Monday, March 16, 2009


Human beings are not static. Their thinking, choice and behaviour vary according to need and situation. As they adapt their behaviour according to the situation, they adapt their language. This adaption of language according to situation, context and purpose forms a language variety that is called ‘Register’. David Crystal defines Register as:
‘A variety of language defined according to its use in a social situation’
The term was first used by the linguist Thomas Bertram Reid in 1956, and brought into general use in the 1960s by a group of linguists who wanted to distinguish between 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 chooses between them at different times” (Halliday , 1964). The focus is on the way language is used in particular situations, such as legalese or motherese, the language of a biology research lab, of a news report or of the home.
R.A.Hudson also defines Register ‘varieties according to use’ in contrast with dialects, defines as ‘varieties according to user’. Not only this but he also gives the reason for register as:
“The distinction is needed because the same person may use very different linguistic items to express more or less the same meaning on different occasions, and the concept of ‘dilect’ cannot reasonably be extended to include such variation.”
Register is marked by changes in syntax, accent or phonology, vocabulary,morphology. At some other occasions they talk technically as well as formally. At some occasion they become yet technical and sometimes informal and non-technical. Following is the example of all these ‘levels of formalities:
Formal, technical: “We obtainted some sodium chloride.”
Formal, non-technical: “We obtainted some salt.”
Informal, technical: “We got some sodium chloride.”
Informal, non-technical: “We got some salt.”
There are two other levels : Slang and vulgar.We can show these levels in the following example as well.
Formal: These nice cakes smell sweet, I must say ‘may I have one’.
Less Formal: Would you pass one of the nice cakes?
Informal: Can I have a cake?
Slang: Shove those buns, mate.
Vulgar: Give me the bloody cake, will you?
Michael Halliday in his Language as Social Semiotic defines register as “A complex scheme of behaviour has three dimensions: Field, Tenor, and Mode”. These three dimensions determine speaker’s choice of ‘linguistic items’.
Field implies why and about what the communication is? In simple, what is the purpose and subject matter of communication? For example, a doctor’s communication with other doctors will be containing more medical terminology i.e. he will be using medical register.
The same doctor will communicate with his patient in as simple language as possible. So the patient is ‘Tenor’ that means ‘the relationship’ or to whom the communication is being done. Other example of determination of speech by ‘Tenor’ is the difference of a person’s communication with a teacher than with a friend.
Mode is the means of communication. If the mode of communication is letter, its language will be different from direct conversation. If it is an essay, its language will be differing from that of letter even though written about the same topic.
Therfore R.M.W.Dixon, in “On Formal & Contextual Meaning,” observes registers as “Varieties of language which correspond to different situations, different speakers and listeners, or readers and writers and so on”.
‘Register’ as a language variety differs from dialect, sociolect and idiolect.
These differences are:

Register is a language variety according to use
Dialect is language variety according to user
It may be related to any particular profession or situation.
It may be related to any region or social class.
It shows what the user of language is doing.
It shows who the user is and from where the user belongs
Register is a set of particular linguistic items to be used in a prticular situation.

Dialect is a set of linguistic items to be used by people of particular area or class.

The definition and study of register is not without controversy. Some linguists argue against the use of the term, because it suggests normative and prescriptive judgments. Others study the phenomenon in terms of basilect, mesolect, and arcolect, style, jargon, or genre.

