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REGISTER in language usage with implications for teaching. Closer Connections Conference October 1 and 2, 2009 Missy Slaathaug.

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Presentation on theme: "REGISTER in language usage with implications for teaching. Closer Connections Conference October 1 and 2, 2009 Missy Slaathaug."— Presentation transcript:

1 REGISTER in language usage with implications for teaching. Closer Connections Conference October 1 and 2, 2009 Missy 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 society How 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 phrases For 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, perish  different grammatical patterns Gimme a dime. Could I trouble you for the time? Do call me.

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?

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, 1994

9 Register refers to:  the variations in language which reflect the particular situation the goals of the communication the relationship between the speakers  power  education  intimacy

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.

11 Frozen  printed, unchanging language, formal, almost scripted phrases that do not vary Examples:  The Bible  The Lord’s Prayer  The Pledge of Allegiance  Laws  Preamble to the US Constitution

12 Formal  One way communication, no interruptions  Used in impersonal, formal settings  Follows a commonly accepted format - complete sentences, more complex syntax and specific word usages  Often used to show respect Examples:  Introductions between strangers  Rhetorical statements and questions  Speeches, pronouncements made by judges,  announcements  standard for work, school, public offices and business settings

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 phrases Examples  Doctor:patient, lawyer:client, lawyer:judge,  Teacher:student,  Superior:subordinate  Colleagues, peers

14 Casual  Very informal language, ellipsis and slang are common  No background information provided  “group” language – must be a member to use  Interruptions common  Context and non-verbal communication important Examples:  friends and acquaintances  family  teammates  chats and blogs

15 Intimate  Non-public  Intonation as important as wording and grammar  Often a private vocabulary Examples:  husband, wife  boyfriend/girlfriend  twins (siblings)  pets, I would also add Interesting to note here, this is the language of sexual harassment as well.

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.

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’.

21 How do we know what register to use?  How does this work? Language is behavior Part of our cultural code, unwritten rules Taught explicitly to children (and teens!) Absorbed as we mature Labored over consciously as we get older  in academic settings, or writing speeches  other? Mostly – we both learn registers and slip between them without conscious thought. It is part of being fluent in a language.

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 like ethnic/racial group socio-economic class age region, 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.

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 upon speaking with them. We make judgements about their education their background their income their intelligence We adjust ourselves in our relationship to them, according to each piece of linguistic information we receive.

26 EXPECTATIONS keeping in mind language = power We expect people in authority to speak a certain way, using the formal register. Businessmen Politicians Supervisors, administrators Professors, teachers Professionals (doctors, lawyers) TV Newscasters We would be disappointed and disconcerted and distrustful if they did not.

27 A simple truth You 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.)

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 Italian Germanic languages – du/Sie in German, du/ni in Swedish

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 language humble language polite language The first two are referent honorifics, used for someone being talked about, and the third is an addressee honorific, used for someone being talked to.

30 In addition, the Japanese system factors in: Gender differences Age of each person communicating In-group/out-group Business dynamics between superiors/subordinates and between businessman/customer And 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. 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.

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 explicitly  Look 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 choosing It may be watered down – formal/informal distinction. This is better than nothing!

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?

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 register  A WONDERFUL list of example phrases, many of which I borrowed earlier  A 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  Opening Good morning, everyone. If we are all here, let’s get started.  Welcoming and introducing We’re pleased to welcome... Please join me in welcoming...  Stating the principal objectives We’re here today to... I’ve called this meeting in order to...

40 Beare, continued  Intoducing the qgenda 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 forward Shall we get down to business? Is there any other business? Let’s move on to today’s agenda.

41 K. Beare  He covers all the speech acts you need to run a meeting, for example: Introducing the first item on the agenda Closing an item Giving control to another participant Summarizing Finishing up Setting the next meeting Thanking participants for attending Closing the meeting

42 Only non-native speakers? Absolutely not.

43 This affects many of our learners.  Native Americans identified as ELL’s  Adult 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 communication Learning 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 examples  Recognizing Language Registers with Little Red Riding Hood story in formal and casual register.  Using Language Registers Asks learners to construct their own http://slincs.coe.utk.edu/gtelab/learning_activities/30carc.html or internet search: Charyl Carter language register

46 The End. Hope you found this interesting. Contact me for resources, or just to talk. Missy Slaathaug missy@pie.midco.net


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