Pavol Odaloš

What is a sociolect and what is slang?

This paper uses sociolect as a cover term for slang, technical jargon (professionalisms), and argot.

From the point of view of its secret nature, two kinds of sociolects are distinguished: slang and technical jargon on the one hand, and argot on the other, with the difference being in the presence or lack of an intention of secrecy. The aim of slangisms and professionalisms are not the concealing of information, even though such vocabulary is also sometimes incomprehensible — this, however, is not because there is a conscious attempt at concealing the information, but because the medium of communication is relatively less well known. Argot, on the other hand, aims at concealing information from the uninitiated participants of the communication process during the process of communication.

Slangisms are the result of actualizing tendencies during communication. The actualizing function of slang is closely intertwined with its variability and great expressiveness. Expressiveness is thus manifested in the extranormative nature of slang as well as in its structural characteristics.

A professionalisms are the result of an attempt at economizing communication. This economizing tendency often goes together with a compactness in word formation (vocabulary items are often compacted from several words), linguistic stability, and low level of expressiveness. The frequent use of professionalisms results in its notionality within the medium of communication through a potential shift in its stylistic characterization either towards colloquial or standard usage, the communicative potential of which is no longer limited stylistically.

Argot is a different kind of sociolect, with a wider and a narrower meaning to the term.

In its wider meaning, argot is understood as the language of groups that are not opposed to society. In this wider sense of the term argot is any kind of vocabulary which is used to make a message secret or concealed, such as, for instance, the argot used by traveling salesmen, peddlers, fair vendors, and even children.

In its narrower meaning, argot is used by groups opposed to or outside of society and law.