Chapter 4 Formal vs Informal Language
4.1 The Interpersonal Function of Language 4.2 Personal Tenor and Degree of Formality 4.3 Functional Tenor and Degree of Formality 4.4 Martin Joos’ Classification 4.5 Speech situation and Formality 4.6 Formality and Linguistic Features 4.7 Sets of Co-occurring features 4.8 Involved vs informational texts
4.1 The Interpersonal Function of Language Three functions of language (a review): the ideational or referential function the interpersonal function the textual function.
Many people notice the ideational or referential function of language. (when talking about objects, persons and ideas, to name and define them, etc.), but tend to ignore other functions of language
Consider the following texts: ---Hello. How are you? ---Just fine, thanks. And you? ---How do you do? ---How do you do?
Are these texts related to the ideational function of language?
The central idea: Language shapes, defines and identifies roles and relationships of people. Or to put it other way, the addressers usually speak in accordance with the situation, his/her role and status. Elaborate on the above statement (with examples)
4.2 Personal Tenor and Degree of Formality Formality refers to the way in which the style of language will vary in appropriateness according to the social context: the occasion and the relationship between addresser and addressee(s). Personal tenor expresses the various roles assumed by the participants and the degree of formality of their relationship.
Address forms Address forms are the most direct and obvious means to indicate roles and relationships. The three most frequently used patterns: the reciprocal exchange of TLN the reciprocal exchange of FN the non-reciprocal pattern
The reciprocal exchange of TLN (such as Professor Zhang, President Bush, etc) ---- Morning, Professor Lee. ----Morning, Doctor Zhang. What do you learn from the text (about the interpersonal relationship)? Implication: an acquaintance-to acquaintance role; formal; the same status of participants
The reciprocal exchange of first name (FN): ---Hi, Nancy. ---Hi, Jason What do you learn from the text (about the interpersonal relationship)? Implication: a friend-to-friend role; intimate; the same status of participants
The non-reciprocal pattern It refers to the situation where one person uses FN and the other TLN. ---Good morning, Professor Zhang. ---Morning, Martin. What do you learn from the text (about the interpersonal relationship)? Implication: formal; different statuses of participants.
What about the address terms such as “your honour” (for a judge), “sir” (for a policeman) or “Madam” (for a lady)?
Change in the pattern of address terms Adults of equal status: Mutual TLN → Mutual FN (with the development of relationship) Adults of unequal status: keep the nonreciprocality until the person in the superior status initiates the move and encourages the subordinate to exchange FN with him/her
The use of impersonality on a formal occasion Purpose: politeness How: A speaker doesn’t make any reference to the immediate context of situation between addresser and addressee by the use of personal pronouns, even the TLN of the addressee, nor to his/her feelings and opinions.
Compare the following sentences I think you/Dr Wood should air your/his view. (informal) It is thought that the Dean should give his opinion. (formal)
4.3 Functional Tenor and Degrees of Formality Functional tenor tells us the addresser’s intention of using the language: for teaching? Persuading? Amusing? Explaining? Controlling? Insulting? Etc.
Certain functional tenors can hit any point on the personal tenor formality continuum. Eg: An insult can be formal or informal, as in the following two sentences: I shall allow no s.o.b. to tamper with my affairs! Keep out of my affairs, you s.o.b.!
Compare the following sentences: a. Although there have been clashes, only in a few cases were the injuries fatal. b. Some were killed.
c. 我们应该提供一些方法，照顾那些在社 会生活或经济方面遭受压迫的阶层，满 足他们那些未被满足的需要，并且给予 鼓励，促使他们脱离自我贬抑的贫穷和 破坏信心的依赖状况 。 d.让我们设法把那些有能力工作的人脱离 救济福利
Which of the above sentences do you prefer? What is the writer’s intention in writing a and c? To conceal the harsh truth of a matter or to affect a kind of profoundness for a statement.
4.4 Martin Joos’ Classification Martin Joos (1967) describes the range of formality as having five levels: Frozen庄重文体 庄重文体 Formal正式文体 正式文体 Consultative商议文体 商议文体 Casual随便文体 随便文体 Intimate亲密文体 亲密文体
Frozen style Often used in written legal documents or highly solemn speech With Latinate diction and impersonal syntax. Eg: Visitors would make their way at once to the upper floor by way of the staircase.
