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In
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology), norms, expectations, and context (language use), context, on the way language is used, and society's effect on languag ...
, a register is a
variety Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety, the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations * Variety (universal algebra), classes of algebraic structures defined by equations in universal algebra Hort ...
of
language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...

language
used for a particular purpose or in a particular communicative situation. For example, when speaking officially or in a public setting, an
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
speaker may be more likely to follow prescriptive norms for formal
usage The usage of a language is the ways in which its written language, written and spoken language, spoken variations are routinely employed by its speakers; that is, it refers to "the collective habits of a language's native speakers", as opposed to id ...
than in a casual setting, for example, by pronouncing words ending in ''-ing'' with a
velar nasal The voiced velar nasal, also known as agma, from the Greek word for 'fragment', is a type of consonantal sound used in some Speech communication, spoken languages. It is the sound of ''ng'' in English ''sing'' as well as ''n'' before velar conson ...

velar nasal
instead of an
alveolar nasal The voiced alveolar nasal is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the f ...
(e.g., "walking" rather than "walkin), choosing words that are considered more "formal" (such as ''father'' vs. ''dad'' or ''child'' vs. ''kid''), and refraining from using words considered nonstandard, such as '' ain't'' and ''
y'all ''Y'all'' (pronounced ) is a Contraction (grammar), contraction of ''you'' and ''all'', sometimes combined as ''you-all''. ''Y'all'' is the main second-person plural pronoun in Southern American English, with which it is most frequently associa ...
''. As with other types of language variation, there tends to be a spectrum of registers rather than a discrete set of obviously distinct varieties—numerous registers can be identified, with no clear boundaries between them. Discourse categorisation is a complex problem, and even in the general definition of "register" given above (language variation defined by use rather than user), there are cases where other kinds of language variation, such as regional or age
dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...
, overlap. Due to this complexity, scholarly consensus has not been reached for the definitions of terms such as "register", "field", or "tenor"; different scholars' definitions of these terms are often in direct contradiction of each other. Additional terms such as diatype,
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, m ...

genre
,
text types Text types in literature form the basic styles of writing. Factual texts merely seek to inform, whereas literary texts seek to entertain or otherwise engage the reader by using creative language and imagery. There are many aspects to literary writi ...
,
style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design, the process of creating something * Fashion, a prevailing mode of clothing s ...
,
acrolectA post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language variety, language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties differ only ...
,
mesolectA post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language variety, language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties differ only ...
,
basilectA post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language variety, language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties differ only ...
,
sociolect In sociolinguistics, a sociolect is a variety (linguistics), form of language (nonstandard dialect, non-standard dialect, restricted register (sociolinguistics), register) or a set of lexicon, lexical items used by a socioeconomic class, a professio ...
, and
ethnolect An ethnolect is generally defined as a language variety In sociolinguistics, a variety, also called an isolect or lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include language A language is a structured system of co ...
, among many others, may be used to cover the same or similar ground. Some prefer to restrict the domain of the term "register" to a specific vocabulary (Wardhaugh, 1986) (which one might commonly call
slang Slang is vocabulary A vocabulary, also known as a wordstock or word-stock, is a set of familiar words within a person's language. A vocabulary, usually developed with age, serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and learnin ...
,
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also known as terminology science. Terms a ...
,
argot A cant is the jargon or language of a group, often employed to exclude or mislead people outside the group.McArthur, T. (ed.) ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'' (1992) Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the ...
, or
cantCANT may refer to: *CANT, a solo project from Grizzly Bear bass guitarist and producer, Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear musician), Chris Taylor. *Cantieri Aeronautici e Navali Triestini, an aviation company See also

* Cant (disambiguation) {{dab ...
), while others argue against the use of the term altogether (e.g., Crystal and Davy 1969, who critiqued the way the term has been used "in an almost indiscriminate manner"). These various approaches with their own "register", or set of terms and meanings, fall under disciplines such as sociolinguistics,
stylistics Stylistics, a branch of applied linguistics Applied linguistics is an interdisciplinary field which identifies, investigates, and offers solutions to language-related real-life problems. Some of the academic fields related to applied linguistics ...
(e.g., Wardhaugh 1986),
pragmatics In linguistics and related fields, pragmatics is the study of how context (language use), context contributes to meaning. The field of study evaluates how human language is utilized in social interactions, as well as the relationship between the ...
(Joos 1961), or
systemic functional grammar Systemic functional grammar (SFG) is a form of grammatical description originated by Michael Halliday. It is part of a social semiotic approach to language called ''systemic functional linguistics# * Systemic functional linguistics (SFL) i ...
(Halliday and Hasan 1976).


