Presentation on theme: "REGISTER in language usage with implications for teaching."— Presentation transcript:
1 REGISTER in language usage with implications for teaching. Closer Connections ConferenceOctober 1 and 2, 2009Missy Slaathaug
2 We tell our thoughts, like our children, to put on their hats and coats before they go out. H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage
3 Register defined Sociolinguistics = the intersection of language and societyHow does language reflect society?How does language shape society?“Questions of language are basically questions of power.”Noam Chomsky, quoted by S. Romaine
4 A simple observation:In different situations, people use different forms of language.
5 Depending on the situation, we use different words and phrasesFor example, to refer to death:died, passed away, passed, passed on, moved on, expired, croaked, bought the farm, passed from life temporal to life spiritual, went to meet her Maker, be taken, meet one’s end, perishdifferent grammatical patternsGimme a dime.Could I trouble you for the time?Do call me.Elicit phrases for deathWhen do we use each? When is each appropriate?When would croaked NOT be acceptable?When would perished not be acceptable?
6 How do we start to analyze register? Depending on the situation –So - look first at the components of the situation.What is actually taking place? Where?Who is taking part? What is their relationship?What part is language playing?What is taking placeis it a ceremony?neighbors gossiping?an exchange at work about a client?a request from employee to boss?Where are the speakers?in a back yard?at church?at a christening?at a coffee shop?Who are the speakers? Their dynamics?What role does language play?are there expectations about the words?ceremonial words about a baptism, for example
7 Consider: Social setting Situation Addressor Addressee Topic who, what, when, where
8 A fancy academic definition The concept of register is typically concerned with variations in language conditioned by uses rather than users and involves consideration of the situation or context of use, the purpose, subject-matter and content of the message, and the relationship between the participants.Suzanne Romaine, 1994More definitions:A preference for particular syntactic patterns, lexical devices or rhetorical devices in certain situationsA stylistic variant of a language appropriate to a particular social setting, also called style (V. Fromkin and R. Rodman, An Introduction to Language)
9 Register refers to: the variations in language which reflect the particular situationthe goals of the communicationthe relationship between the speakerspowereducationintimacy
10 Joos’ Five Clocks The concept of register has been around a long time. introduced in the 50’s.Martin Joos’ outlined it clearly in his 1961 book The Five Clocks.quoted, referred to, kicked around by many others: Cheryl Carter, Suzanne Romaine, and also Ruby Payne in her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty.This term register has been around a long time.Introduced in the 50’s - really caught on when M. Joos published his work The Five Clocks in 1961.Since then, I have found others referenced it from many others, including Ruby Payne’s well known work on the Culture of Poverty.Not sure why he called it clocks – kind of like it though!Let’s look at them.
11 Frozenprinted, unchanging language, formal, almost scripted phrases that do not varyExamples:The BibleThe Lord’s PrayerThe Pledge of AllegianceLawsPreamble to the US Constitution
12 Formal One way communication, no interruptions Used in impersonal, formal settingsFollows a commonly accepted format - complete sentences, more complex syntax and specific word usagesOften used to show respectExamples:Introductions between strangersRhetorical statements and questionsSpeeches, pronouncements made by judges,announcementsstandard for work, school, public offices and business settingsAcademic language and the language of school – is part of this register.
13 Consultative Two way participation, professional setting Background information is provided (prior knowledge is not assumed).Interruptions and feedback fillers allowed (“uh-huh”, “I see”).More complex syntax, longer phrasesExamplesDoctor:patient, lawyer:client, lawyer:judge,Teacher:student,Superior:subordinateColleagues, peersSchool language still part of this register when it is two-way
14 Casual Very informal language, ellipsis and slang are common No background information provided“group” language – must be a member to useInterruptions commonContext and non-verbal communication importantExamples:friends and acquaintancesfamilyteammateschats and blogs
15 Intimate Non-public Intonation as important as wording and grammar Often a private vocabularyExamples:husband, wifeboyfriend/girlfriendtwins (siblings)pets, I would also addInteresting to note here, this is the language of sexual harassment as well.One source said siblings, family, parent and children, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend.Another source made the circle much tighter and said only lovers and twins.
16 Some rules of register use: Moving from one register to another is OK – as long as you only go to the adjacent level.More than that and you are in trouble – your language use is seen as inappropriate or even offensive.Offensive:Teachers using intimate language with their grade school studentsLanguage of sexual harassmentInappropriate:Cannot shift up to more formal registerLike-you know South Koreans
17 Greetings in different registers Frozen: I want to welcome you to the Closer Connections Conference, sponsored in part by Dakota TESL and SDALL.Formal: Good morning. I’ll let Dr. Jones know you are here.Consultative: Hello Mr. Smith. How are you doing this morning?Casual: Hey, Jack. What’s up?Intimate: How’s my little puppy today?
