Registers of Language

In an earlier post I mentioned I would be writing about what I have learned while re-reading Ruby Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. It has been a couple of weeks since that post, and I have just finished Chapter Two. I am such a slacker…

Chapter two focuses on the registers of language. The following information explains the five registers as discussed in Payne’s book:

Frozen – Language that is always the same. Ex. Lord’s Prayer and wedding vows

Formal – The standard sentence syntax and word choice of work and school. It uses complete sentences and specific word choice.

Consultative – Formal register when used in conversation. The discourse pattern is not quite as direct as formal.

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

Intimate – Language between lovers or twins. Language of sexual harassment

According to Payne, problems arise at school because students of poverty normally converse using the casual register and may have little to no understanding of the formal register; yet, the formal register is what teachers expect to be used in class. Payne suggests that teachers directly teach the formal register and have students illustrate the differences between the casual and formal registers. She also suggests teachers, “Inform students of how much the formal register affects their ability to get a well-paying job.”

I enjoyed this chapter. It was a good review of some concepts I am already aware of but may not always keep in the forefront of my mind. Reviewing the language registers before parent conferences and before counseling with students of poverty would be a smart move for teachers to because it can help remind us of how to broach the subject without being offensive to our audience.

If you haven picked up the book yet, I suggest purchasing it or checking it out from the library. It is certainly worth the read. đŸ™‚

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