Dimensions of Register Variation: A Cross-Linguistic Comparison

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Grammar and discourse: the English detached participial clause. Klein—Andreu Ed. Discourse perspectives on syntax. New York: Academic Press. Grammar and written discourse: initial vs. The discourse conditions for the use of the complementizer That in conversational English, Journal of Pragmatics 15, A quantitative perspective on the grammaticization of epistemic parentheticals in English. Heine Eds. Approaches to grammaticalization: volume II. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Tottie, G. Negation in English speech and writing: a study in variation.

San Diego: Academic Press. Varantola, K. On noun phrase structures in engineering English. Turku: University of Turku. Open Journal Systems. Journal Help. User Username Password Remember me. Notifications View Subscribe. Font Size. Full Text: Untitled. References Aarts, B. Aijmer, K. Author Biography. References Anthony, L. AntConc 3. Tokyo, Japan: Waseda University. Biber, D. Dimensions of register variation: A cross-linguistic comparison.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Carter, R. Spoken and Written English. Leech, G. London: Longman. Moon, R. To what extent do the same generalizations hold as more general kinds of registers are analyzed? The present study investigates similar research questions, but it adopts a quite different analytical approach. First, the registers investigated here are defined at a higher level of generality than typical sublanguages e.

Further, the present study distinguishes between registers, defined on the basis of situational charac- teristics, and text types, defined on the basis of linguistic characteristics. Both of these points are discussed further in chapter 9. More importantly, the Multi-Dimensional approach used here attempts to be comprehensive in coverage, with respect to both linguistic and non-linguistic characteristics.

From a linguistic perspective, most sublanguage studies and most register studies generally attempt to identify the few linguistic charac- teristics that are 'distinctive' for a register. In contrast, the cross-linguistic comparisons here are comprehensive in that they are based on a representative range of linguistic features in each language, with the analyses based on the systematic co-occurrence patterns among features see chapter 2.

In contrast, the present study inves- tigates the importance of a large number of non-linguistic characteristics, including interactiveness, production circumstances, and personal stance, in addition to communicative purpose. In chapters 7 and 10, I discuss the extent to which these Multi-Dimensional analyses can be used to provide a theoretical framework for the more microscopic investigations required for sublanguage research. Rather, most previous studies have compared only a restricted range of registers varying along a single situational parameter.

The Multi-Dimensional MD approach to register variation - the analytical approach adopted in the present book - was developed to fill this gap. MD analyses describe the relationships among the full range of registers in a language, with respect to multiple linguistic parameters of variation. As shown in later chapters, the MD approach also enables motivated register comparisons across languages. The following subsections briefly introduce previous MD studies, while fuller theoretical and methodological descrip- tions of the MD approach are given in chapters 2 and 5 respectively. Methodologically, the approach uses computer-based text corpora, computational tools to identify linguistic features in texts, and multivariate statistical techniques to analyze the co-occurrence relations among linguistic features, thereby identifying the underlying dimensions of variation in a language.

Dimensions are defined by distinct groupings of linguistic features that co-occur frequently in texts. Dimensions are identified statistically by a factor analysis, and they are subsequently interpreted in terms of the communicative functions shared by the co-occurring features.

Interpretive labels are posited for each dimension, such as 'Involved versus Informational Production', 'Narrative versus Non-narrative Concerns', and 'Explicit versus Situation-Dependent Reference'. Two primary motivations for the MD approach are the assumptions that: 1 generalizations concerning register variation in a language must be based on analysis of the full range of spoken and written registers; and 2 no single linguistic parameter is adequate in itself to capture the range of similarities and differences among spoken and written registers.

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The approach thus requires analysis of numerous spoken and written registers with respect to numerous linguistic features. In earlier synchronic MD analyses of English e. Linguistic features analyzed in these studies include lexical features e. Registers can be compared along each dimension. Two registers are similar along a dimension to the extent that they use the co-occurring features of the dimension in similar ways.

MD analyses show that registers are often similar along one dimension but quite different along other dimensions.

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The early MD studies of English have been extended in several ways. Biber gives the fullest account of the methodology and a synchronic analysis of the relations among spoken and written registers; Biber and Finegan and Biber analyze the linguistically well-defined text types of English i.

