Styles of Language

Styles or "Registers" of Language in America




Language that is always the same. For example: Lord's Prayer, wedding vows, etc.


The standard sentence syntax and word choice of work and school. Has complete sentences and specific word choice.


Formal register when used in conversation. Discourse pattern not quite as direct as formal register.


Language between friends and is characterized by a 400- to 800-word vocabulary. Word choice general and not specific. Conversation dependent upon non-verbal assists. Sentence syntax often incomplete.


Language between lovers or twins. Language of sexual harassment.

—Martin Joos: Language and Cultural Diversity in American Education

Three-year old children from the families of professional and trade people have an average vocabulary of 1,116 words, while three-year olds from families receiving public assistance have a vocabulary of only 535 words (Hart & Risley).

People aculturated to generational poverty tend to speak often in the "Casual Register" and may have difficulty with the "Formal Register" that is expected in school and work settings, and therefore may be disciplined or fired at work and at school be poor performing.