History and use

The term ''register'' was first used by the linguist T.B.W. Reid in 1956 (Agha, 2008), and brought into general currency in the 1960s by a group of linguists who wanted to distinguish among variations in language according to the ''user'' (defined by variables such as social background, geography, sex and age), and variations according to ''use'', "in the sense that each speaker has a range of varieties and choices between them at different times" (Halliday et al., 1964). The focus is on the way language is used in particular situations, such as
legalese Legal writing involves the analysis of fact patterns and presentation of arguments in documents such as legal memoranda and briefs. One form of legal writing involves drafting a balanced analysis of a legal problem or issue. Another form of lega ...
or
motherese Baby talk is a type of speech associated with an older person speaking to a child. It is also called caretaker speech, infant-directed speech (IDS), child-directed speech (CDS), child-directed language (CDL), caregiver register, parentese, or mot ...
, the language of a biology research lab, of a news report, or of the bedroom. M. A. K. Halliday and R. Hasan (1976) interpret ''register'' as "the linguistic features which are typically associated with a configuration of situational features – with particular values of the field, mode and tenor...". Field for them is "the total event, in which the text is functioning, together with the purposive activity of the speaker or writer; includes subject-matter as one of the elements". Mode is "the function of the text in the event, including both the channel taken by language – spoken or written, extempore or prepared – and its genre, rhetorical mode, as narrative, didactic, persuasive, ' phatic communion', etc." The tenor refers to "the type of role interaction, the set of relevant social relations, permanent and temporary, among the participants involved". These three values – field, mode and tenor – are thus the determining factors for the linguistic features of the text. "The register is the set of meanings, the configuration of semantic patterns, that are typically drawn upon under the specified conditions, along with the words and structures that are used in the realization of these meanings." Register, in the view of M. A. K. Halliday and R. Hasan, is one of the two defining concepts of text. "A text is a passage of discourse which is coherent in these two regards: it is coherent with respect to the context of situation, and therefore consistent in register; and it is coherent with respect to itself, and therefore cohesive."


Register as formality scale

One of the most analyzed areas where the use of language is determined by the situation is the formality scale. The term "register" is often, in
language teaching A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language A spoken language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), g ...
especially, shorthand for formal/informal style, although this is an aging definition. Linguistics textbooks may use the term "tenor" instead (Halliday 1978), but increasingly prefer the term "style" – "we characterise styles as varieties of language viewed from the point of view of formality" (Trudgill, 1992) – while defining "registers" more narrowly as specialist language use related to a particular activity, such as academic jargon. There is very little agreement as to how the spectrum of formality should be divided. In one prominent model,
Martin Joos Martin Joos (1907–1978) was a linguist and German professor. He spent most of his career at the University of Wisconsin–Madison A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and resea ...
(1961) describes five styles in spoken English: * Frozen: Also referred to as static register. Printed unchanging language, such as
Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek ...
quotations, often contains
archaism In language, an archaism (from the grc, ἀρχαϊκός, ''archaïkós'', 'old-fashioned, antiquated', ultimately , ''archaîos'', 'from the beginning, ancient') is a word, a sense of a word, or a style of speech or writing that belongs to a hist ...
s. Examples are the
Pledge of Allegiance The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 ...
of the
United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., federal di ...

United States of America
and other "static" vocalizations. The wording is exactly the same every time it is spoken. * Formal: One-way participation; no interruption; technical vocabulary or exact definitions are important; includes presentations or introductions between strangers. * Consultative: Two-way participation; background information is provided – prior knowledge is not assumed. "Back-channel behavior" such as "uh huh", "I see", etc. is common. Interruptions are allowed. For example teacher/student, doctor/patient, or expert/apprentice. * Casual: In-group friends and acquaintances; no background information provided;
ellipsis The ellipsis , , or (as a single glyph) , also known informally as dot-dot-dot, is a series of (usually three) dots that indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning. ...
and
slang Slang is vocabulary A vocabulary, also known as a wordstock or word-stock, is a set of familiar words within a person's language. A vocabulary, usually developed with age, serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and learnin ...
common; interruptions common. This is common among friends in a social setting. * Intimate: Non-public; intonation more important than wording or grammar; private vocabulary. Also includes non-verbal messages. This is most common among family members and close friends.