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Two of the major conclusions of these synchronic MD studies of English are that: 1 no single dimension of variation is adequate in itself to account for the range of similarities and differences among registers - rather, multi-dimensional analyses are required; and 2 there is no absolute difference between spoken and written language - rather, particular types of speech and writing are more or less similar with respect to different dimensions. These studies use the dimensions identified and interpreted in Biber to trace the development of registers across time periods.

Biber and Finegan a, ,b study the development of English written registers from to the present with respect to three linguistic dimensions. The a study traces the development of fiction, essays, and letters; this study interprets the observed patterns of change relative to the changing purposes and readership of written texts. The study adds an analysis of dialogue in drama and dialogue in fiction to the description.

Finally, the b study uses the framework developed in these previous studies to compare the written styles of particular eighteenth-century authors Swift, Defoe, Addison, and Johnson across different registers. In addition, two studies by Atkinson use the MD approach to trace the evolution of professional registers in English. Atkinson combines a multi-dimensional approach with a detailed analysis of rhetorical patterns to study the development of five subregisters of medical academic prose from to , focusing on the Edinburgh Medical Journal.

Atkinson employs a similar integration of multi-dimensional and rhetorical methodologies to analyze the evolution of scientific research writing, as represented in the Philosophical Transactions ofthe Royal Society of London from to Chapter 8 of the present book integrates these previous MD studies by Biber, Finegan, and Atkinson to provide a more comprehensive picture of diachronic register variation in English.

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Biber and Hared's a, b, analysis of Somali. Taken together, these studies provide the first comprehensive investigations of register variation in non-western languages. The first MD study of a non-western language was undertaken by Besnier , on Nukulaelae Tuvaluan. This study analyzes the characteristics of seven spoken and written registers e. As in the MD analyses of English registers, each dimension represents a distinct grouping of linguistic features that co-occur frequently in texts, reflecting shared communicative functions.

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The second MD analysis of a non-western language, carried out by Kim ; Kim and Biber , was even more ambitious, analyzing the relations among twenty-two spoken and written registers in Korean. Biber and Hared b, extend this MD analysis of Somali to study historical change following the introduction of native-language literacy in The b study compares the range of register variation found before when only spoken registers existed with that found immediately after among spoken and written registers.

The study traces the evolution of seven press registers from to , analyzing the historical evolution of written registers in their initial periods of development. These studies of Korean, Nukulaelae Tuvaluan, and Somali, together with the earlier MD analyses of English, provide the basis for the cross- linguistic investigations of register variation in the present book. Given the research gaps identified above - with relatively few comprehensive studies of register variation in English and very few studies of register variation in non-western languages - it will come as no surprise that there have been essentially no previous cross-linguistic investigations of register variation.

Similarly, since there have been few diachronic analyses of register variation in any language western or not , it is not surprising that there have not been previous cross-linguistic diachronic comparisons of register variation.

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However, there are at least four reasons why such cross-linguistic studies both synchronic and diachronic are needed at the present time. First, as the following chapters show, there are highly systematic similar- ities in the patterns of register variation across languages, suggesting the operation of underlying form-function associations tied to basic aspects of human communication. The cultural and linguistic diversity among these four languages raises the possibility that some of these shared patterns will turn out to reflect universals of register variation.

Assuming that all languages comprise a range of registers, the analysis of these shared patterns of register variation is central to any comprehensive theory of cross-linguistic typology and universals. Second, diachronic comparisons of register variation across languages are crucial to a broad range of theoretical issues, including the general mechanisms of historical change, the processes of language standardization and modernization, and the influence of literacy on language change.

In particular, the following chapters show that languages as diverse as English and Somali have undergone similar patterns of evolution following the introduction of written registers. These similarities again raise the possibility of universals of register variation, in this case relating to the historical development of written registers in response to pressures of modernization and language adaptation.

Third, cross-linguistic analyses of register variation are needed as a basis for on-going research in computational linguistics e. As noted above, related research in this area has focused on the analysis of sublanguages. Studies such as Kittredge have found that technical sublanguages can be more similar cross-linguistically than disparate sublanguages within the same language. The following chapters show that such issues can be addressed in the MD approach.