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Varieties of Language

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Jennifer Hynes

on 2 January 2015

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Transcript of Varieties of Language

a. Slang—includes expletives (four-letter words), shortened forms of expressions, trendy talk, etc.


b. Regional, Dialect—Southern phrases, Canadian terms, etc.


c. Obsolete, Archaic—terms and phrases we no longer use; Shakespearean English or phrases from the King James Bible, for example.



Other types of nonstandard English include ...

Varieties
of
Language

How do we communicate?
We all speak the same language, right?
At least in this class, we usually stick to English.
But are we really all using the same language?
Let's define "language"
Some of us might have learned another language (Spanish, German, etc.) as young children before we learned English, thereby forever altering how we approach English.





But even among native speakers of English, our backgrounds in the language vary. We grew up in different houses, different neighborhoods, different regions or countries, etc.
Standard & Nonstandard
Basically, teachers of English (and other language-philes) like to divide the language into two main categories:

Standard English
and
Nonstandard English
.





Even within those two broad categories, there are smaller classifications. Here's basically how it breaks down:
Standard English (aka "correct English")

General—
Correct English as used by many network television news announcers or daily newspapers. It follows the rules of correct grammar but avoids being overly formal or using language specific to any one field (like technical terms).


Formal—
Correct English that is more formal than General English; often found in academic journals (articles written by academics, professors, and researchers.) This language is often written from one "expert" in a field to the rest of the scholars in that field (from one psychologist explaining research results to other psychologists, for example).


Informal—
Correct English that is less formal than both General and Formal English, even including colloquial expressions, contractions, and such. This style might be found in newspaper columns (think of Dave Barry, for example).
Nonstandard English (part 1)
This is sometimes thought of as "incorrect English," although this is not really true. Even varieties of nonstandard English have their own sets of rules. Main types include:

a. Slang
b. Regional, Dialect
c. Obsolete, Archaic
d. Neologisms
e. Technical
f. Jargon, Pretentious

Nonstandard English (part 2)
Nonstandard English (part 3)
d. Neologisms—new words, or terms newly invented, which might not even appear in the dictionary yet; computer terms or other technologically relevant terms ("blog," for example).

e. Technical—language specific to any technical field, whether engineering, computer programming, the automotive industry, or knitting.

f. Jargon, Pretentious—language specific to a group of people (say, terms used by folks in the military—"AWOL") and likely not understood by outsiders. Pretentious words and phrases are those used to try to impress others or sound intelligent (or wealthy, or British, or whatever).

Why so many?
Do we talk or write differently at work than at home? How about when we're with our children vs. enjoying an evening out with our buddies?

Do our teenagers speak differently from our grandparents? (I hope so!)

What are the effects of switching? How can we be more persuasive based on our choice?
get the 4-1-1
y'all
forsooth,
twas
Jennifer Hynes, Ph.D.
Full transcript