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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Definition of Register

Variation of language can be seen from its user and its use with the characteristics such as social-class membership, regional, origin, age, and sex. A useful term in connection with this characteristic is dialect. While the term dialect is convenient to refer to variation according to user, register can be used to refer to variation according to use or sometimes also known as style (Leech et all, 1982: 9).
Similarly, Sari (1988: 149) point out that the term register has been applied to varieties that is set apart from others by the social circumstances of their use.
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" (Romaine,  1994:20). Register is thus a product of the context of speech. Differences in registers consist solely of differences in vocabulary. In summary, Registers function to reflect the relationships which exist between speakers. Additionally, the register used in conversation (especially when meeting people) communicates the assumptions that speakers make about each other and the types of relationships which are sought and/or established in communication. It is concerned with variation in language conditioned by uses rather than users and consideration of the situation or context of use
In linguistics, a register is a subset of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. For example, an English speaker may adhere more closely to prescribed grammar, pronounce words ending in -ing with a velar nasal (e.g. "walking", not "walkin'") and refrain from using the word "ain't" when speaking in a formal setting, but the same person could violate all of these prescriptions in an informal setting.
The term was first used by the linguist Thomas Bertram Reid in 1956, and brought into general currency 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 choices between them at different times" (Halliday et al, 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 bedroom.
Hunt et. al states that register is the level of formality used when speaking or writing.  Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman, authors of An Introduction to Language, call it "a stylistic variant of a language appropriate to a particular social setting, also called style" (535).  Dell Hymes   suggests that register, or social variation in speech, is located along such dimensions as the kind of speech event being engaged in (e.g. sales talk as compared to man-to-man talk), the roles of the various parties (e.g. talk to children compared with talk to adults), the topic of the discussion (e.g. children's talk about toys compared with their talk about discipline), and the style of the discussion (e.g. whether informal or formal). From this, we can conclude that the determinants of register include social setting, situation, addressor and addressee, and topic.  In other words, language has to be appropriate to the individuals speaking and hearing it, and it also must match particular occasions and situations.  For example, a sportscaster would not recount highlights from a football game in the legal language used by lawyers and judges in a courtroom, nor would a minister order a hamburger at a fast-food restaurant in the same style he delivers his Sunday morning sermon.  Both the sportscaster and the minister adjust their style of speaking, or register, to fit the setting and to avoid embarrassment, just as most people adjust their language constantly in everyday speech depending upon whom they are speaking with and where they are. 
Linguistic varieties that are linked to occupations, professions or topics have been termed registers. The register of law, for example, is different from the register of medicine, which in turn is different from the language of engineering--and so on. Registers are usually characterized solely by vocabulary differences; either by the use of particular words, or by the use of words in a particular sense. Registers are simply a rather special case of a particular kind of language being produced by the social situation.
Moreover, register refers to a set of specialized vocabulary and preferred (or dispreferred) syntactic and rhetorical devices and structures, used by particular socio-professional groups for special purposes. A register may have a set of derivational devices. It means that a register is a property or characteristic of a language, and not of an individual or a class of speakers. The example is abbreviations, blends, acronyms for informal oral use, and lay use (journalism etc.) 
Halliday and Hasan define register as "a configuration of meanings that are typically associated with a particular situational configuration of field, mode, and tenor. Register is a variety according to use, or the social activity in which you are engaged. Halliday says, "Dialects are saying the same thing in different ways, whereas registers are saying different things." A speaker can use both a dialect and a register at the same time. Imagine a speaker from the USA's "Deep South" engaging in talk in situations where certain registers are required. For example, a speaker from Alabama speaks with her southern pronunciation, while the topic she discusses is the latest programming language of her dot-com firm (register).

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