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REGISTER:

THE CONTEXT OF SITUATION


IN TEXT

Lesson Objectives
By the end of the this lesson, you will
be able to:
Define what is meant by context of
situation and the register variables
Understand how register is realized in
language

Why Does Context Matter?


Texts display continuity not just with
elements within their text boundaries
(confined to grammatical structure and
words), but also with the context within
which they take place.
To see how texts display continuity, study
the following example:
You use it, you wash it!

Without context, it is impossible to


interpret the meaning of this text.
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With context, however, it is possible for us


to know which words the presuming
references you and it refer to, that the
relationship between the two clauses is
cause/effect sequence, and that the use
of exclamation mark is intended as an
imperative.
In other words, context functions as the
retrieval source to clear up
indeterminacies of meaning.
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How Context Gets into Text


One way in which context gets into text is
through schematic structurethrough
different types of GENRE (explanation or
interactive, )
Another way, which is distinct from cultural
context, is situational context which not
only determines the appropriacy of using
particular genre but also allows us to know
who is involved in producing the text (tenor),
what the text is about (field), and what role
language is playing (mode).
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Register Theory
The study of which aspects of context are
importantwhat aspects of context make a
difference to how we use language.
The THREE aspects (called register
variables) of situation are:
Field
What the language is being used to talk about

Mode
The role of language is playing in the interaction

Tenor
The role relationship between the interactants

Halliday claims only these THREE variables


have a direct and significant impact on the
type of language that will be produced.
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Mode
Refers to the role language is playing in an
interaction
Martin (1984) suggested this role can be
seen as involving two simultaneous continua
describing TWO different types of distance:
Spatial/interpersonal distance
Ranging situations according to the possibilities of
immediate feedback between interactants

Experiential distance
Ranging situations according to distance between
language and social process occurring.

Spoken Vs. Written Situations


Interactive
Immediate face-toface contact
Language used to
achieve ongoing
social actions
Unrehearsed
linguistic output
Relaxing and casual

not face-to-face, aural


or visual contact
Language used to
reflect on some topics
Call for rehearsal
draft, edit, rewrite,
and finalize
Not casual
concentration needed
to gather thoughts
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Differences in Linguistic Patterns


Turn-by-turn
sequencing of talk
Context-dependent
Structured
dynamically
Containing
spontaneity: false
starts, hesitations,
repetitions,
Use of slang and
dialect

Produced as
monologic block
Context-independent
Structured
synoptically
Not spontaneous
More prestigious
vocabulary and
standard
grammatical
construction
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Other Differences in Linguistic


Features
Common characteristics of spoken
and written language
Spoken: human actors, action
processes, and dynamically related
clauses
Written: ideas and reasons (abstract
actor), relational process, and in
condensed, dense sentence

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Nominalization
The grammatical process of forming
nouns from other parts of speech, usually
verbs or adjectives
The means of achieving differences in
linguistic features between spoken and
written language discussed above.
Now study an example:
The increased complexity of tasks will lead to
the
extension of the duration of training
programs.
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Compare this with the spoken version:


Because the jobs are more complex, programs to
people will take longer

train

We can see:
The process verb extend has been nominalized
The adjective (complexity) and adverb (duration)

Nominalization has TWO textual advantages


Rhetorical organization
Lexical density

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Rhetorical Organization
With nominalization, we can do the
following:
Avoid using human as actors, but ideas,
causes, reason, etc.
Reduce the number of clause complexes

Lexical density
With nominalization, we can do the
following:
Pack in more lexical content per sentence

For practical example, see information


in the book on Pages 213-215
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Tenor
Refers to the social roles/relationship
played by interactants (student/lecturer,
customer/salesperson, )
Cate Poynton (1985) has suggested that
tenor can be broken down into THREE
different continua:
Power (equal or unequal)
Contact (Frequent or infrequent)
Affective involvement (High or low)
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Formal Vs. Informal Situations


Power, contact, and affective involvement
are the factors determining the types of a
situation.
An informal situation often involves
interactants who are equal, who see each
other frequently, and who are affectively
involved.
In contrast, in a formal situation, interactants
are not equal, the contact is infrequent, and
the affective involvement is low.
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Linguistic Differences
between Formal and Informal
Situations

Use of objective
language, not
attitudinal words
Avoid slang; use of
complete lexical
items
Use of polite
vocatives
Use of grammatical
structure of mood and
modality

Use of attitudinal
words
Use of slang and
abbreviated forms
of word
Use of equal
vocatives
Less structured in
mood and modality
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Field
Refers to the topic of the situation
Changing the field has a very direct and
significant impact on the text,
particularly on the content words used

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Register and Types of Meaning in


Language
Why are field, mode and tenor the three
key aspects of situation?
The answer is the three variables are the
kinds of meanings language is structured to
make.
Field Ideational meaning
Tenor Interpersonal meaning
Mode Textual meaning

For detailed information, consult with the


lesson on Pages 227-229.
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