18 Requests in different registers Frozen: Please submit the information at your earliest convenience.Formal: Could you possibly type this up for me by tomorrow?Consultative: Can you finish this after lunch?Casual: Watch the door for me, OK?Intimate: Hey, darlin’, pour me a cuppa joe.
19 Encouragement in different registers Frozen: As you commence this endeavor, I offer you all my prayers and support.Formal: Thank you for applying for this position. We will let you know in a week if you have been chosen for an interview.Consultative: Thanks for following up on the Jones account. Great job!Casual: Whoa, way to go! Nice catch!Intimate: You are so sweet. I’m crazy about you, honey!
20 Partings in different registers Frozen:Farewell, and godspeed.Formal:Goodbye. We look forward to seeing you again.Consultative:Goodbye. Have a good weekend.Casual:Bye now – take care.Intimate:later, darlin’.Ask participants to come up with phrases themselves.Think about how wrong usage can be inappropriate.
21 How do we know what register to use? How does this work?Language is behaviorPart of our cultural code, unwritten rulesTaught explicitly to children (and teens!)Absorbed as we matureLabored over consciously as we get olderin academic settings, or writing speechesother?Mostly – we both learn registers and slip between them without conscious thought. It is part of being fluent in a language.Part of Native Speaker cultural competence – being culturally fluent as well as fluent in the grammar and vocabulary.Unwritten rules – linguists are still trying to figure it out. Language is a rather slippery thing.Does any one have any experience with grappling with registers in another language/culture?My Swedish and my French –
22 Vertical and Horizontal Register This 5 part scale is usually visualized vertically – from most informal to most formal.I would argue that is it rather more like a pyramid, and that the less formal categories have many sub-categories, according to criteria likeethnic/racial groupsocio-economic classageregion, etc.
23 So the Casual Register for a group of white suburban teenagers is quite different from the casual register of a group of African Americans, or a group of Native Americans.These would be differences in vocabulary (slang), grammar, intonation and usage and the differences might be quite fluid, changing often.CAVEAT – having given all this info – must also point out that this is only one way of looking at it.Many consider it a spectrum of registers – not distinct categories.Many also disagree about exactly how to analyze it, and what criteria to use.This is only one way – may be a bit simplistic –but it is useful for the language teacher.
24 BUT! There is little room for variation at the top of the pyramid. The Frozen Register is just that – frozen. No creative melting or thawing allowed.The Formal Register is close to that, and, I would argue, is based on white middle class formal English – again, the class in power.Language is all about power, remember?
25 Language is all about power To re-visit this idea –We mark and judge people immediately uponspeaking with them. We make judgements abouttheir educationtheir backgroundtheir incometheir intelligenceWe adjust ourselves in our relationship to them, according to each piece of linguistic information we receive.Don’t deny it – it’s true!And people will cut Non-native speakers some slack, but our ELL’s who are native americans will not get the same allowances made for them.
26 EXPECTATIONS keeping in mind language = power We expect people in authority to speak a certain way, using the formal register.BusinessmenPoliticiansSupervisors, administratorsProfessors, teachersProfessionals (doctors, lawyers)TV NewscastersWe would be disappointed and disconcerted and distrustful if they did not.My friend whose grade schooler has a teacher who is just too familiar with the students – it makes her a little uneasy.
27 A simple truthYou must master the upper registers if you want to get to certain upper positions in US society.(barring rap stars, athletes and some other groups. They seem to have a ticket to ignore language register requirements.)This may offend my descriptivist friendsPrescriptive v. descriptive view of languagePrescriptive = there is a right and a wrong way to speakDescriptive = just takes language as it is – no right or wrong to the forms and usages.My favorite example is ain’t. Perfectly OK in Shakespeare’s time – marks you as uneducated now. OK – all well and good. Just don’t say ain’t at a job interview for teaching or banking or the like. It won’t get you in the door – the door will slam shut.Rap stars and athletes - does money perhaps trump language registers?
28 What does this mean for teaching? First some background.Every language has different registers. Many mark them more overtly than English does.Romance languages – tu/vous in French, tu/usted in Spanish, tu/lei in ItalianGermanic languages – du/Sie in German,du/ni in SwedishEven if the formal/informal pronoun is not usually used in speech, the verb form marks the level of formality you are using.
29 Register in Japanese:a very complex system of honorifics expressed by prefixes, suffixes, verb forms, vocabulary choices, etc.organized into three main categories:respectful languagehumble languagepolite languageThe first two are referent honorifics, used for someone being talked about, and the third is an addressee honorific, used for someone being talked to.See if any of the participants speak or have studied Japanese.