Taking all the social factors into account ,we might of the view that to say something to right person at the right time is an individual social concern. It is, therefore a major skill which language-users must some societies, however , the choice of appropriate linguistic forms is made a little more straightforward because of diglossia.
In linguistics, diglossia is a situation where, in a given society, there are two (often) closely-related languages, one of high prestige, which is generally used by the government and in formal texts, and one of low prestige, which is usually the spoken vernacular tongue. The high-prestige language is usually the more formalised, and its forms and vocabulary often 'filter down' into the vernacular, though often in a changed form.
The French term diglossie is used by The Arabist William Marçais in 1930 to describe the linguistic situation in Arabic-speaking countries. In Charles Ferguson's article “Diglossia” in the journal Word (1959), diglossia was described as a kind of bilingualism in a given society in which one of the languages is (H), i.e. has high prestige, and another of the languages is (L), i.e. has low prestige. In Ferguson's definition, (H) and (L) are always closely related. Fishman also talks about diglossia with unrelated languages: “extended diglossia” (Fishman 1967), for example Sanskrit as (H) and Hindustani as (L) Kloss calls the (H) variant exoglossia and the (L) variant endoglossia.
(H) is usually the written language whereas (L) is the spoken language. In formal situations, (H) is used; in informal situations, (L) is used. One of the earliest examples is Latin, being formal Latin the (H) language, and vulgar Latin, the (L) language. The latter is the tongue Romance languages come from.
Chales Ferguson defines diglossia as:
“Diglossia is a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary dialect of the language (which may include standard or regional standards), there is very highly codified (often grammatically complex) superposed variety.”
In Ferguson’s theory that society is ‘diglossia’ where two ‘divergent’ varieties of the same language are used, out of which one is ‘highly codified’. Arabic speaking counteries are the best examples of ‘Diglossia’. Throughout the arabic peninsula there are two varieties of Arabic language in use: Classic Arabic, and Vernaculrs. Classical Arabic, which is based on the Quranic language, is highly codified and complex and has stable grammatical structure since the Holy Quran is revealed. This language is ‘Lingua Franca’ of Arabian Peninsula and is being taught in schools and not acquired ‘by being born in right king of family’. Everywhere in diglossia societies vernaculars are used for daily routine conversation. Other examples of diglossic societies are Greece, where high variety is Katharevousa and low is Dhimotiki, and German speaking Switzerland with Hochdeutsch as a low variety of those same languages.
It is obvious form Ferguson’s definition that only society was considered diglossia where two varieties, one high and another low, of the same language were used.through long period of Western European History, a diglossic situation existed with Latin as the high variety and local languages such as French and English as the low variety. Furthermore, in Ferguson's definition, diglossia is not bilingualism; however this depends on the scholar's definition of language. For example, different kinds of Arabic are not mutually intelligible; even though many are, but this may also be due to exposure to different varieties rather than inherent linguistic properties. However, later on, Joshua Fishman, extended the term to that society where different languages are used. According to this extnsion almost all societies become diglossic society.
Ferguson also purposed that there is a strong tendency to give one language higher status or prestige and reserve it for specific occasion and purposes. Accorging to this notion, Pakistani society is strongly a digolossic society where there are not two but three languages exist with different status. In Punjab for example, Punjabi is used at personal level, Urdu is used on social level and English is ‘reserved’ for high formal occasions.
Examples where the High/Low dichotomy is justified in terms of social prestige include also Italian dialects as (L) and Standard Italian as (H) in Italy and German dialects and standard German in Germany. In Italy and Germany, those speakers who still speak dialects typically use dialect in informal situations, especially in the family. In German-speaking Switzerland, on the other hand, Swiss German dialects are to a certain extent even used in schools and to a larger extent in churches. Ramseier calls German-speaking Switzerland's diglossia a "medial diglossia", whereas Felicity Rash prefers "functional diglossia". Paradoxically, Swiss German offers both the best example for diglossia (all speakers are native speakers of Swiss German and thus diglossic) and the worst, because there is no clear-cut hierarchy.
When we talk of the knowledge of languages, we come across terms like Monolingualism, Bilingualism and Multilingualism. Simply speaking, they mean one, two or more languages. It is evident that the distinction is of degree only. Different people use term “Bilingualism” in different ways. For some Bilingualism means an equal ability to communicate in two languages. For others, it means the ability to communicate in two languages but with the possibility of greater skill in one language.
The traditional definition of Bilingualism is something like “the ability to use two languages freely and fluently with native speaker like proficiency”. This approach to bilingualism appears to rule out a great many people, especially learners, who have a good working knowledge of a second language and a fair ability to express themselves, but who cannot claim to have the accuracy and fluency of a native speaker. This type of perfect bilingualism is extremely rare. However, it is not uncommon for people to approximate to perfect bilingualism by being equally competent in both languages over a fairly wide range of situations. So we should prefer to view Bilingualism as “language ability which can be placed on a line from monolingualism to ambilingualism”. It means this ability can occur anywhere on a scale from speaking only one’s native language to speaking two or more languages with equal skill.
