An insight into the research of youth language in Estonia

Generally and in detail


Keywords: youth language, vocabulary, language variation, language contacts, data

Although the beginning of collection and research of Estonian youth language dates back to the early decades of the last century, the practice has not been quite consis­tent. The current knowledge of young people’s vocabulary and communicative practices is based on written as well as spoken data. Various methods of data collection have been used throughout the past century to reach them. During those hundred years, data collection has undergone various changes depending on technological developments (e.g. means of recording spoken and written communication, as well as systematization and analysis of data) and on trends in linguistics.

There are three main directions in the research of youth language in Estonia: general description of the vocabulary, slang studies, and contact-induced language change. Since the 2000s, growing attention has been paid to the multilingual communication practised by the young people and their use of English within Estonian interaction.

The young peoples’ usage stands out for a vocabulary and concepts of their own, based on various languages (currently mainly English), social media and communication applications. Although the usage of the young tends to change rapidly, it is as multilayered as any other language variety, containing not only core vocabulary spanning generations (e.g. school terms) as well as fixed phrases established in general spoken language, but also a lot of new material obtained in different ways, such as expanding the meaning of a word, borrowing from other languages (usually English), or creating new words by oneself.

Young people’s usage is usually described as innovative, creative and trend-conscious. The linguistic data collected from youth help to explain the linguistic choices and practices of different age and social groups, as well as the formation of language varieties. However, deeper understanding of linguistic variation and change requires even more such data. Modern linguistics with its plentiful methods, together with its neighbouring disciplines, plus the technological advance both in data collection and analysis can lead to a significant contribution to existing knowledge.


Kristiina Praakli (b. 1977), PhD, University of Tartu, Associate Professor of Applied ­Linguistics (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu), kristiina.praakli@ut.ee