The three levels of language

The three levels of language

There are three levels of formality in spoken and written language. These levels or tones of language influence the communicative style. Each speaker or writer adapts his language to the different contexts in which he uses it. I am talking here about the concept of style and the related dimension of formality.

In speech or writing we are sometimes more careful and sometimes more relaxed, just as we are sometimes more relaxed in other kinds of behavior. In other words, different ways of writing and speaking require different uses of language, just as styles of dress are appropriate for different social occasions. Each language has its own way of doing this. The more formal the situation, the more attention we pay to our language. Every educated native speaker has the opportunity to consciously choose a more or less formal style. The forms and functions of each language vary not only according to geography but also in sync with social and cultural levels.

There are three dimensions of English language use: informal, semi-formal and very formal. The levels of formality in which the English language is used are called registers. These levels reflect the context in which they occur. No one style of vocabulary and grammar is better than another. What is important is their relevance to the context. But we don’t have to settle for non-standard English. A standard language should be a universal goal in education.

In the following situations you may find:

1. Informal – colloquial sentences, slang, informal vocabulary, regional words and expressions and casual expressions. Slang is the most informal level of language. We use informal language all the time in everyday conversation. It is used in everyday writing and speaking.

2. Semi-official – standard vocabulary, conventional sentence structure and little or no abbreviations (full forms like I have, Do notetc.). In semi-formal writing, colloquial expressions are much less common. For example, the indefinite pronoun one appears in place of the more colloquial you. You will find this tone in the essays assigned to the students.

3. Very formal – standard vocabulary (or more learned words), technical jargon and complex syntax. Formal words are more common. You will find this style in a professional magazine.

It is important to note that an author’s tone and attitude is a combination of diction, vocabulary, syntax, and rhetorical devices used to create the specific piece of writing that she intends to inform her audience.

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