Language levels – Concept, registers and characteristics

We explain what the language levels are and what the sub-standard, standard and super-standard levels are.

Language levels
By using the appropriate level of language for a situation, communication is fluid.

What are the levels of the language?

It is understood by levels of language or levels of language (and also linguistic register) when degree of correctness with which we use the language in a given situation. This means that we do not always express ourselves in the same way, but we put more effort and attention in the way we speak or write in some situations, while in others we relax and allow ourselves a greater margin of error, uncertainty and / or informality. .

Thus, the levels of the language they have to do, first of all, with the communicative context: with whom do we communicate, in what situation and for what purpose; and secondly, with the linguistic abilities of each person, that is, with their level of educational instruction, their talent for handling language and their vocabulary.

Thus, when we use an inappropriate level for the situation in which we are, we run the risk of being out of tune, offending or losing the attention and respect of our interlocutors; while using the appropriate register we guarantee a lower margin of noise in communication. Furthermore, when we communicate we reveal things about ourselves, not only in what we say, but in how we say it.

The three levels of the language are: substandard (below the norm), standard (in tune with the norm), and super-standard (above the norm). Next we will see each one separately.

Substandard level of the language

Substandard language levels
The substandard level can be used in highly familiar contexts.

The substandard level of the language is the least sophisticated of all, that is, the one with the least linguistic knowledge and the least capacity for understanding to be used and understood. Therefore, it is the one that uses the language more informally, less carefully, with the greatest amount of freedoms and idioms, which in another context may be perceived as inaccuracies.

The substandard level it is used in informal situations, in which there is a certain familiarity or in which the rules of protocol and courtesy are relaxed, so that it is a level that we all access on certain occasions. However, its continuous and constant use is considered socially inappropriate, and it is usually associated with the less educated and less resourceful sectors of society.

The substandard level comprises, in turn, two registers of use: the popular language and the vulgar language.

  • The vulgar or popular language. It is the most irregular use of language that exists, disobeying or forcing the rules at convenience and always privileging situational communication over correctness. It is typical of slang, sociolects and local ways of communicating, so it can be obscure for those who do not know the code. In it vulgarisms and barbarisms abound, that is, it is the slum language.

For example, in the vulgar variant of Latin American Spanish, many final consonants are often elided or modified, so that “llorado” becomes cried, or “peel” into fight. It is also common for the lexicon to be very hermetic: in the Argentine lunfardo, for example, “tombo” is a term reserved for the police (from the inversion of “button”).

  • Familiar or trusted language. Although similar to the previous case in its levels of relaxation of the structures and norms of the language, in this case it is the typical mode of communication in situations of great trust, in which affection and familiarity prevail over correction. It is a mode of speech very marked by common expressions and by the affective lexicon (that way of telling things or people that it is typical of lovers or family).

For example, within our family we usually give people nicknames (“el tito”, “la pepa”, etc.), we can use incorrect words inherited from our parents (or from grandparents with little educational level, frequently) .

Standard level of the language

The standard level of the language is the one that the majority of the population recognizes as correct or adequate, and that therefore establishes the minimum standard for situations in which there is neither familiarity nor relaxation of the conditions of respect and protocol.

It is, say, the level we use to communicate with a stranger in a relatively formal situation. It tends to be inexpensive, no frills, but practical and focused toward full understanding. This means that the standard level strives to meet minimum standards of grammar and phonetic accuracy, which in turn requires a certain degree of educational instruction and a certain linguistic ability.

To that extent, there is only one register associated with this level, which is the colloquial language: one that is adapted to the basic formal and correction needs of a linguistic community, which can be a city, a region or an entire country. That is the reason why a foreigner, even if he speaks the same language, may be unfamiliar with many of the standard norms of another country.

For example, in the standard River Plate standard, the pronoun “tú” is replaced by “vos”, and it is usually differentiated between “taxi” and “remis”, depending on the type of transport service, a distinction that does not exist in other countries .

Superstandard level of the language

Superstandard language levels
The super standard level is typical of the most formal and protocol situations.

The super-standard level is the level of the most cultured and sophisticated use of the language, and therefore the one that best adapts to correcting the language and that requires the greatest knowledge of it for your use. It is typical of situations of greater formality and protocol, or of people with a high educational level, so that those without the necessary preparation or practice, it will cost much more to understand.

This level includes three registers of language use, which are:

  • Cultured language. The cultured language is the record with the greatest possible correction of the language, used in formal situations, respectful, in which the use of the language must be neat and cautious. It is characterized by a great lexical richness, being able to use many synonyms for the same word, and by paying attention to the way things are said, not only to the message itself, in order to find the most elegant or sophisticated way. to say it.

For example, in very formal situations such as a work exhibition, it is possible that to avoid repeating the word “problem”, we use “inconvenience” or “accident” or “unforeseen”, depending on whether we want to minimize the problems or relieve ourselves of your responsibility. . This degree of command of the language, then, requires that we think about each word, instead of using the first one that occurs to us.

  • Academic or technical language. The academic, technical or professional language is one that is typical of a group or an institution that handles specialized knowledge and that therefore requires a language adapted to the universe of knowledge that it handles. That is to say, it is about the way in which people who have a specialized and studied audience use the language, for which no terminology or neologism will be strange or incomprehensible.

For example, in specialized dental jargon, it is common to speak of scalectomy instead of “teeth cleaning“, pyorrhea or periodontitis for “gum infection”, and other similar terms.

  • Poetic language. It is about the proper register of literature, poetry or art, in which the correction of the language, paradoxically, is secondary to the creative and playful intentions of the artist. In other words, the rules of the language are so well known that they can be broken for creative purposes.

The best example of this are the twists of traditional poetry, in which the structure of certain sentences was often violated to achieve the desired metric, or in modern poetry, when a word from a different grammatical category is used. due to obtain a greater expressive effect.

For example, when César Vallejo writes “It is now so soft, / so wing, so out, so love”, You are using the nouns“ ala ”and“ amor ”as if they were adjectives.