LINGUIST List 7.842

Fri Jun 7 1996

Sum: Formal and informal English

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1., Sum: formal and informal English

Message 1: Sum: formal and informal English

Date: Fri, 07 Jun 1996 15:51:04 +0200
From: <>
Subject: Sum: formal and informal English
 Hello everybody!
 Thank you for your e-mails in reply for our query on formal and 
 informal English. My colleague has made the following summary by 
 taking sections from some of the responses and pasting them to a 
 new message. I hope you find it as helpful as the student did.
 In response to your question on the 'Linguist' list, I can
 recommend the book: Biber,D. (1988) 'Variation across Speech and
 Writing' Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
 This book analyses the linguistic characteristics of 23 spoken and 
 written genres of English, using computational methodology.
 I hope this is helpful.
 May I recommend Douglas Biber's book "Variation 
 across Speech and Writing" (1988) as a way of 
 looking at formal and informal English that does not
 assume that the differences are due to written and 
 spoken registers, respectively. Rather, Biber shows
 that there are various underlying dimensions of 
 variation across spoken and written registers in 
 English, and that registers are more formal on some 
 dimensions, and less formal on others. The 
 publisher is Cambridge University Press, I think (or
 is it Oxford?)
 Hope this is helpful,
 Marie Helt
 Northern Arizona University
 Flagstaff, AZ USA 
 The subject areas your colleague's student needs to pursue are ' 
 register' (as a linguistic term it means something like 'language 
 variation according to social situation'); 'style' may be
 helpful, but is obviously much more broad. 'Register' is the
 technical term for this in linguistics. An item to start with is
 'The Five Clocks' by Martin Joos.
 Good luck!
 Johanna Rubba Assistant Professor, Linguistics = 
 English Department, California Polytechnic State University = 
 San Luis
 Obispo, CA 93407 = Tel. (805)-756- 0117
 I'd suggest the following:
 The London-Lund corpus of spoken English : description and
 research edited
 by Jan Svartvik. Lund, Sweden : Lund University Press, c1990. 
 Series title: Lund studies in English ; 82.
 Biber, Douglas.
 Dimensions of register variation : a cross-linguistic comparison
 Douglas Biber. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University
 Press, 1995.
 Best Wishes,
 -Jane Edwards
 Douglas Biber 1989. ``A typology of English texts'', Linguistics,
 27: 3-43, and something in the 1993 or 1994 Computational
 His work is on different varieties of language - mainly using
 English as an example: he measures various computationally simple
 clues for distinguishing different types of language from each
 other, and uses simple multivariate statistical methods to verify
 differences between varieties.
 If your student is interested in computational work, a
 publication of mine might be interesting:
 Jussi Karlgren and Douglass Cutting. 1994.
 ``Recognizing Text Genres with Simple Metrics Using Discriminant 
 Analysis'', {\it Proceedings of COLING 94}, Kyoto. (In the
 Computation and Language E-Print Archive: cmp-lg/9410008).
 It describes an experiment to automatically recognize different
 genres in a genre-analyzed corpus.
 Jussi Karlgren Visiting Researcher, Computer Science 715
 Bwy # 704, NYU, NYC vox: (212) 998-3496 fax: (212) 995-4123 
 Once again thank for taking the time to help my colleague and her
 K. Shimizu
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue