DIALECT, REGISTER AND STYLE
Dialect, register and style are major topics of institutional linguistics, and since
language is a social institution, they are worth studying.
DIALECT: A regional, temporal or social variety within a single language is known as
dialect. It is the product of individual's geographical and class origin. It differs in
grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary from the standard language, which is in itself a
socially favored dialect. So a dialect is a variation of language sufficiently different to be
considered a separate entity, but not different enough to be classed as separate language.
There is no clear qualitative linguistic measure to indicate where difference of dialect
becomes difference of language. The issue is political and social, not linguistic.
Everybody speaks a dialect, which is not seen as some kind of derivation from the norm
of standard language. There is no linguistic justification for saying that one dialect is
better than another rather it is a social judgment that leads people to say that a particular
dialect is the correct one.
Dialect is not an important type of language variation for teaching. All language
teaching, however, at least implies an assumption about the best dialect to teach.
Dialects are dialects not because of linguistic reasons but because of the political
and cultural reasons. It is customary to describe them as varieties of a language
according to users. Examples: Cockney, Georide and Scouse are the prominent dialects
spoken in England.
To the linguist, however, as stated by Sapir, "There is no real difference between
dialect and a language". Grierson also observes, "In the course of survey, it has
sometimes been difficult to decide whether a given form of speech is to be looked upon
as an independent language or as a dialect of some other definite form of speech". In
practice it has been found that it is sometimes impossible to decide the question in a
manner which will gain universal acceptance. The two words 'language' and 'dialect' are
in this respect like 'mountain' and 'hill'. One has no hesitation in saying that Everest is a
mountain and Hauberk a hill, but between these two a dividing line cannot be accurately
drawn. However, dialects are of many kinds: Regional dialects, Sociolects, etc.
REGIONAL DIALECTS: Regional dialects are spoken by the people of a particular
geographical area within a speech community; Cockney in London, for example.
SOCIOLECTS: Sociolects are spoken by the members of a particular group or stratum of
a speech community while a variety of language used at a particular stage in its historical
development may be termed as temporal dialects such as Prakrit and Pali in Ancient
REGISTER: Whereas dialects are the varieties according to the users, registers are the
varieties of language associated with people's occupation. Registers are the languages
that are used in the pursuance of one's job. They are stylistic, functional varieties of a
dialect or a language. They may be narrowly defined by reference to subject matter (field
of discourse), to medium (mode of discourse) and level of formality, that is style (manner
of discourse). Registers are, therefore, situationally conditioned discourse oriented
varieties of a language.
According to the role of the speaker, a young lecturer, will speak in different
ways when communicating with his wife, his children, his father, his colleagues, his
students, when shopping and so on. Each of these varieties will be a register. According
to the subject matter or field of discourse, registeral varieties are scientific, religious,
legal, commercial, of airport announcers, of telephone operators, etc.
A register is also determined by the medium or mode of discourse. The main
distinction is between speech and writing, but in speech also one may find such
distinctions as conversation, discussion, debate, lecture, talk, etc. In the same way
personal letters, a biography, a memoir, a poem to be read or a play to be staged, etc. are
the distinction in writing.
Registers may be classified on the basis of style. This refers to the relation among
the participating people who may talk of religion in a temple, or at a seminar with
scholars or in a restaurant with friends. In a religious gathering people may be serious, in
a seminar analytic while in a restaurant casual. The following type of stylistic varieties
may be noticed - archaic, colloquial, humorous, formal and ironical.