Ch. 4: Language Varieties

Effective language has:


Well formed grammatically


Writer's choices are understandable


Finding the memorable or striking expression that reinforces the message


Proper behavior according to circumstances

Three levels of appropriateness


Conversational and colloquial -- everyday speaking language.
Contractions, vulgar/obscene language, "he goes/I'm like," etc.


Neutral, fitted for straight narration and exposition
No one's native language -- must be learned


Very formal, used in the most serious topics
Polysyllabic words; long, complex sentence; elaborate connectives; heavy punctuation

English Varients


Different Englishes spoken in different geographic regions.


Different Englishes spoken due to different social, racial or ethnic groups


each person develops a set of language habits unique to that person
favorite words, phrases, written and spoken tendencies and patterns


Subsets of language tied to a particular activity or situation
Different registers are appropriate for different circumstances

Disciplinary Registers

Include a special lexicon and special ways of talking and writing in a field of learning -- such as in astronomy or accounting

Subject Labels

Some words have different meanings for different people

Occupational Registers

Fluid subset of the language, but recognizable because of the repeating who, where, when, and why of its use (Law enforcement talk)

Specialists's register

The ability of an expert of a topic to talk about that topic in a way that many people cannot fully understand.


A set of language that has consistent language features or registers
For example, sports stories tend to use a consistent lexicon and predictable sentence patterns

Shifting/Mixing Language Varieties

Swaying between language varieties, if done carefully, can be effective.
Must take into account the ethos, audience, situation and genre. ("less politely known as bullshit")

Register Shift

Switching between registers in order to be understood by multiple sections of audience.

Register Mixing (more extensive)

Involves writing part of a text in one language variety and part in another
Common in documents required by law to address several audiences.


It may be funny to a reader if an unexpected or inappropriate register is used effectively

Familiar Language

Communicates immediately, conveying not only content but also shared values and attitudes with the reader


Reused (or overused) phrases--(hit the nail on the head)


Oft-repeated phrases in which the meanings are not the sum of their parts--(put your best foot forward)

Catch Phrases

Flare up to wide use and then subside--(just say no)


The importation of a phrase from one context into another--(If you build it, he will come/shoeless Bo Jackson)

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