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What Is Meant By Language Varieties?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2272 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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Language is defined as a systematic use of sounds, gestures or symbols for communication. It has a complex system where the rules are not clearly stated and is productive as an infinite number of sentences can be produced once the rules are learned.

Varieties of Language

The expressions and uses of a language varies in many ways. The diagram below illustrates these language varieties :

Language Varieties









1. Historical

i) Old English – it was descended from the languages spoken by the Germanic tribes when they invaded England around 500 AD. The various dialects spoken by these invaders formed the early English language.

ii) Middle English – was the result of the French influence of the Normans and lasted from 1100-1500 AD

iii) Modern English – is broken into early Modern English and late Modern English.The former began around the time of playwright, William Shakespeare.

Late Modern English occurred around 1800 during British conquest and colonisation of other parts of the world.

2. Geographical

English may be the native language of England but due to various reasons such as: colonisation, migration, globalisation, cultural, economic, etc, it had spread to other countries around the world.

However, the language used in these different countries developed independently from the original language due to influences by local languages.

These influences cause, among other things, the differences in the pronunciation, thus producing their distinctive accent.

Some forms of these are:

American English

Australian English

Indian English

In certain regions,there are different versions of the same language called dialects. These dialects have different grammar, vocabulary and accent.

Eg : Cantonese ( dialect of Mandarin); Aboriginal English (Australia).

3. Social

It refers to the use of the language in terms of the social class or identity. Eg: The upper class society in Britain tend to use Received Pronunciation (RP) also known as Queen’s English or BBC English while others tend to use Cockney English.

4. Registers

These are variations caused by :

i) Setting

It has a large influence in the application of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Different industries such as Legal, IT, Food & Beverage, Technical or Hotel Service has their own grammar or technical jargon.

Eg : Lawyers would use formal or legal terms in the execution of their papers or court hearings whereas an electrician needs to understand technical terms to issue instructions or to describe repairs.

ii) Participants

The age, sex, group identity and roles will influence the language used.


A different variety of language is used when talking to children, eg. Peekaboo than when talking to a peer.

– Sex

Females tend to be more hyperbolic or expressive in their speech while males speech is more subdued.


The role we play in our day-to-day contact with others affect the way we speak. Eg ; as a spouse, colleague, parent, teacher, etc.

iii) Topic

Different subjects have its own specialized set of vocabulary and grammar usage.

Eg : A disc jockey and a priest would use different sets of the same language to convey their messages.

iv) Medium

It can be visual or auditory.

– Visual (reading and writing)

In reading, there are different degrees of formality and also more vocabulary than in listening.

In writing, grammatical rules need to be applied and time is needed to interpret the written word

Auditory (speaking and listening)

Having good listening skills certainly helps one to pick up and improve on speaking skills, esp. in intonations, grammar or vocabulary.

In speech, words are usually accompanied by body gestures to convey the message. Words spoken rarely needs to be interpreted, unlike written words.


As the usage of English language expands across the globe, influences from local cultures, language or from new discoveries in Science and Technology will evolve the language, making it more varied than ever.



Categories: Linguistics | Varieties of English


An Introduction to International Varieties of English

by L Bauer – Related articles

Q2. What is Communicative Competency?

Communicative competence refers to a language user’s grammatical knowledge of syntax, morphology, phonology, etc as well as social knowledge about how and when to use utterances appropriately.(Dell Hymes,1966)

The desired outcome is the ability to use the language correctly and appropriately to accomplish communication goals, not the ability to use the language exactly as a native speaker does.

This outcome depends on :

1) Appropriateness in Speech

Other than having knowledge of the words and rules of the language (linguistics), one must also learn not just to say what one means but to use the right words to suit the situation.

The words used in to communicate with a friend may deem to be inappropriate when speaking to your headmaster.

Eg : Hi! Buddy, have a jolly good day.

Good Morning, Mr. Brown

Speech can be classified into :

Casual/Intimate Speech

It is easy going and natural, mainly occurring between family, friends or people whom you are comfortable with. It may contain many omitted forms of grammar and missing words .

Eg : Want tea?

I go home now. You coming ?.

ii) Formal Speech

It is more careful but also natural. Proper word sentences and grammar rules are observed and may be used in office or court settings between employer-employee, lawyer-client, etc.

iii) Ceremonial Speech

It tends to be more unnatural where the rhythm and intonation are quite different from normal speech.

2) Appropriateness in Writing

Competency in writing, such as knowledge of grammatical rules, spelling, etc cannot be overlooked. However, different situations dictate different styles of writing.

i) Telegrams

Where the main message or the gist of it has to be communicated in the shortest time, correct grammar form used may be inappropriate.

ii) Essays

It is formal writing where grammatical rules, semantics, spelling, etc has to be observed.

iii) Poetry

The poetic style of writing may not follow the grammatical rules of the language.

iv) Legal Document

The terms and language used have to be very formal and expressively written.

