Teenage girls have led language innovation for centuries (Thinkstock)
Teenage girls have led language innovation for centuries
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Criticizing teenage girls for the way they speak is nothing short of a time-honored tradition for adults who take issue with everything from slang to vocal fry. But Quartz's Gretchen McCulloch has a bone to pick with those critics. She argues that female teen linguists should be lauded for their longtime innovation - they've been shaking things up for centuries.
 
McCulloch argues that female teenagers are actually "language disruptors" - innovators who invent words that make their way into the vernacular.
 
"To use a modern metaphor, young women are the Uber of language," she writes.

William Shakespeare has long been seen as the poster boy for introducing words into the English language, though some have questioned his celebrated language disruptor status. But young women may have been the true linguistic revolutionaries of Shakespeare's day. McCulloch notes that in the 2003 book Historical Sociolinguistics, University of Helsinki linguists Terttu Nevalainen and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg surveyed 6,000 letters from 1417 to 1681. They found that female letter-writers changed the way they wrote faster than male letter-writers, spearheading the adoption of new words and discarding words like "doth" and "maketh."
 
Women are consistently responsible for about 90 percent of linguistic changes today, writes McCulloch. Why do women lead the way with language? Linguists aren't really sure. Women may have greater social awareness, bigger social networks or even a neurobiological leg up. There are some clues to why men lag behind: A 2009 study estimated that when it comes to changing language patterns, men trail by about a generation.
 
That's largely due to adult male blowback against female stereotypes in speech (think vocal fry or uptalk) and the fact that, in the past, females have traditionally taken care of children, as Chi Luu wrote for JSTOR Daily in February. Thus, men learn from their mothers and women tend to learn new lingo from other women.
 
Though Gretchen Wieners was never able to make "fetch" happen, it's clear that women have been revolutionizing language for a long time. Not bad for a group of kids that get lots of flak for adopting new lingo.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How are metaphors used in this article?
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COMMENTS (67)
  • johnw-1-bro
    8/26/2015 - 06:28 p.m.

    Hi I'm new

  • taligree23638@ccps.org-har
    8/31/2015 - 08:23 a.m.

    This article describes how teen-age girls influence culture with their language. Like William Shakespeare, young women have shaped grammar and changed vocabulary over the years. People are often aware of the ideology that teen-age girls breaking the laws of language is a disruption to the flow of speech, but this may not be the case at all, and teen-age girls actually shape speech.

  • maderzuc19842@ccps.org-har
    8/31/2015 - 07:58 p.m.

    I believe the ideology of feminism allows women to be remarkable language innovators. In our culture, feminism has established itself as a mainstay in today’s society. The pride women take in excelling at tasks has created the will and ability to outperform men in certain areas, language being one of them. Feminism offers equal freedoms for men and women and it is this freedom that fabricates females' ability to demonstrate their power in language.

  • halebell23079@ccps.org-har
    9/02/2015 - 05:40 p.m.

    Language is power! The overall message of this article is expressing how women have affect language. The evidence that I found in the article that supported the claim the best was that women took care of the children and therefore the children learned language from the women of the house. While the article title is leading the reader to believe that they will be reading about teenage girls influencing language, the article describes the effect women in general have had on language. In relation to the topic of culture, if there was no language then there would literally be no culture. Language and communication shape a large part of culture. The popularity of movies, books, television shows, musicals and plays are all heavily dependent upon the language of their time. If women lend to the evolution of language, they therefore lend to the evolution of culture.

  • nidab-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:27 a.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article to portray how teenage girls have changed the ENglish language. "They are the Uber of language," is an example because the author is saying teenage girls are the extraordinary humans that form new language.

  • mariaa-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:28 a.m.

    I think that this article is very interesting. Teenage girls are making a lot of new words. Im glad that people think that girls can do more than take care of children. I never knew that we women were responsible for 90% of adding new words to the world.

  • lillyw-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    Wow! I didn't know that women had such an influence on words we use every day! I just thought that people that wrote dictionaries just wrote down new words in the dictionary to be published, if needed. I know now that women used other words rather than some traditional ones. Women have always been the ones who take care of the household, but for centuries, they have been affecting the way we speak.

  • nadinen-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    "To use a modern metaphor, young women are the Uber of language," she writes. This means that women are the creators of the new language we are using in the 21st century.

  • ryanp-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:45 a.m.

    The way metaphors are used in this article is to describe how women created language. An example from the article " 'To use a modern metaphor, young women are the Uber of language,' she writes." demonstrates a metaphor that describes how women are creators of language. From this article, I learned that women are very important creators in the formation of language. -Ryan Payne

  • annieh-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

    I think that its crazy how much women change the linguistic patterns over time. Not just women but teenagers. I love how men can learn from women and how women can learn from other women.

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