Episode 57: Slanguage - Study Guide for Middle School Young people have always used language in new ways, and it has always driven older people crazy. But the linguist John McWhorter says this is just how languages work - they're always changing.

Episode 57: Slanguage - Study Guide for Middle School

Young people have always used language in different ways - and it has always driven older generations crazy Renee Klahr/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Renee Klahr/NPR

Young people have always used language in different ways - and it has always driven older generations crazy

Renee Klahr/NPR

Check out a printable PDF of this study guide!

 

Do your teachers or parents often correct how you talk? Do you correct how other people talk? John McWhorter is a linguist (a person who studies languages) and he says there is no "right" or "wrong" way to talk. According to Dr. McWhorter, "It's the nature of human language to change."

Dr. McWhorter says that there is no "wrong" way to use language. Languages change all the time, and words usually start off as mistakes before becoming regular language. Languages are mostly spoken, not written down. This means that languages have always changed as people create new words, use old words differently, or change how people say the same words.

 

Study Guide Questions

1. What are some examples of new words?

2. Do you use any of these words?

3. How many languages does Dr. McWhorter say are actually written down?

4. How many languages does he say are spoken?

5. Does this surprise you?

6. What does the word "literally" mean?

  • What's its earliest meaning?
  • What does it mean now?
  • How do you use it?

7. What does "lol" mean?

  • What does it stand for?
  • Do you ever use it? How?

8. What's an example of a word you think might be different in 50 or 100 years? Why?

 

Resources