3) Appropriateness in Setting

Being competent in using the language appropriately in a social setting will enable you to be understood and accepted. The setting is influenced by:

i) Participant

The social status, sex and age will affect the style of speech .

Eg: speech use to communicate with a child is different from communicating with an adult.

ii) Topic

Speech used depend on the subject. Eg; words used for a recipe discussion will include ‘ingredients’, method’, ‘measures’ while IT skills will include computer’,’download’,’printer’.

In conclusion, where English is taught as a foreign or second language, it has become widely accepted that communicative competence should be the goal of language acquisition. This is unlike previous views in which linguistics competence was commonly given top priority.


En.wikipedia.org/wiki/communicative competence

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/knowledge-wiki/communicative competence


Section B

Q1 What are the various stages of L1 acquisition? How does this knowledge help us in L2 teaching?

Language is commonly defined as any means of conveying or communicating ideas and language acquisition is learning how to communicate these ideas. It is the process by which people acquire the ability to perceive, produce and apply the words to communicate.

First language(L1), which is also known as native language or mother tongue is acquired naturally due to one’s needs to communicate in order to fulfil his wants.

Acquisition Of First Language

It occurs in stages from birth.

Stage 1 : Pre Speech

Babies respond to speech around them more keenly than to other sounds and from birth, will learn to pay attention and distinguish the following in their environment before they speak :

i) speech

– phonemes of the language, eg the speech sound of t and d in bat and bad;

ii) intonation

– the rising and falling intonations

iii) rhythm of speech

– phonological or system of speech patterns in the language used.

Stage 2 : Babbling

Babies begin to babble from around 3 to 4 months old. It is basically speech sounds with rising and falling intonations.

These indiscriminate utterances (eg dadada… or nanana…..) do not make sense to the listener but the baby appears to understand the meaning of it.

Stage 3 : One word (Holophrastic) stage

At about ten months, infants start to utter their first recognizable words although:

i) pronunciations may be inaccurate

eg : ‘eep’ for ‘sleep’

ii) vocalized words may not correlate with words in the language

eg ‘meh’ for cat or ‘ta’ for duck

iii) certain words may be distorted

eg ‘goggy’ for doggie

iv) reduplication of words

eg ‘da-da’,’na-na’

Stage 4 : Two word stage

Babies are able to say ‘mini sentences’ with simple semantic links from 18

months onwards.

Eg : cat no (there is no cat )

At this stage, their ability to express is not as advanced as an adult. The semantic use of words are either too broad or too narrow. He may call any round item : ‘ball’ or only himself and no one else – ‘boy’

However, these underextensions and overextensions develop and change over time.

Stage 5 Multi word Stage (Telegraphic Stage):

By two years, most children are able to speak in sentences of several words. These telegraphic sentence structures are made up of lexical morphemes which are grammatically incomplete.

Eg ‘No eat’ instead of ‘I won’t eat’.

Stage 6 Normal speech:

By about 3 years of age, they would have acquired grammatical and functional structures of words to be able to conduct normal speech.

Second language (L2) is any language learned after the first language. Unlike L1, it is normally acquired in order to integrate with the environment.and is achieved through active learning and motivation.

As L2 learners follows the same stages of acquisition as L1 learners,

it is beneficial if we understand and apply these stages because it will help us to educate L2 learners more effectively.

Acquisition of Second Language

The stages that L2 learners go through are:

Stage 1 : Silent Stage

In an environment which is similar to the Pre-Speech Stage of L1, they hear and learn to recognize the distinctive sounds of words and pronunciations.

During this ‘silent stage’, they may not speak but can respond various ways such as pointing to an object, person or gesturing with a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ response.

Stage 2 : Early Speech

During this stage, utterances of first words (holophrastic) gradually make way to speaking a few simple words and then, simple phrases of the language. Mispronunciations are common during this stage and sentences are telegraphic in nature.

Stage 3 : Speech Emergence

Learners try to form sentences and will make mistakes in the grammatical structuring of the sentences.

By making use of the Mean Length of Utterance (MLU), the development of the learner can be assessed by measuring the morphemes uttered.


Early In Between Later

You eat? You eating? Are you eating?

From the early stage of 2 morphemes, it develops to 3 and then finally 4 morphemes where the grammar and syntax are in order.

Stage 4 Language Proficiency

Learners are capable of using complex sentences and apply the acquired language to a greater extent. They can opine, discuss and most importantly, begin to think in the second language.

Teacher’s Role

In all the above stages, the teacher takes the important role of the ‘mother’ where she encourages, repeats and reinforces the language.

By motivating and making the learners feel secure in a conducive environment, learners will be more willing and confident to acquire a second language.


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