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Lithuanian language ideals

Myths about the youth language

By this research we aimed to examine what the students thought about widespread views towards youth language. Our informants were given several statements about youth language and we asked them to tell us which statements they agreed with. These statements were of two kinds: some of them summarised negative attitudes towards young ways of speaking, others expressed more scholarly approach based on functionality. Most students answered that youth language is most appropriate in peer-communication (during school breaks or with friends). They also agreed with the statement that adults had also used slang in their youth; it was just different from theirs. Many students noted that it was becoming more and more common to use Lithuanian letters in texting. Abbreviations, often employed in this channel of communication, in their opinion, have a clear function – to communicate faster and more effectively. The question, whether young people are really harming Lithuanian by the use of foreign elements, slang or neologisms, was also discussed. There was a tendency to disagree with such negative views.

The students were especially engaged in the discussion about the use of foreign elements in youth language and what social values they carried. Our research questions were inspired by the works of our colleagues in other countries which have revealed that contemporary youth language shared many similarities across different countries. The studies of Lithuanian youth language show that Lithuanian youth incorporate many linguistic elements from Russian and English. Our informants were made to listen to an audio-recorded talk of a group of adolescents from Vilnius in which they were making extensive use of Russian slang. They also were given an extract from Skype conversation between two adolescent girls from Vilnius with much code-switching to English. In students’ opinion, Russian slang and swearwords of Russian origin are more popular among younger teenagers (10–12 years old) because they want to show off and seek to express their strong masculine identity among their peers. Gender has no influence on the frequency of the use of Russian elements; it is more common to associate frequent uses of Russian with the particular youth subcultures like “gezai” or “marozai”. The use of English elements in internet or spoken interaction is viewed more positively. Our informants viewed the use of various English elements as a universal feature of contemporary young ways of speaking, independent of speaker’s town of birth, gender or age. Many students claimed that for them it was easier to communicate when they could make use of English words or phrases. By doing so they understand their peers better and are better understood themselves.