Varieties of Language.

  1. The formation of the national E language. The London dialect.
  2. The Norman Conquest and its influence on the development of the English language.

As has already been mentioned, functional styles are the product of the development of the written variety of language.

Each FS may be characterized by a number of distinctive features leading or subordinate, constant or changing, obligatory or optional.

Each FS can be recognized by one or more leading, especially conspicuous features. For instance, the use of special terminology is a lexical characteristic of the FS of scientific prose, and by which it can easily be recognized. The address Dear Sir will be a signal to refer the message to the FS of official documents.

Now we are in a position to give a more exact definition of a functional style than the one given earlier.

A Functional Style is a patterned variety of literary text characterized by the greater or lesser typification of its constituents, supra-phrasal units (SPU), in which the choice and arrangement of interdependent and interwoven language media are calculated to secure he purport of the communication.

Each FS is a relatively stable system at the given stage in the development of the literary language, but it changes and sometimes considerably , from one period to another. Therefore FS of language is a historical category. There are many instances to prove this. Thus, the FS of emotive prose actually began to function as an independent style after the second half of the 16th century; the newspaper style budded from the publicistic style; the oratorical style has undergone considerable fundamental changes, and so with other FSs.

The English literary language has involved a number of FSs easily distinguishable one from another. Later we shall consider each of the FSs in its most characteristic features.

Varieties of Language.


We have already said that the actual situation of the communication has involved two varieties of language the spoken and the written.

Of the two varieties of language, diachronically the spoken is primary and the written is secondary. Each of these varieties has developed its own features and qualities which in many ways may be regarded as opposed to each other.

The situation in which the spoken variety of language is used and in which it develops can be described concisely as the presence of an interlocutor.

The written variety, on the contrary, presupposes the absence of an interlocutor.

The spoken language is maintained in the form of a dialogue, the written in the form of a monologue.

The spoken language has a considerable advantage over the written, in that the human voice comes into play. This is a powerful means of modulating the utterance, as are all kinds of gestures, which together with the intonation, give additional information.

The written language has to seek means to compensate for what it lacks. Therefore the written utterance will inevitably be more diffuse, more explanatory. In other words, it has to produce an enlarged representation of the communication in order to be explicit enough.

The gap between the spoken and the written varieties of language, wider or narrower at different periods in the development of he literary language, will always remain apparent due to the difference in circumstances in which the two are used.

Here is an example showing the difference.

Marvelous beast a fox. Great place for wild life, these wooded chines; so steep you cant disturb them pigeons, jays, woodpeckers, rabbits, hares, pheasants - every mortal thing.


Its written counterpart would run as follows:

What a marvelous beast a fox is! These wooded chines are splendid places for wild life. They are so steep that one cant disturb anything. Therefore one can see every imaginable creature here pigeons, jays, woodpeckers, rabbits, foxes, hares and pheasants.


The use of the peculiarities of the spoken variety in the written language or vice versa, the peculiarities of the written language in lively speech, will always produce a ludicrous effect. In this connection A.S. Pushkin wrote:

The written language is constantly being enlivened by expressions born in conversation but must not give up what it has acquired in the course of centuries. To use the spoken language only, means not to know the language

It must be born in mind that in the belles-lettres style there may appear elements of colloquial language (a form of the spoken variety), but it will always be stylized to a greater or lesser degree by the writer. The term belles-lettres itself suggests the use of the written language.

The spoken language by its very nature is spontaneous, momentary, fleeting. It vanishes after having fulfilled in purpose, which is to communicate a thought, no matter whether it is trivial or really important. The idea remains, the language dissolves in it. The written language, on the contrary, lives together with the idea it expresses.

The spoken language cannot be detached from the user of it, the speaker, who is unable to view it from the outside.

The written language, on the contrary, can be detached from the writer, enabling him to look upon his utterance objectively and giving him the opportunity to correct and improve what has been put on paper. That is why it is said that the written language bears a greater volume of responsibility than its spoken counterpart.

The spoken variety differs from the written language (that is in its written representation) phonetically, morphologically, lexically and syntactically.

Thus, of morphological forms the spoken language commonly uses contracted forms, as hed (he would), shes ( she is), Idve (I would have).

It must be remembered that we touch upon the differences between the two varieties of the English language within standard (literary) English. However, some forms of the vernacular do make their way into the oral (spoken) variety of standard English. They are as it were, on the way to be admitted into the standard. Such are, for example,

the use of dont instead of doesnt, as in Its a wonder his father dont take him in his bank (T.Dreiser);

he instead of him, as in I used to play tennis with he and Mrs. Antolini (Salinger);

I says; aint (instead of am not, is not, are not);

them instead of these or those;

Leggo= let go;

Hellova= hell of a and others.

These morphological and phonetic peculiarities are sometimes regarded as violations of grammar rules caused by a certain carelessness which accompanies the quick tempo of colloquial speech or an excited state of mind. Others are typical of territorial or social dialects. The following passage is illustrative in this respect:


Mum, Ive asked a young lady to come to tea tomorrow.

Is that all right?

You done what? asked Mrs. Sunbury, for a moment forgetting her grammar.

You heard, mum.


Some of these improprieties are now recognized as being legitimate forms of colloquial English.

The most striking difference between the spoken and the written language is, however, in the vocabulary used. There are words and phrases typically colloquial, on the one hand, and typically bookish, on the other.

Such words and phrases as:

sloppy = foolishly sentimental; weakly emotional;

to be gone on smb = to be violently in love with;

I take it = I understand;

to hob-nob with = to be very familiar with and others immediately mark the utterance as being colloquial, that is, belonging to the spoken variety of language.

Here are some more examples of present-day colloquial phrases which are gaining ground in Standard English, but which are strongly felt to be colloquial:

How come? = Why? How does that happen?

To buddy-buddy together = to be friends.


There is another characteristic feature of colloquial language, namely, the insertion into the utterance of words without any meaning, which are called fill-ups or empty words. To some extent they give a touch of completeness to the sentence if used at the end of it or, if used in the middle, help the speaker to fill the gap when unable to find the proper word.

Illustrative is the use of and all in Holdens speech in Salingers novel The Catcher in the Rye.

Here are some examples:

She looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around in her blue coat and all.

He is my brother and all

Such words and set expressions as: well, so to say, you see, you know, you understand, and all, as well as what may be called mumbling words like m-m, er-r also belong to the category of fill-ups

The syntactical peculiarities of the spoken language are perhaps not so striking as the lexical ones, but they reveal the true nature of the spoken variety of language, that is, the situational character of the communication.

The first of them is the omission of the part of the utterance easily supplied by the situation in which the communication takes place. Here are some absolutely normal and legitimate constructions which have missing elements in the spoken language, elements which are, however, indispensable in the written language:

Tell you what?

Who you with? (Who are you with?)

Ever go back to England?


Unfinished sentences are also typical of the spoken language, for example:

If you behave like that Ill


A syntactical structure with a tautological subject is also considered characteristic of colloquial English:

Helen, she was there. Ask her.


Most of the connecting words were involved in the written language and for the most part are used only there. Such connectives as: moreover, likewise, similarly, nevertheless, on the contrary, however are seldom used in ordinary conversation.

Another syntactical feature of the written language is its use of complicated sentence-units.


: 2015-08-05; : 11;

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