LINGUIST List 7.886

Thu Jun 13 1996

Sum: formal and informal English

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1., Sum: formal and informal English

Message 1: Sum: formal and informal English

Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1996 17:32:26 +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 E-mail: = = = = = = = = = = =

 I'd suggest the following:

 The London-Lund corpus of spoken English : description and research /
 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 /
 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 Linguistics.

 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

 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 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
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