- Variety (linguistics)
A variety of a
languageis a form that differs from other forms of the language systematically and coherently. "Variety" is a wider concept than "style of prose" or "style of language".
Some writers in
sociolinguisticsuse the term "lect", apparently a back-formationfrom specific terms such as "dialect" and "idiolect".
Examples of varieties are:
dialects, "i.e.," varieties spoken by "geographically defined" speech communities
** "idiom" is a term neutral to the dialect–language distinction and is used to refer to the studied communicative system (that could be called either "a dialect" or "a language") when its status with respect to this distinction is irrelevant (thus it is a synonym to "
language" in the more general sense);
sociolects, "i.e.," varieties spoken by "socially defined" speech communities
standard language, standardized for education and public performance
idiolects, "i.e.," a variety particular to a certain person
* registers (or
diatypes), i.e. the specialised vocabularyand/or grammarof certain activities or professions
ethnolects, for an ethnic group
ecolects, an idiolect adopted by a household
Varieties such as dialects, idiolects, and sociolects can be distinguished not only by their vocabulary, but also by differences in
grammar, phonologyand prosody. For instance the tonal word accents of Scandinavian languages has differing realizations in many dialects. As another example, foreign words in different sociolects vary in their degree of adaptation to the basic phonology of the language.
Certain professional registers such as
legaleseshow a variation in grammar from the standard language. For instance English journalists or lawyers often use grammatical moods such as "subjunctive mood" or "conditional mood", which are no longer used frequently by other speakers. Many registers are simply a specialised set of terms (see technical terminology, jargon).
It is a matter of definition whether
slangand argotare to be considered included in the concept of "variety" or of "style." Colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions are usually understood as limited to variation of lexicon, and hence of "style."
List of language subsystems
* [http://www.pojkfilmsklubben.org/cgi-bin/langtools/whichVariety.cgi Which Language Variety?] , a web tool that estimates if a word or phrase is typical for a certain language variety (such as British English or American English)
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