ISO standard

The
International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on 23 February 1947, the organization develops and publishe ...
(ISO) has defined the international standard ISO 12620, ''Management of terminology resources – Data category specifications''. This is a registry for registering linguistic terms used in various fields of translation, computational linguistics and natural language processing and defining mappings both between different terms and the same terms used in different systems. The registers identified are: * bench-level register * dialect register * facetious register * formal register * in-house register * ironic register * neutral register * slang register * taboo register * technical register * vulgar register


Diatype

The term diatype is sometimes used to describe language variation which is determined by its social purpose (Gregory 1967). In this formulation, language variation can be divided into two categories:
dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...
, for variation according to ''user'', and diatype for variation according to ''use'' (e.g. the specialised language of an academic journal). This definition of diatype is very similar to those of ''register''. The distinction between dialect and diatype is not always clear; in some cases a language variety may be understood as both a dialect and a diatype. Diatype is usually analysed in terms of ''field'', the subject matter or setting; ''tenor'', the participants and their relationships; and ''mode'', the channel of communication, such as spoken, written or signed.


See also

* Child-directed speech *
Code-switching In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
*
Colloquialism Colloquialism or colloquial language is the linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions ...
*
Diglossia In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
* Elderspeak *
Etiquette Etiquette ( and ; ) is the set of conventional rules of personal behaviour in polite society, usually in the form of an ethical code Ethical codes are adopted by organizations to assist members in understanding the difference between right ...

Etiquette
*
Honorifics (linguistics) In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
- politeness markers *
Honorific speech in Japanese The Japanese language is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle ...
*
Korean speech levels There are seven Inflection, verb paradigms or register_(sociolinguistics), speech levels in Korean, and each level has its own unique set of verb endings which are used to indicate the level of formality of a situation. Unlike Korean honorifics, ...
*
Literary language A literary language is the form of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system c ...
*
Prestige (sociolinguistics) In sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology), norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and society's effect on language. ...
*
Tone (literature) In literature, the tone of a literary work expresses the writer's attitude toward or feelings about the subject matter and audience. Overview Depending upon the personality of the writer and the effect the writer wants to create, the work can be fo ...
*
Vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language A first language, native tongue, native langua ...


Notes


References

*
Crystal, D.
Crystal, D.
and D. Davy (1969), ''Investigating English Style'', London: Routledge. * * Gregory, M. (1967), "Aspects of Varieties Differentiation", ''Journal of Linguistics'' 3: 177–197.
ISO 12620 Data register
(Accessed 2018-11-09) * * Halliday, M. A. K. and R. Hasan (1976), ''Cohesion in English'', London: Longman. * Halliday, M. A. K. (1964), "Comparison and translation", in M. A. K. Halliday, M. McIntosh and P. Strevens, ''The linguistic sciences and language teaching'', London: Longman. * Halliday, M. A. K. (1978), ''Language as Social Semiotic: the social interpretation of language and meaning'', Edward Arnold: London. * Joos, M. (1961), ''The Five Clocks'', New York: Harcourt, Brace and World. * Quirk, R., Greenbaum S., Leech G., and Svartvik J. (1985), ''A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language'', Longman, Harcourt. * Reid, T. B. (1956), "Linguistics, structuralism, philology", ''Archivum Linguisticum'' 8. * Swales, J. (1990), ''Genre Analysis. English in Academic and Research Settings'', Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. * Trosborg, A. (1997), "Text Typology: Register, Genre and Text Type", in ''Text Typology and Translation''. 3–23. (ed: Anna Trosborg), John Benjamins Publishing Company. * Trudgill, P. (1992), ''Introducing language and society''. London: Penguin. * Wardhaugh, R. (1986), ''Introduction to Sociolinguistics'' (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Blackwell * Werlich, E. (1982), ''A Text Grammar of English'', Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.


External links


L. Kip Wheeler's Spectrum of Formality and Informality
{{Authority control Systemic functional linguistics Discourse analysis Grammar Language varieties and styles Diglossia Linguistics terminology