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Language and Youth Culture

Amartya Sanyal
Avani Samdariya
Bhuvesh Kumar
Ritika Mulagalapalli
Sanjana Garg

Definition of Youth:

Youth has long been an intractable concept and no definition of the term has
been found to hold across every culture.
For instance, sociologist Parsons (1942, 1962) claims that youth or adolescence
is a social category which emerged with changing family roles generated by
the development of capitalism.
Whereas, Grossberg (1992) believes youth to be an ambiguous concept where
what matters is their connection with discourses of music, style, power,
responsibility, hope, the future, Americanness, etc.
Hence, most researchers agree that only way out is to describe the group
minimally is as consisting of all those between 15 and 25 years of age.

Youth in South Asia:

India has more than 50% below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the
age of 35.
Average age of India is 29 (China has that of 37). It also makes us the youngest
nation on earth. (It used to be 26 in 2001)
It is estimated that around 23% of the population of Sri Lanka can be classified
as youth.
30% of the population in Bangladesh is between 10 to 24 years.

Why study about youth in India?

The high population of youth in India will have a dramatic effect on the future
of the region in the next fifteen years, when they will be around 3045 years
and will constitute a vocal majority(of about 30%).
In the history of India, it was the adulthood that was in prime focus and hence
most norms and roles were built around adulthood.
With the rise of youth, there will be a need to form an identity for them that will
suit the modern Post-Independence scenario that has emerged.
Hence, it is important to study the argot used by the youth of South Asia.

Erik Eriksons thought about Youth and Identity

Identity crisis is arguably one of the

most vital factors that forces the youth to
indulge in the various activities that they
Erikson asks whether Some of our
youth would act so openly confused and
confusing if they did not know they were
supposed to be having an identity

How the Identity Crisis affects the youth ?

Psychological stages an adolescent undergoes(C. George Boeree) :

Ego Identity : Identity one forms about oneself by social interaction(maybe
reading books/ watching movies etc too)
Fanaticism and Idealism : Needs to form some ideals and then gets highly
fanatic about it
Repudiation : Once you are fanatic about it, you are not ready to believe
what the other person is fanatic about or what he/she believes in.
To the extent that the belief Being bad or being nobody is better than
not knowing you are emerges.
The ego-identity and the idealism are usually affected by certain external
situations. Lets look at the Indian scenario.

Phenomenon influencing Youth in South Asia

Modernization : The need to catch up with what the rest of world is talking
Ability to interact with the west : Experiencing a more independent society
(where you can express your ideals freely) makes you emulate the prevalent
qualities of such a society.
Opportunity to interact with peers and mates in a university, college
campus(school too to an extent).
The need to repudiate the prevalent dogmatic views in the society

Characteristics of the Indian Youth Language

A medley of languages
Hindi-English : Tension mat le!
Bengali-English : Case kheyeche!
Code Switching
Shifting between two languages
The importance of using the community slang to ascertain the membership to
the community.
For eg. crack (IIT Madras) vs chaapna (IIT Kanpur)
Use of English to show sophistication (The same way English use French):
One who always speaks english (Being a shakespeare or John Peter)
Shifting to english when required

Lexicon of the youth:

Abbreviations and acronyms
Inflectional and derivational suffixes
Nonce formations
Relexicalized items that have undergone changes in meaning


Clipping: It is the word formation process which consists in the reduction of a

word to one of its parts, it is also known as "truncation" or "shortening."
Arbit for arbitrary
Frust for frustrated
Enthu for enthusiasm
Apping for applying
Info for information



Fb for facebook
GD-group discussion
PNPC (Bengali)


Inflectional and derivational suffixes

Derivational suffix: Addition of morphemes that bring considerable change to

the meaning of the word
Bhaat-ash (ash -fication)
Jhaatu(Bengali), Sentu
Scope-ax, Chill-ax
Inflectional suffix: Addition of morphemes that contribute in some way to the
insertion of the words in a particular grammatical context, so that the word
agrees with this context in terms of tense, number, person etc. The changes in
meaning that these morphemes bring are minimal.
Coordi-s, PORs



Neologisms: It is the name for a relatively new or isolated term, word, or

phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not
yet been fully accepted into mainstream language.
Lyadh (Bengali)
Harmad (Bengali)
Bhaat (Bengali)
Sollu (Telugu)

Nonce Formation

Nonce Formation: A nonce word is a word coined or used for a special

Kat gya
Phodd dala
Chap kheyeche (Bengali)
Beshi bokche vs bokche (Bengali)
Light teesuko (Telugu)
Dhop er chop


Relexicalized items that have changed in meaning

Chata (Bengali)
Dubba (IITK lingo)
Sarada (Bengali)


New words from events

Various words that relate to public incidents and accidents are often used by
the youth to make comparison. Usually started in the media/ social media, it is
quickly adapted by the youth.
For example:
9/11 - A terrorist event in the US which was quickly taken up youth all over
including the indian subcontinent. It was used to refer to the 26/11 attacks.
Sarada - A name of a company that caused a financial scam in Bengal
recently and is now used to refer to any type of scam


Language as Identity and Class Marker

* we

Language serves as a medium to

express ones identification with a
particular class which can be
deliberate or non deliberate.
Choice and use of accent and exotic
The grammar nazis!*

have nothing for or against grammar nazis #nooffence


Language as Identity and Class Marker

Language becomes definitive of many generations

E.g.- Calling female professors as their names followed by Behenji , say
Sushma Behenji was considered respectful. Imagine doing that now!
TVFs video series : How to train your dad
Noticeable difference between the way the two generations speak
Ghoti - Bangal divide:
It divides the people on the basis of whether they belonged to East or
West Bengal and transpires to language, food and football.
We notice some older people trying to identify with the youth by attempting to
sound like them.