Bilingualism in its broad definition is very common indeed all over the world. Monolingualism speech communities are extremely rare. People are required to attempt to learn at least one other language. Over 70% of the earth;s population are thought to be bilingual or multilingual, and there is good reason to believe that bilingualism or multilingualism has been the norm for most human beings at least for the last few millennia. In countries like Switzerland, Canada and the United States, people speak more than one language. Two wellknown examples of officially bilingual countries are Canada and Belgium. An equally well-known example of an officially multilingual country, which has not experienced any comparable language-problems, is Switzerland. Other countries, though not officially bilingual or multilingual, have two or more different languages spoken within their borders. Most countries of the world fall into this latter category. Furthermore, although it does not follow from what has been said so far, in most countries whether they are officially bilingual or multilingual or not, there are whole communities that are bilingual or multilingual in the sense that their members commonly use two or more languages in their daily lives. It is not the case, of course, that all the citizens of an officially bilingual or multilingual country use, or even know, more than one language.
In New Guinea, in southeast Asia, in India, in the Caucasus, in the Amazon rain forest, people routinely learn two or three neighbouring languages as well as their own, and the same was true of Australia before the European settlement. Even today, many millions of European are at least bilingual, speaking both their own mother tongue and the national lenguage of the country they live in, and many of them can additionally speak a global language or world language like English or French.
People of a country may feel obliged to study a foreign language under political pressure, or adopt it of their own free will to join the main stream of human relationship.Individual bilingualism, however, doesn’t have to be the result of political dominance by a group using different language. It can simply be the result of having two parents who speak different languages. If a child simultaneously acquires the French spoken by her mother and the English spoken by her father, then the distinction between the two languages may not even be noticed. There will simply be two ways of talking according to the person being talked to. However, even in this type of bilingualism, one language tends eventually to become the dominent one, with the others in subordinate role.
Sociolinguists have identified two main types of bilingualism: Co-ordinate and Compound.
Co-ordinate bilinguals tend to keep the two languages separate, and have language choice governed by language domains(area of language activity). They may think in their dominant language but have the ability to switch from one language to another when the need arises.
Compound bilinguals have their two languages as a merged system. They have a single semantic base or competence and can use it to produce other language. They move from one language to another with much less hesitation. The compound bilinguals use both language at the same time interchangeably. Compound bilingualism results in code-switching which means change from one language to another. This change of switch may take place from one language to another in the same situation, or from one sentence to another sentence in the discourse, or with in the same sentence.
The classification of bilinguals just given may or may not be well founded from a psychological, and neurophysiological, point of view. But it is one that has guided a good deal of recent research. At the very least, it serves to emphasize the fact that there are many different kinds of bilingual individuals.
Similarly, there are many different kinds of bilingual communities: different in respect of whether one language is clearly dominant or not for most members; whether one language is dominent for some, but not for others; whether some members approximate to perfect bilingualism or not; whether both languages are acquired simultaneously or not; and so on. However regardless of of all these differences, there is one thing that most, if not all, bilingual communities have in common: a fairly clear functional differentiation of the two languages in respect of what many sociolinguiats refer to as domains. For example, one such domain might the home, this being defined in terms, not simply of the actual place where the conversation occurs, but also of the participants, the topic of conversation, and other relevant variables. Thus one language might be the language of the home, in the sense that it would always be used in talking informally with other members of the family at home about domestic matters. However, another language might be used outside the home, or inside the home when strangers are present (even though they might well be bilingual too) or when the topic of conversation is other than domestic. This notion of domain is intuitively attractive.
Bilingualism or multilingualism can be the property of an individual, but equally it can be the property of an entire speech community in which two or more languages are routinely used. The existence of bilingual and multilingual societies raises a number of important social, political and educational issues. In what languages should education be delivered, and at what levels? What languages should be accepted for publication and broadcasting? In what languages should laws be written, and what languages should be accepted in court proceedings?

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