Developing linguistic register across text types: The case of modern Hebrew

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Abstract

The study considers the topic of linguistic register by examining how schoolchildren, adolescents, and adults vary the texts that they construct across the dimensions of modality (spoken/written discourse) and genre (narrative/expository discourse). Although register variation is presumably universal, it is realized in language-specific ways, and so our analysis focuses on Israeli Hebrew, a language that evolved under peculiar socio-historical circumstances. An original procedure for characterizing register - as low, neutral, or high - was applied to four text types produced by the same speaker-writers. We found that across all age groups, "neutral" items constituted the bulk of the material, and that the lexicon accounted for some 80% of variation. Developmentally, we found that acquisition of fully flexible register variation continues beyond adolescence. Finally, we observed that text types range on a cline from everyday colloquial usage in oral narratives to more formal, high-level language in written expository essays. These results are discussed in light of their implications for the nature of register variation, later language development, and the sociolinguistics of contemporary Hebrew.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-145
Number of pages38
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

Keywords

  • Discourse
  • Genre
  • Hebrew
  • Language development
  • Register
  • Written and spoken language

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