Tag Archives: formal_register

Understanding Poverty: Language

Chapter 2, The Role of Language and Story, of A Framework for Understanding Poverty talks about the language that we use and the distinctions between classes as it relates to language. They talk about 5 types of language (Frozen, Formal, Consultative, Casual, Intimate) of which I’d like to discuss two.A Framework for Understanding Poverty
Formal is the language we commonly use in school and work settings. Specific word choice is important, as well as complete sentences. I remember being so annoyed in school when teacher’s asked us to write in complete sentences which really just meant rewording the question to include the answer. At the same time it was very helpful to me learning and practicing the formal register.
Casual register is used between friends and is based on a small vocabulary (400-800 words). Complete sentences are unimportant and non-verbals are very important. Most people use casual register on a daily basis. Whether it be in their home or amongst friends most people from any class can use and understand casual register. Unlike formal register, casual register often differs from group to group.
How does this relate to poverty? The ability to use formal register is a hidden rule of middle class. Those in poverty often do not understand the importance of using formal register. Think about the implications this has for job interviews. The difference between these types of speech and ones ability to switch between them has huge implications for your ability to move freely and successfully through different parts of society.