Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Language Registers

Register refers to the perceived attitude and level of formality associated with a variety of language. The relationship between the writer's attitude and the variety chosen is very important in the study of written language. In face to face speech, the listener can easily interpret the attitude of the speaker by examining the speaker's tone of voice, facial expressions and overall body language. This is not possible in writing. The writer has to use speacialized features of discourse to convey or mask attitudes. It is then the reader's reponsibility to correctly interpret the writer's attitude, tone and level of formalityLanguage Registers range on a scale from most formal to most informal. The five levels identified have been given specialized names by Linguists; frozen, formal, consultative, casual and intimate.
1. Frozen: This is where the use of language is fixed and relatively static. The national pledge, anthem, school creeds and The Lord's Prayer are examples of a frozen register. In essence it is language that does not require     any feedback.
Example: "All visitors are invited to proceed upstairs immediately."
2. Formal: This describes language used in official and ceremonial settings. For example in court, in a business meeting, at a swearing in ceremony, in an interview or in a classroom etc. The language used in these settings is comparatively rigid and has a set, agreed upon vocabulary that is well documented. In other words, the language used is often of a standard variety.
Example: "Would everyone please proceed upstairs at once?"
3. Consultative: This describes language used for the purpose of seeking assistance as is suggested by the word 'consult'. It also describes the language used between a superior and subordinate. In both cases one person is deemed as more knowledgeable and having greater expertise and the other person is the beneficiary of such knowledge and expertise. The language dynamism between lawyer/client, doctor/patient, employer/employee and teacher/student are examples of this type of register.
Example: "Would you all please go upstairs right away?"
4. Casual/Informal: This describes language used between friends. It is often very relaxed and focused on just getting the information out. Slangs are quite often used in these instances.
Example: "Come on upstairs now."
5. Intimate: This is used to describe language used between persons who share a close relationship or bond. This  register would take into account certain terms of endearment, slangs or expressions whose meaning is shared with a small subset of persons. For example lovers having special terms of endearment, mothers giving pet names to their children based on some character trait and best friends formulating slangs based on some shared past experience.
Example: "Come up nuh/ Unu naa go up?/ Unu naa forward?"