register (sociolinguistics)
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In
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any or 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: Arts and entertainment Entertainment formats * Variety (radio) * Variety show, in theater and television Films * Variety (1925 film), ''Variety'' (1925 film), a German silent film directed by Ewald Andre Dupont * Varie ...
of
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of met ...
used for a particular purpose or in a particular communicative situation. For example, when speaking officially or in a public setting, an 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 ...
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 cons ...
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 and pronounced with the lips; and prono ...
(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 of '' you'' and ''all'', sometimes combined as ''you-all''. ''Y'all'' is the main second-person plural pronoun in Southern American English Southern American English or Southern U.S. English is a r ...
''. 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 a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
, 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, ...
, text types,
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 A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or ...
, acrolect, mesolect,
basilect A post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum of Variety (linguistics), varieties of a creole language between those most and least similar to the superstrate language (that is, a closely related language whose speaker ...
,
sociolect In sociolinguistics, a sociolect is a form of language ( non-standard dialect, restricted register) or a set of lexical items used by a socioeconomic class, profession, an age group, or other social group. Sociolects involve both passive acqui ...
, and
ethnolect An ethnolect is generally defined as a variety (linguistics), language variety that mark speakers as members of ethnic, ethnic groups who originally used another language or distinctive variety. According to another definition, an ethnolect is any ...
, 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 (which one might commonly call
slang Slang is vocabulary (words, phrases, and usage (language), linguistic usages) of an informal register, common in spoken conversation but avoided in formal writing. It also sometimes refers to the language generally exclusive to the members of p ...
,
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
,
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 It may also be called a cryptolect, argot ...
, or
cant Cant, CANT, canting, or canted may refer to: Language * Cant (language), a secret language * Beurla Reagaird, a language of the Scottish Highland Travellers * Scottish Cant, a language of the Scottish Lowland Travellers * Shelta or the Cant, a lan ...
), while others argue against the use of the term altogether. Crystal and Davy, for instance, have 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,
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 ...
, or systemic functional grammar.


History and use

The term ''register'' was first used by the linguist T. B. W. Reid in 1956, 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". 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 Briefs (or a brief) are a type of short, form-fitting Undergarment, underwear and swimsuit, swimwear, as oppo ...
or motherese, the language of a biology research lab, of a news report, or of the bedroom. M. A. K. Halliday and R. Hasan 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 Language education – the process and practice of teaching a second language, second or foreign language – is primarily a branch of applied linguistics, but can be an interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary field. There are four main learni ...
especially, shorthand for formal/informal style, although this is an aging definition. Linguistics textbooks may use the term ''tenor'' instead, but increasingly prefer the term ''style'' – "we characterise styles as varieties of language viewed from the point of view of formality" – 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 describes five styles in spoken English: * Frozen: Also referred to as static register. Printed unchanging language, such as
Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacredness, sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of ...
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 hi ...
s. Examples are the
Pledge of Allegiance The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is a patriotic recited verse that promises allegiance to the flag of the United States and the republic of the United States of America. The first version, with a text different from the one used ...
of the
United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
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 (, also known informally as dot dot dot) is a series of dots that indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning. The plural is ellipses. The term origin ...
and
slang Slang is vocabulary (words, phrases, and usage (language), linguistic usages) of an informal register, common in spoken conversation but avoided in formal writing. It also sometimes refers to the language generally exclusive to the members of p ...
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 development organization composed of representatives from the national standards organizations of member countries. Membership requirements are given in Art ...
(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. 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 a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
, 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 scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and ...
*
Colloquialism Colloquialism (), also called colloquial language, everyday language or general parlance, is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom norm ...
*
Diglossia In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature a ...
* Elderspeak *
Etiquette Etiquette () is the set of norms of personal behaviour in politeness, polite society, usually occurring in the form of an ethical code of the expected and accepted social behavior, social behaviours that accord with the convention (norm), conve ...
*
Honorifics (linguistics) In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and ...
- politeness markers * Honorific speech in Japanese * Korean speech levels *
Literary language A literary language is the Register (sociolinguistics), form (register) of a language used in written literature, which can be either a nonstandard dialect or a standard language, standardized variety of the language. Literary language sometimes ...
*
Prestige (sociolinguistics) In sociolinguistics, prestige is the level of regard normally accorded a specific language or dialect within a speech community, relative to other languages or dialects. Prestige Variety (linguistics), varieties are language or dialect families wh ...
* Tone (literature) *
Vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language is in contrast with a "standard language". It 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, n ...


Notes


References

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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