Thema's en trends in de sociolinguïstiek 3
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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'Street language' is a kind of register, spoken by young people in Amsterdam and probably also by young people in other multi-ethnic, multilingual cities in the Netherlands. This paper reports on an explorative study of this relatively recently developed register. Street language seems to be comparable to other (monolingual) forms of youth language with respect to its function. The emergence of a mixed youth language has also been observed in other countries, for example in Sweden (Kotsinas, 1998) and Germany (Auer & Dirim, 1998). 133 students in three different schools for secondary education filled out a written questionnaire on street language. This instrument is not really appropriate for a typically spoken, informal variety, but it offered us the opportunity to collect data from a large group of respondents. The data were supplemented with information from a few informal interviews and with information from newspaper articles and television programmes on street language. 98 of the 133 students said that they used street language, boys rather more so than girls, a trend also observed in research on this subject in other countries. Especially children with Surinamese as their home language (in most cases next to Dutch) spoke street language. Students with a relatively low proficiency in Dutch (probably recently arrived) often reported that they did not speak street language. This was also the case with students who claimed to have a good proficiency in one of the following minority languages: Turkish, Moroccan-Arabic and Tamazight. Street language is (of course) most frequendy used in the streets, and also at school in informal interactions between students. Street language is used because it is funny, it is tough and because friends use it too. The respondents were also asked to give (no more than) eight examples of words or expressions in street language (with a translation in Dutch). They provided 468 words or expressions (tokens) in total. The total number of different forms (types) was 151. Most of the words and expressions came from Surinamese. Furthermore, there were words from English, and only a few words from other languages like Turkish and Moroccan-Arabic. Also some new (Dutch) words in the register of youth language were provided. Street language seems to contain quite a lot of more or less standard verbal routines. For outsiders the language sometimes seems to be (sexually) aggressive. Speakers of youth language claim that this aggressiveness is softened by the use of words and expressions from other languages.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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