Appendix #2 Language Registers - Language and Literacy

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Language Registers

Languages have
five (5) language registers

five language styles. Both students and

teachers need to know each of the five registers/styles because the appropriate use of

language is a matter of situation. The use of the appropriate regi
ster depends on the audience,
the topic, and the purpose for the communication (Joos, 1967). Most students write as they
speak because they are not familiar with these registers. Some student’s intent is misunderstood
because they have spoken in the wrong
register for the situation.



This style of communications RARELY or NEVER
changes. It is “frozen” in time and content.


Pledge of
Allegiance, Lord’s Prayer, Preamble to

Constitution, laws


Sentences are comp
lete and word usage is specific.


This is the standard for work, school, and business.

This use of language usually follows a commonly accepted
eg. i
nterviews, academic language in classroom
(lectures, instruction

lessons), speec
hes, sermons

Consultative Register

This is a standard form of communications. Users engage in
a mutually accepted structure of communications. It is
formal and societal expectations accompany the users of
this speech. eg. t
alking to a boss/supervisor/tea
cher, lawyer,
doctor, Counselor (asking for assistance)

Casual (Informal) Register

Slang, vulgarities and colloquialisms are normal. This is
“group” language.

eg. talking with friends, slang, general
word choice, chats & emails, teammates

Intimate Reg

This communications is private. It is reserved for close
amily members or intimate relationships
. When this level
of language is used with those who are not close, it crosses
the ‘intimacy’ boundaries and becomes the language of
bullies and haras
sment. eg. lovers, boyfriend & girlfriend,

The Universal Rule
: It’s possible for a person to use one register
in a situation that generally
requires a different register, only if the registers are

to each other

(casual to consultative…);
wever, if a person goes from one register

to another register, skipping a level or more, this is
considered anti
social behavior (i.e. moving from frozen to intimate, etc. marks a difference
between a public voice and private


Students should know

how and when to move from one register to the next.

*adapted from a list in the book
A Framework for Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty

(Copyright, 1995, Ruby K. Payne, RFT Publishing) and Montano
Harmon, M. R.
English for Academic

California State University, Fullerton