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Teenage swearing in the UK

Drummond, Rob (2020) Teenage swearing in the UK. English World-Wide, 40 (1). ISSN 0172-8865


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This article describes the swearing practices of a group of young people aged 14–16 in the UK. The young people are in a specific context – a Pupil Referral Unit catering for pupils who have been excluded from mainstream school. The study’s narrow focus builds on existing knowledge by providing a level of precision in terms of speaker and context not usually found in swearing research. 13 key words are examined in terms of meaning, structure, frequency, and use between genders. Shit and fuck, as the most common terms, are explored in more detail, with use of the latter compared to existing accounts based on the British National Corpus. Examining the swearing practices of this group of people adds detail to our knowledge of a particular style of English, paves the way for future research into the socio-pragmatic functions of teenage swearing, and helps us to better understand the linguistic behaviour of an often-marginalised section of society.

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