30 In addition, the Japanese system factors in: Gender differencesAge of each person communicatingIn-group/out-groupBusiness dynamics between superiors/subordinates and between businessman/customerAnd we thought we had it hard!
31 If ESL learners do have such overt register markings in their native tongues, sometimes they feel that English is completely free-wheeling with its lack of markers.No suffix to show respect – no need to worry about it at all then!
32 Implications for teaching We know this is not the case –so how do we address it with our learners?
33 Teach it.Teach it.Why? We just explored some of the socio-economic reasons why.(language is power)Why not? The more information you can give learners about how this all works, the more power they have.Language and mastery of the nuances of register will open doors – and slam doors shut as well.Clint Eastwood movie – Gran Torino.Remember scene where he coaches the young Hmong boy in how to talk to the barber? It is wonderful – he is very direct. Tells him topics, usage, what not to say, how to say it – it works for him too – up to a point. The barber grabs his shotgun – but then he also uses it with his construction boss and it really works there.Opening and shutting doorsMy experiences as a fluent speaker – I had no clue of register in French and very little in Swedish.People do make allowances, but the better your accent gets, the more they expect of you.
34 Teach it, continued. Beginners? Yes. In simple ways. Advanced learners? Yes, of course. The more fluent a person is, the higher the expectations of his/her cultural knowledge – he/she are expected to know what to do and when to do it. (Language is behavior.)
35 Teach it explicitlyLook for texts that present the idea of register in some fashion.Look for texts that present different linguistic forms for learners to choose from and some sort of criteria for choosingIt may be watered down – formal/informal distinction. This is better than nothing!Show any texts I broughtKettering Butler – 20 some years old, but does deal with the idea of register.Any others?
36 Practice it. Include it in active practice Set up role play situations.Ask learners to monitor their degree of formality.Ask audience to judge degree of formality.Ask learners to flip it – from formal to informal.Exaggerate! How would you say this to the President? To your neighbor and friend? To your principal? To your mother? To the Chairperson of your department?Point out how learners can get into trouble too.Remember that using the wrong register can be offensive.Teach this and ask learners to identify.
37 Talk about it Point out examples in the language around us. Ask learners to listen for polite phrases or informal phrases in a listening exercise or when you have a guest speaker or a school assembly.
38 about.com – Kenneth Beare A clear discussion of registerA WONDERFUL list of example phrases, many of which I borrowed earlierA GREAT list of business phrases for running a meeting – a formal situation that calls for specific language if ever there was one.
39 Beare, business register OpeningGood morning, everyone.If we are all here, let’s get started.Welcoming and introducingWe’re pleased to welcomePlease join me in welcomingStating the principal objectivesWe’re here today toI’ve called this meeting in order to
40 Beare, continued Intoducing the qgenda Moving forward Have you all received a copy of the agenda?Shall we take the points in this order?If you don’t mind, I’d like to go in order today.Moving forwardShall we get down to business?Is there any other business?Let’s move on to today’s agenda.
41 K. BeareHe covers all the speech acts you need to run a meeting, for example:Introducing the first item on the agendaClosing an itemGiving control to another participantSummarizingFinishing upSetting the next meetingThanking participants for attendingClosing the meetingLook at the power in these phrases!Teach them – practice them - use them.
43 This affects many of our learners. Native Americans identified as ELL’sAdult education learners who may have little experience with the more formal registers of language.This leads to thoughts of academic language versus playground language, or BICS and CALP, to use a few nice acronyms
44 Cheryl Carter, Vernon Family Learning Center, Texas ABE lesson online:Understanding language registers as a means to more effective communicationLearning Objective:Learners will have a clear understanding of registers of language, will be able to distinguish between different registers, and will be able to utilize these registers for more efffective communication.
45 Carter’s ABE lesson Introduction to Language Registers Discussion, eliciting examplesRecognizing Language Registerswith Little Red Riding Hood story in formal and casual register.Using Language RegistersAsks learners to construct their ownor internet search: Charyl Carter language registerCarter’s comments:This activity generated lots of group discussion; reading the two versions of the stories aroused much interest and class participation in the ensuing discussion. Their oral communication skills were spotlighted and enhanced by this activity. They also enjoyed working together on this project, and produced some very interesting and humorous stories in the different registers. When I do this activity again, I would add a script of a conversation written in the two registers, perhaps a script of an individual doing a job interview, or a conversation between an employer and employee - - lots of possibilities for scripts here.
46 The End. Hope you found this interesting. Contact me for resources, or just to talk.Missy Slaathaug