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Young Adult Vocabulary & Harry Potter – Reading’s Profound Effect on Teens

Expert Author Sarahbeth CarterIn the process of conducting a casual, yet thorough, linguistic sampling of speech in the young adult community I discovered that language acquisition habits of young adults. They lend credence to the idea that reading is an asset to young adults that leaves definable marks on their speech community as a whole. The adoption of new words and the assignation of new, parallel meanings applicable to the reality of the speaker. But originating in fiction lead me to conclude that young adult literature is capable of making its mark on readers. No matter how valid the content is seen by conservative educators and those who classify Young Adult (YA) literature as useless fluff. The “classics” will always be that, but the introduction of new writing in no way diminishes the importance of what came before. The acceptance of the evolving world of literature is as necessary as the acceptance of the evolving world we spend our days in.

New words have been said to be the result of a gap in the current language system. This is a possibility, but in no way a full definition of the purpose of new words. New words can be a result of a gap in the language of any given speech community, but they are at other times not a direct result of an object or idea with no name or communicable designation. Gaps in the language of a speech community are created by the introduction of new objects or the use of old objects for newly discovered purposes or as names for new inventions. But other new words come into being where there was already a perfectly adequate term used in the speech community. This type of “new word” offers an additional perspective to something that is familiar. They do not fill any sort of language gap, but in their own way they offer an evolution in language that is necessary to the vitality of the speech community’s language system.

For the object of this study, we are going to look at new words as introduced in written literature. History has proven that language is, at times, acquired from fictional words an/or ideas introduced in stories. For instance, Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels. The story told within this particular book contained a fictional race of creatures with the appearance of humans. They were brutish and entirely imaginary. The name that Swift gave this imaginary race of brutish creatures in his novel was Yahoo. This word has since been adopted and incorporated into everyday speech as a slang term in certain communities. Calling someone a Yahoo in everyday speech in the current time period does not mean that the speaker believes that particular person is somehow a descendant or member of the imaginary race of brutish creatures Swift created for his book. Calling someone a Yahoo in today’s society is the equivalent of describing them as boorish, rude, crude or stupid. As in the case of the Yahoo, some adopted slang words can eventually be incorporated so fully that they are accepted as part of everyday speech patterns.

With the possible acquisition of new words from the written word in mind, we can now turn to the massive exposure of the young adult speech community to the series of Harry Potter books created by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books have been translated into over 55 languages. When the fifth book was released in the United States there were 5 million copies sold in the first day. The total number of Harry Potter books sold throughout the world is astronomical. A large portion of these numbers are attributable to members of the young adult speech community. While the popularity of the book is not bound by age group definitions, the book was originally intended to reach young adults and the young adult consumer group is still largely targeted as the main buying group for the books. With these numbers it is difficult to argue that the young adult speech community is not going to be effected in any way by the book.

The effect of the Harry Potter series on the young adult speech community has been recognized by professionals in the medical/health field. Many psychiatrists embrace the Harry Potter series. It is said to contribute positively to the young adult community by enabling young adults to address their emotional concerns and dilemmas. The books elicit repressed content and offer strategies for overcoming obstacles as well as popular acceptance of meaningful values that help young adults work towards discovering their own resolutions.

The Harry Potter series is an example of literature that has a positive and noticeable effect on the moral education of young adults. The books are noted as a possible “vehicle to promote moral development…because many of the characters in these stories exhibit stages of moral reasoning to which this age group can relate” (Binnedyk & Schonert-Reichl 200). The effect of the Harry Potter books on young adults is evident in many ways that are accepted and accessed by professionals in these, and other, fields. Studying related language acquisition of young adults provides further proof of these effects as evidenced through the adoption of speech and/or new words introduced by the novels.

SarahBeth is the author of LJW Publishing’s first fiction book: Meeting Lizzy. She loves reading and believes it is an intrinsic part of not only the formal learning process, but the developmental process we continue through for the rest of our lives. SarahBeth graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in English Literature. She has been writing freelance for several years and enjoys it immensely. She is married with two kids and sometimes wonders if she has come home to an insane asylum, but then…isn’t that normal? For more information about SarahBeth Carter’s upcoming book visit LJW Publishing (http://larryjohnwrightpublishing.com) where you’ll find a link to author blogs! Or jump straight to SarahBeth Carter’s author blog by visitinghttp://writingnwords.blogspot.com

You’ll find posts ranging from news to recent good reads to where you can find her writing to upcoming reading events, etc. Don’t miss the other books published by LJW Publishing either. A good read is a good read no matter who the author is, right?

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