The English language, although currently referred to as the language of international and intercultural communication and therefore studied and taught throughout the world quite thoroughly, is not at all as easy for mastering as it is traditionally understood. It is of great importance to distinguish between academic and spoken English language, for they differ dramatically. After mastering the academic English solidly, a foreign learner often faces the problem of being actually unable to speak fluently. Therefore, the lack of attention to spoken language skills stands out vividly — the fact which, if ignored, might very well result in inability to interact and communicate sufficiently with native speakers.
Taking that into account, we feel the necessity to investigate the lexis of spoken English language, and also to see what changes and operations the language is subjected to in order to be applied effectively in everyday speech. TV captured shows have been chosen as a material for the investigation for several reasons. First of all, TV shows are authentic, which means they were not created for educational purposes. Native speakers appear and perform in real-life conditions there. Thus, we can observe the peculiarities of the language they use naturally and in different contextual situations. Secondly, learning spoken English through watching TV series is very likely to prove to be effective concerning vocabulary enrichment among the younger generation of learners because of the emotional involvement and connection developed during the process. The process of memorizing and applying lexis and grammatical structures appears to be next to effortless in such a case. The material chosen as a base for the study allows claiming certain academic novelty of the paper.
The inquiry has been conducted among the students of linguistic of Ural Federal University in order to provide rationalization for the choice of material for the investigation and to prove the timeliness of the research in this field. 30 students, both male and female, aged from 18 to 23, have been asked, whether they watch any English and/or American TV captured shows. 100 % of the respondents answered “Yes”. Moreover, when asked, if it enriches their knowledge of the English language, more than 80 % of the respondents answered that it improves their speaking skills, as well as the vocabulary. 60 % of the respondents believe it also helps them to understand the culture better.
Common colloquial layer of lexis is traditionally employed in non-official everyday communication. It is of a lively-spoken character, which makes it considerably unstable and, so to speak, fleeting. It is sometimes limited to a definite language community or a locality where it circulates. The layer also includes such categories of words as slang, jargonisms (the words aimed at preserving secrecy of a certain social group), professional words, dialectal words (the words application of which is limited to a certain group of people in locality), vulgar words (expletive and swear words, obscene “four-letter” words) and colloquial coinages (nonce-words created spontaneously in the act of speech) [2, c. 72–119].
A group of lexis particularly interesting for the investigation is slang, as it forms a very great part of all the colloquial layer of the English lexis.
According to “Oxford English Dictionary”, slang is “A type of language consisting of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people: grass is slang for marijuana; army slang” .
Well-known American linguists Bethany K. Dumas and Jonathan Lighter state the following features of slang: it replaces a well-known conventional synonym primarily to avoid discomfort caused by it or discomfort or annoyance caused by having to elaborate further; its use implies that the user is familiar with what is referred to, or with a group of people who are familiar with it and use the term; it lowers, if temporarily, “the dignity” of formal or “serious” speech or writing and is likely to be considered in those contexts a «glaring misuse of register» [1, c. 14–15].
Most characteristic features of slang lexis are as follows: slang expressions are colourful and catching, mostly metaphorical in nature, which provides them with a high degree of popularity and usage frequency and density. Slang is usually associated with the uneducated circle and with the young, trying to rebel against the norms of society, of which speech norms occupy an important position, and to sound daring and up-to-date. That explains the mocking character of most of slang lexis.
The aim of the created analysis is to give a relatively full and adequate picture of lexis employed by native speakers in authentic conditions, in different real-life situations and contexts, as well as to enrich the vocabulary of students with up-to-date colloquial expressions in order to help them interact and communicate effectively with native speakers and to refine their translating skills.
In this regard, the analysis should obviously begin with giving the denotational meaning of the word, word-combination or phrase being analyzed and the connotations, if there are any. During the analysis the base for the word appearing in the language should also be stated. And of course, none of the information revealed is of importance or great use without explaining how it functions in a sentence and in speech for it to be employed successfully.
Most interesting cases under analysis are described below, short comments concerning their meaning, origin and functioning applied.
“It’s all waffle!”
It means foolish talk, nonsense; expresses irritation and disbelief. Based on the conversion of meaning, from the original meaning of something excellent (based on a loveable dessert) to the meaning of indecisiveness first, and nonsense later; such processes of a polar change of meaning happen quite often to slang words (for example, “sick” is now used in the meaning “cool”); The phrase is used as an independent sentence or as a part of a compound sentence to imply “what you are saying is untrue”, e.g. “Listen to you and life is not worth living. I’m telling you, it’s all waffle!”.
Meaning a request: “Fill my glass!”; rather irrespective. Based on a sound imitation of that a liquid makes being poured; rhyming slang. The phrase is used as an independent imperative sentence to ask, or rather command, to pour you a drink, e.g. “And where’d all the staff gone? Hey, miss! Splishy-splashy!” (usually is accompanied by holding out and slightly shaking an empty glass).