Formal正式文体 正式文体 Used for public speech such as lectures or speeches where the audience is not known to the speaker much attention to form, little or no interaction; the speaker being an authority or of higher status. Eg: Visitors should go up the stairs at once.
Consultative level Used in less formal gatherings; participants interact Considerable attention on form Eg: Would you mind going upstairs right away，please?
Casual level Used among friends, or peers who know each other well; little elaboration is necessary; Very little attention to form and concentrate totally on content and relationship. Eg: Time you all went upstairs now.
Intimate level Used between people who see each other daily and share the majority of their daily life experiences; Of telegraphic quality; no attention paid to form. Eg: Up you go，chaps！
Also compare the following: We wish you a fond farewell. (frozen)
Good-bye, ladies and gentlemen. (formal) And so good-bye from Dennis and me.
Bye for now. see you. (casual) Got to go now. see y’all later. (intimate)
Comments on Joos’ classification
It is an efficient way of looking at degrees of formality. It is easy to distinguish the frozen style from the intimate style. But it’s hard to categorize the intervening degrees, or related them to linguistic features. Different levels of formality constitute a continuum from the most formal to the most informal/intimate, with an infinite number of stopping places in between.
Compare the following texts a. I am applying for the receptionist position advertised in the local paper. I am an excellent candidate for the job because of my significant secretarial experience, good language skills, and sense of organization.
b. I am applying for the receptionist position that is currently open in the company. As you are aware, I have worked as a temporary employee with your company in this position before. As such, I not only have experience and knowledge of this position, but also already understand the company's needs and requirements for this job.
c. Hi! I read in the paper that ya'll were looking for a receptionist. I think that I am good for that job because I've done stuff like it in the past, am good with words, and am incredibly well organized.
What are the differences between them? Which one is most appropriate? Which is your second choice? Imagine the occasion on which each text is produced.
4.5 Speech situation and Formality
a. Variation of speech situation shifts the formality of language. b. The formality of language helps to create the social situation. c. The introductory sentences of a speech is vital in shaping different degrees of formality for a meeting.
Superiorsubordinate; friend-friend; strangers
At home, at work, or political meeting
lecturing, story telling, or asking a favor?
To children or seniors? To the educated or illiterate?
politics; marital issues; weather
eg: the use of formal address term (‘Professor Smith’) defines their relationship as a formal one; the use of informal address form (‘Johnny’) defines their relationship as intimate.
Compare the following introductory sentences
Madame Chairman, Mrs Vice-president, Honoured Guests, Faculty and Friends: I feel most deeply honoured to have been invited to speak to such an illustrious gathering tonight and to be given the priviledge of presenting to my distinguished colleagues, especially Dr Monrovia, what we have recently found in a demanding research project in the field of sociolinguistics, an area of study that, we feel, may have great potential for your profession also.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am exceedingly grateful to have been asked by your chairperson, Dr Jean Monrovia, to present our recent findings on the topic of 'Research and Development in Sociolinguistics', which I hope will prove useful to those of you engaged in the teaching of English.
Good evening, Friends, Your chairperson, Jean Monrovia, asked me to share some of my current research in sociolinguistics. I hope it will be useful to you in your English teaching.
Hi, everyoneJean asked me to come over and rap a little about the stuff I'm into in sociolinguistics. Maybe it'll help those teaching English, and I hope you won't be turned off with some of the technical jargon and stuff.
4.6 Formality and Linguistic Features In the following the formality of language is shown in different aspects of language: Vocabulary Phonology Syntax Semantics
Fomal vs informal in terms of vocabulary 1) Languages usually have a range of words with the same meaning or referent. eg: Buy, purchase Skirt, female, woman, lady Law enforcement officer, policeman, cop, fuzz They are synonyms at different levels of formality.