On the other hand there is plenty of criticism of youth for corrupting the
language and being disrespectful to the culture instead of viewing the
phenomenon as language change.
In a setting like educational campuses, peer pressure play a significant
role in the way how students learn to talk. The transition from
gupp-maarna to bulla kaatna for many of us. Punjabi language is full of
slangs but some one coming to IITK from a Punjab town is more likely to
learn the lingo than teach the slangs used there. Rarely would someone
say sadde veere di treat hai but wingie/bro ki treat hai
The same friend of ours also recalls having to unlearn calling friends
here aye chhori and adding -di/da with nouns like: Mukesh ->
Mukeshda and chappal -> chappaldi


Case Study: Preserving the Syriac

The youth of bengaluru recently made an effort to preserve the language Syriac that
survives among a small community in Kurdistan, Iraq.
Many belonging to Syro-Malabar church speak the East Syriac language and learn it
from a well known scholar at Dharmamaran College, Bengaluru.
Similarly another group of people, who are passionate about West Syriac learns the
language from Whatsapp groups. This language is used by members of the church of
Antichiochian Liturgy.

This is an old language and malayalam is said to have derived many words from it eg.
Amma (from east Syriac emma). It is also said that people used to use the script to write
Malayalam in olden times.
It is a very remarkable effort by a youth community to preserve a dying language.

Case Study: Language as the Foundation of Identity

Among Sherpa Youth in Nepal

The Sherpas are a Nepali ethnic group that are said to have migrated from
Tibet 450-600 years ago
Since they are surrounded by Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and Nepali cultures,
languages, and religions, Sherpas struggle to assert their individuality.
Considering that the home and the village are the two places where the
Sherpa language not to mention Sherpa culture in general is learned,
Sherpas who leave home potentially sacrifice natural enculturation and instead
learn Nepali and English, as well as the urban, Nepali way of life.


The Sherpa youth recreate what it means to be Sherpa by speaking the

language and educating others about their culture and traditions through
self-expression of their cultural individuality and linguistic difference via their
radio Khumbu FM.
The goal of Khumbu FM, according to their website, is to broadcast information
regarding spiritual, cultural, and traditional values of the community of
Young Sherpas want to (re)assert their identity in the context of a globalizing,
potentially homogenizing, world by analyzing the way they use their language
in social settings and at a radio station.


Adaptation of English by South Asian Youth:

Sometimes, rural Telugu youth ask you what your negative village is instead
of your native village
Good name is a direct translation of shubh naam
Use of phrases like mother promise
Pass out of college to mean graduate
Like that only to mean aise hi


Code switching used in a different scenario

Sadhu Bhasha and Chalti bhasa scenario

Used till the 1900s by a considerable section of Indian authors in their

Currently people do not usually write or speak in it.
However, it is used by youth (especially educated youth in Kolkata) to speak
with a sarcastic touch.
Example: ejey kiha koritechen apni? (Hey, what are you doing ?). It usually
would indicate that you have been caught doing something wrong.


Example: Influence of Rap Music

Music goes hand in hand with language and culture, and one such example is the
relationship of Rap Music and language in the south Asian context.
With the popularisation of Audio-Visual media, Rap from the western countries
found a fan-base in India and also initiated the development of the Desi Hip Hop
New words and phrases are introduced to the lexicon, where the literal meanings
of the phrases is far different from the intended meaning. The phrases are adopted
by youngsters to feel part of a unique subculture with an inherent coolness

Phrases like : peace-out, bling bling, homie, wazzup dog?, walkin, dancing found
their way into the vocabulary of urban youth.
Phrases like YOLO and swag have even penetrated to the rural youth lexicon after
being adopted by the Desi Hip Hop genre.
A major portion of the Rap vocabulary involves phrases with negative connotations
and hence is only used by youngsters when interacting with their friends. Parents
might not be amused to hear their children asking them Ya talkin to me bitch?


Messaging or Texting languages

Started by the intense need to write short messages to incur lower cost as well
as chat faster, a new language called the texting language has developed.
This includes longer groups of characters with ones that sounds almost the
same but are shorter.

Complete disregard for capitalisation and punctuation.

Taken to the extreme form, we also use number to indicate repetition.

th => d eg. this => dis, then => den etc

Is => z
message => msg

Bak2 => bakbak (Not very common usually but in some groups, very much.)

Another factor is the 9-key keyboards of old phones which made dis easier to
type than this


Languages of South Asia by Kachru, Kachru and Sridhar

Syriac example: http://www.aina.org/ata/20160509010716.htm
Sherpas of nepal:
Influence of Rap music:
Popular Culture and English Language Learning(thesis):