Language Variation

Language variation describes the many different ways we use the English language. Sometimes it seems as if we are chameleons, changing our tone, register, level of formality and choice of vocabulary according to the situation. Sometimes people even change their accent or dialect in order to avoid being judged negatively by others.

See how well you know the technical terms used to describe language variation by trying this challenging quiz.

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  1. The particular way a language is pronounced by an individual or a group is known as...
  2. What is the term used for an individual's unique pattern of speech?
    An idiolect is an individual's own manner of speaking, including vocabulary, accent and grammar. 'Idiolect' tends to be mentioned when an individual's speech shows striking differences compared to that of others (Ned Flanders, from The Simpsons, for example, has a noticeable idiolect)
  3. A language variety chosen to suit the audience is known as...
  4. A word which would only be used in an informal, familiar context is described as a...
    Colloquialisms can be used for effect when a speaker wishes to create a sense of informality or familiarity with an audience
  5. Specialist language which is not usually understood by those who are not members of the group using it.
    'Jargon' can be used in a biased sense to imply that the members of a group use certain words in order to exclude those who are not members. 'Specialist vocabulary' is a more neutral term - all groups have a specialist vocabulary in order to discuss ideas and activities which are of importance to the group. Parents belonging to a toddler group have their own specialist vocabulary; human rights activists have a very different specialist vocabulary
  6. A freshly-coined word or phrase is known as a...
    'Neo-' means 'new' and 'log-' means 'word'. New words continuously join the English language
  7. Highly-informal language which can include elements of jargon, neologism and colloquialism.
  8. The dialect of English which is agreed by the majority of native speakers as 'correct' is known as...
  9. Whether you are speaking or writing, this will determine the language variety which you employ.
  10. The particular version of a language used by those who are members of a large group (i.e. inhabitants of the same geographical region or members of the same socio-economic class).
    Dialect includes accent along with variations in grammar and vocabulary

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