Home ADVANCED LEVEL LEVELS OF FORMALITY

LEVELS OF FORMALITY

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LEVEL OF FORMALITY

Level of formality is the choice of language according to different situation (context).

Level of formality result to the different language styles such as follows:

Frozen styleIt is the style of language that follows strictly the rules of language of a certain field (domain). For example legal language, religious language, language of technical field, engineers, doctors. It is always uses Jargons. Jargons/Argots refer to the specific terms/words used for specific field of specialization which is not easily understood by people out of such proffession.

Formal styleIt is the kind of language that follows the rules of the language (grammar, lexical or phonological rules) and used in formal/official context, For example, the language between the employees and employers, language of students and teacher etc.

Consultative style – It is the language style that use polite language and it is normally used to people who are almost representative, for example the language used between son-in-law and mother in-law etc.

Casual styleIt is informal like language style that does not necessarily follow rules of the language and it is commonly used to non close people such as passer bys, school collogues etc.

Colloquial/intimate styleIt is the language style commonly used to very close people such as close friends.

More explanations about the five identified levels of style or formality, namely;

I. CONSULTATIVE STYLE

This is the style, which is associated with the conversation between the people who are not familiar with one another or others.

Here the participants’ background is not well known from one another. It is used in serious discussions of different matters, for instance classroom discussion by students.

Consultative style; sometimes is known as common core English, Zero style and unmarked style.

CHARACTERISTICS/FEATURTES OF CONSULTATIVE STYLE

It uses common core vocabulary

It is very minimum exposure to the speaker’s attitude.

It is always polite and likes to use words like could, would, should etc. e.g. would you help me please?

It is characterized by polite Language in real

No informal features here.

II. INTIMATE STYLE

It is a type of style, which is used by the people who have a close relationship with one another. Here the background of the participants is well known and the environments of the Language use is free, on the sense that the participants are free to use whatever vocabulary e.g. slangs, taboo words, colloquial etc. it is used by intimate people in nature.

CHARACTERISTICS OF INTIMATE STYLE

Vocabularies are free to be used.

It has informal features

Colloquial words are used, slangs etc.

III. CASUAL STYLE

It is a style commonly used in conversation among the familiar friends. It is used in informal relationships. In addition, it is less informal compared to intimate style, that intimate is too much informal. The participants in casual style may not be much known or sometimes are known or partially known.

CHARACTERISTICS OF CASUAL STYLE

Colloquial words are used.

It has informal features

Some words are ellipted. E.g. X-what are you doing? Y-a letter (informal or casual) instead of I am writing a letter.

Contractions are also used e.g. can’t, don’t won’t etc.

IV. FROZEN STYLE

It is the type of style that shows the high level of respect. The Language here is used to present a certain aesthetic (beauty).

Or

This is the highest level of formality that shows the highest respect e.g. religious services.

“Our God, the highest dwelling in the heaven”

“Jehovah, the creator of everything, we beseech you…….

It is also used in ceremonial statements like in funeral, national Anthem, school song, Oath (e.g. in the church, court, swearing ceremonies etc.)

V. FORMAL STYLE

It is a variety of Language which is acceptable in serious speeches or writings. This is used when someone wants to show respect especially in social situations e.g. Raising the National flag, singing a national Anthem, talking to a judge in a court of Law, speaking to our BOSS at a working place.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A FORMAL STYLE

It is usually written because the intention is to inform.

It uses long and complex sentences

It carefully observes intonations

No slang words are used

Speakers tend to be very impersonal (they avoid personal style)

Adheres all grammatical rules

Tend to use common core English

VI. INFORMAL LANGUANGE

This refers to the Language variety that is not acceptable in serious speeches or writing.

CHARACTERISTICS OF INFORMAL LANGUAGE

Contains contractions e.g. I’ve, we’ll, haven’t etc.

Uses euphemism e.g. a helper to mean a servant.

Uses slangs or colloquial expressions.

It is used in private conversations.

Question: what are the reasons for different levels of formality or style?

Reasons

  1. Setting
  2. Medium
  3. Status
  4. Age
  5. Purpose
  6. Sex
  7. Role play
  8. Levels of education
  9. Modality

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FORMAL AND INFORMAL LANGUAGE

FORMAL LANGUAGE

It is used for respected purposes, business, officials’ regulations etc.

It is nearly always written

Tends to be very refined because of its grammatical correctness.

The use of complex sentences is common

INFORMAL LANGUAGE

Used for most private occupations, personal letters, friendly etc.

It is mostly spoken

Does not usually follow the grammatical rules

Simple sentences are common

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WRITTEN AND SPOKEN LANGUAGE

SPOKEN LANGUAGE

Composed of sounds

Spontaneous, not precise

Frequent shift of topics

Makes use of intonations, pitch, rhythm etc.

Produced by Lungs and vocal organs

Incomplete sentences and clauses are common

No special skills or trainings are required

There is immediate feedback because the addressee is present

WRITTEN LANGUAGE

Non-spontaneous

Composed of letters/signs

Consistent

Produced by hands

Clear and complete sentences boundaries

Writing is something we need to be taught

Makes use of punctuations and other

Feedback is delayed because the addressee is absent

THINGS TO CONSIDER ON THE CHOICE OF LANGUAGE

Tenor of discourse

Tenor of discourse refers to the participants in the speech interaction. It involves the characteristics of those who are interacting. These include:

Status – it implies that if the person who you speak to is of higher status than you or otherwise. Therefore the choice of language will depend on the status of the targeted person.

Age – this refers to how old the targeted person is/are. This distinguishes language to children, youths and old people.

Education – the language used have to consider the level of education of the targeted person/people. For example language used to university students (intellectuals)is different from that used to rural dwellers.

Background of the participants – the language to be used should consider the historical background of the participants such as cultural background, technological development etc.

Medium of discourse

Medium of discourse refers to whether the means used for interaction is spoken medium or written medium. The channel used can be spoken or written and this should also consider the level of technology acquired by the audience. For instance computers cannot be used to illiterate people or Televisions to people without electricity.

Field of discourse

It refers to the topic presented in relation to the audience, if the audience is familiar with the topic, if they have knowledge on the topic or if the topic suits them.

Time

The language used must consider the time/period of interaction if it is night or day or if the words used (language use) is suitable for that time. For example good morning, good afternoon, good evening etc.

Place/context

It refers to the environment where the interaction is done/taking place in relation to the audience. The language used differ in relation to places such as language used in hospital, churches, markets etc.

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