Vocabulary: Formal style vs. informal style Formal style: formal words including learned words and technical terms Informal style: colloquialism, slang, vulgarism
Learned words 学术词汇 Mostly loan words of Greek and Latin origin Learned from books, lectures or conversation of educated person eg: vivacious (lively) commence (begin) accomodation (room)
Technical terms 术语 Words for the various disciplines of science and technology Eg:Brittleness (脆性), pulpit (feel) Words may have very different meaning in different disciplines. Take ‘force’ as an example (see next slide)
a 12 force typhoon 12级台风（气象） magnetic force 磁力（物理） force of law 法律效力（法律） force main 压力干管（排水）
Colloquialism 口头语 Simple words: thing, nice, people, etc. Active phrasal verbs: make up, let down, take off, bring about, etc. Backformation (the process of making a new word by dropping the supposed suffix) or abbreviation: baby-sit, back-form, ad, bike, exam, etc. Emphatics: awfully, terrific, superb, etc.
slangs Used by special groups for special effect; transitory Eg: Do you want to hit on the girl in the corner? Go ahead, what you are waiting for? Buzz me when you get free, pal. Lol is now quite a buzzword on Internet.
Phonology: formal vs. informal style Formal style: [i]; careful articulation Informal style: [in]; elision (represented by contractions); assimilation
Contractions in different registers 60 times per 1000 words in informal conversation 20 times per 1000 words in TV broadcast None in legal documents — findings of a study
Assimilation Assimilations often occur in informal speech. Eg: bread and butter / 'bred'm'bta/ corn beef /'k: m'bi:f/ tin peaches /'tim'pi:tiz/
Syntactic Formal style features Prep-ending less Length of Ss longer S Structure Personal involvement Preferred structures Others complex Impersonal construction Participial clause & absolute structures nominalization; complex nominal groups
Informal style more shorter simple Involved construction clauses sentence relatives; elliptical sentences; tag questions;
Compare the following sentences:
He is a person on whom we can rely. He is a person whom we can rely on. With what did he write it? What did he write it with?
Personal involvement Impersonal construction: predicator in passive voice; use of formal it as subject Eg: It was suggested that such computers be designed at once. Involved construction: use of 1st and 2nd person pronoun as subjects eg: You think that’s a good idea?
Compare the sentences below and find out which makes the speech formal or informal. Kindly extinguish the illumination upon exiting. Please turn off the lights on your way out. Penalties for overdue books will be strictly enforced. You've got to pay fines for overdue books.
I apprehended the alleged perpetrator (said a policeman at court to the judge). I collared this creep (said a cop at a bar to his colleagues). With whom is he staying? Who's he stayin' with?
On the decease of his father, Brown was obliged to seek alternative employment. When his father died, Peter had to get another job. Much thought has gone into the resolution. You bet we've racked our brains over this piece of work.
It is necessary for me to earn some money next summer to reduce my father's economic strain in sending me to college. I've got to pick up a little extra cash this coming summer. So my dad won't have to foot the whole bill for putting me through college.
Being a man of fixed views, he refused to listen to our argument. He has very fixed ideas on this; he wouldn't listen to what we said.
Semantics: formal vs. informal style Informal text--- frequent use of anaphora and ellipsis; informal transitional words/phrases (and, so, to start with, etc); loosely organized, lack of planning Formal text --- frequent lexical reiteration; formal transitional words/phrases (however, consequently, furthermore, etc); compact and well-knit.
4.7 Sets of Co-occurring features The identification of a formal or informal register is based on the interaction of variants in vocabulary, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Sets of linguistic features drawn from these resources tend to appear together in creating registers.
Set A —defining the informal end 1st and 2nd person pronouns ( I, me, we, etc. ) that deletion from noun clauses used as direct objects (she said ^he lied) 'private' verbs ( think, consider, assume ) demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these,) emphatics ( really, for sure ) hedges ( kind of, more or less, maybe ) sentence relatives (Then he lied, which bothered her a lot.) sentence-final prepositions
Set B —defining the formal end frequent nouns and prepositions longer words lexical variety attributive adjectives
Features from Set A and Set B rarely appear in the same context. This is what is called 'co-occurrence restriction'
Features from Set A most commonly occur in conversation where stress is placed on interaction & personal involvement--the 'involved' end of the continuum. Features from Set B occur in language used to convey information with little or no personal involvement--the 'informational' end of the continuum.
The more involved the text is, the higher the degree of informality; the more informational the text, the higher the degree of formality.
4.8 Involved vs informational texts Using the features just indicated as indexes of involved vs informational focus, the locations of several hundred texts of different kinds have been calculated along the involved/informational continuum. (refer to P88)
Discussion How is variation of formality indicated by choice of vocabulary? What typical phonological and syntactical features distinguish the formal from the informal texts?