is without question due to the fact that during this life stage speakers are engaged in intensive identity work, as they move from identities based primarily in the family and small friendship groups to identities based in relations among peers, and in the wider social world. Adolescents are bringing their childhoods into adulthood, engaging with their futures, and to some extent constrained by their pasts. Individuals do not accomplish this move alone, but collaboratively within the age cohort, as they build a peer-based social order beyond the reach of adults. The creation of a social order requires terms of differentiation – structure cannot be built on homogeneity – and much of what goes on in the construction of an adolescent social order is the development and refinement of social difference. Semiotic practice is central to this refinement, bringing to bear resources ranging from adornment to bodily movement to musical taste and, of course, language, to underscore – and to construct – distinctions.
1. The Peer-Based Social Order
In American secondary schools, which function as comprehensive institutions (in Goffman’s (1961) terms, total institutions), orientation to the school functions as a primary locus for this social order (see, e.g., Bucholtz 2010; Eckert 1989). My own work in Detroit suburban high schools (Eckert 2000) has shown robust correlations between semiotic practice of all kinds, including linguistic variation, and place in...
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