“Hurry up!”; facetious; irrespective. Based on imitation of Chinese English, where “chop” means “quick”; rhyming slang. Can be used as a part of a sentence or as an independent sentence to ask to hurry, e.g. “Chop-chop, start the car! Gotta be there in 10 minutes!”.
Means a condition in which, due to an extreme exposure to an event of epic awesomeness, horror or any other emotion on the more extreme end of the spectrum of emotions, one loses all perception of space and time including (but not limited to) a brief lapse in physical awareness. Based on a metaphoric transference of a “heart melting” because of intense emotions and also of a state when one has a rush of blood to the head and thus cannot feel it for some time (perhaps an association with tears pouring down one’s face when strongly moved). The word-combination can be used as an object, e.g. “That would cost you a face melting!”, a subject and as a part of a compound predicate, e.g. “Hey, I got this one song that would melt your face!” or even as an attribute, e.g. “That film is face-melting!”.
“to go topsy-turvy”
The phrase means to become chaotic, incontrollable. It is based on a word-combination “turned top” in a metaphoric meaning of things turning upside down, formed by a productive suffix “-y-“ forming an adverb; belongs to rhyming slang. The phrase is used as a compound predicate, e.g. “People don’t want books in the morning! That would be the world go topsy-turvy!”.
“lose… (the laugh)”
“Stop doing this or wearing this or saying this etc.”; irrespective; disapproving. Based on a metaphoric transference: to lose something is equal to stop having it. Can be used as a compound imperative predicate to command rather sharply to stop, e.g. “No alcohol in this house, stop talking like that and lose the hat.” or “What’s wrong with ya? It’s my mother, lose the laugh!”.
“For your information”; often irritatingly, sarcastic. Based on an abbreviation of a set expression; The abbreviation is used as a parenthesis to place some additional information in, e.g. “He thought I would throw myself upon his mercy. FYI, I didn’t!”.
“misc”, also “the likes”
It means the rest, the other. Based on a shortening of the word miscellaneous (diverse, different) and on a substantiation of the adverb “like” respectively. The words are used at the end of a listing in order to suggest that there are other things in this list, not worth enumeration, e.g. “This is my chair, my table, and… the misc, nevermind” or “Yeah, she likes all that girls stuff, flowers and the likes”.
“oobely-boo”, also “the thingy”
It refers to anything that the speaker does not want to utter for any reason, often because the right word escaped the mind of the speaker. Based on rhyming and a productive suffix “-y” forming a diminutive noun respectively. The words can be used instead of any noun in a sentence, both common and proper, e.g. “Oh, and I somehow forgot the… the thingy, do you have some?”.
“to have someone’s back”
It means to protect or support someone. Based on a metaphoric transference of soldiers and policemen actually covering each other’s backs for protection and in order not to be attacked suddenly. The phrase is used as a compound predicate, e.g. “Don’t you worry now, I got your back. Go get ‘em!”.
“You can’t take your words back!”; facetious. Based on a shouting in children’s game. The phrase is used as an independent sentence to suggest that what has already been said prevails over whatever is to be said later, e.g. “You said we would have hamburgers if I won! No backsies!”.
“knock-out stuff”, also “dreamboat”
Refers to anything pleasant or advantageous; often sarcastic. Based on a metaphoric transference of a meaning of the word “to knock out” — to cause to fall down out of strong shock. Can be used as a part of a compound predicate, e.g. “Yeah, that’s not exactly the knock-out stuff I’ve been dreaming about all my life.” or “Don’t get judgey with me, right? You’re no dreamboat neither”.
Having thus performed the designed analysis on the lexis chosen from TV captured shows, we observed the following peculiarities: a great number and variety of verb-based phrases, which may be explained by the necessities of everyday communication, vital in colloquial speech more than in any other. We have also noticed the diversity of estimations, as it comes to those words and phrases characterizing people’s behaviour, qualities and conditions. The great majority of the analyzed words and phrases are based on metaphorical or metonymical transference, which corresponds with the idea of colloquial speech, especially slang, being colourful and catching. The significant number of well-known set expressions belonging to neutral style alternation also took place — part-of-speech alternation, words dropping and one case of abbreviation. Most of the analyzed lexis becoming colloquial and acquiring the new meaning and shades is explained by extra-linguistic factors. That is because spoken English has a greater dependence on it than the standard one.
Considering all that, we believe that using TV captured shows for the investigation of the peculiarities of spoken English and for language learning appears to hold great promise.
- Dumas B. K. Lighter J. Is slang a word for linguists? / B. K. Dumas, J.Lighter // American speech. Vol.53. — 1978. — № 1. — p. 5–17.
- Гальперин, И. Р. Стилистика / И. Р. Гальперин. — M.: Высшая школа, 1981. — 295 с.
- Oxford English dictionary. [Electronic resource]. — Access mode: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/, free. Lang.English.