Definition and Examples of Language Varieties

These "lects" refer to the different ways people speak

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In  sociolinguistics , language variety—also called  lect —is a general term for any distinctive form of a language or linguistic expression. Linguists commonly use language variety (or simply variety ) as a cover term for any of the overlapping subcategories of a language, including dialect ,  register ,  jargon , and  idiolect .

To understand the meaning of language varieties, it's important to consider how lects differ from  standard English . Even what constitutes standard English is a topic of hot debate among linguists.

Standard English  is a controversial term for a form of the English language that is written and spoken by educated users. For some linguists, standard English is a synonym for  good  or  correct  English  usage . Others use the term to refer to a specific geographical dialect of English or a dialect favored by the most powerful and prestigious social group.

Varieties of language develop for a number of reasons: differences can come about for geographical reasons; people who live in different geographic areas often develop distinct dialects—variations of standard English. Those who belong to a specific group, often academic or professional, tend to adopt jargon that is known to and understood by only members of that select group. Even individuals develop idiolects, their own specific ways of speaking.

The word  dialect —which contains "lect" within the term—derives from the Greek words  dia- meaning "across, between" and  legein  "speak."   A  dialect  is a regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation ,  grammar , and/or  vocabulary . The term  dialect  is often used to characterize a way of speaking that differs from the standard variety of the language. Sarah Thomason of the  Linguistic Society of America  notes:

"All dialects start with the same system, and their partly independent histories leave different parts of the parent system intact. This gives rise to some of the most persistent myths about language, such as the claim that the people of Appalachia speak pure Elizabethan English."

Certain dialects have gained negative connotations in the U.S. as well as in other countries. Indeed, the term  dialect prejudice  refers to discrimination based on a person's dialect or way of  speaking . Dialect prejudice is a type of  linguicism —discrimination based on dialect. In their article "Applied Social Dialectology," published in " Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society ," Carolyn Temple and Donna Christian observe:

"...dialect prejudice is endemic in public life, widely tolerated, and institutionalized in social enterprises that affect almost everyone, such as education and the media. There is limited knowledge about and little regard for linguistic  study showing that all varieties of a language display systematicity and that the   elevated social position of standard varieties has no scientific linguistic basis."

Due to this kind of dialectic prejudice, Suzanne Romaine, in "Language in Society," notes: "Many linguists now prefer the term  variety  or  lect  to avoid the sometimes  pejorative  connotations that the term ' dialect ' has."

Register is defined as the way a speaker uses language differently in different circumstances. Think about the words you choose, your tone of voice, even your body language. You probably behave very differently chatting with a friend than you would at a formal dinner party or during a job interview. These variations in formality, also called stylistic variation , are known as registers in linguistics.

They are determined by such factors as social occasion,  context ,  purpose , and  audience . Registers are marked by a variety of specialized vocabulary and turns of phrases, colloquialisms, the use of jargon, and a difference in intonation and pace.

Registers are used in all forms of communication, including written, spoken, and signed. Depending on grammar, syntax, and tone, the register may be extremely rigid or very intimate. You don't even need to use an actual word to communicate effectively. A huff of exasperation during a debate or a grin while signing "hello" speaks volumes.

Jargon   refers to the specialized  language  of a professional or occupational group. Such language is often meaningless to outsiders. American poet  David Lehman  has described jargon as "the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable; it gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false."

George Packer describes jargon in a similar vein in a 2016 article in the New Yorker magazine:

“Professional jargon—on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices—can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to  euphemize  but to license, setting insiders against outsiders and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura.”​

Pam Fitzpatrick, a senior research director at Gartner, a Stamford, Connecticut-based research and advisory firm specializing in high tech, writing on LinkedIn, puts it more bluntly:

"Jargon is waste. Wasted breath, wasted energy. It absorbs time and space but does nothing to further our goal of persuading people to help us solve complex problems."

In other words, jargon is a faux method of creating a sort of dialect that only those on this inside group can understand. Jargon has social implications similar to dialect prejudice but in reverse: It is a way of making those who understand this particular variety of language more erudite and learned; those who are members of the group that understands the particular jargon are considered smart, while those on the outside are simply not bright enough to comprehend this kind of language.

Types of Lects

In addition to the distinctions discussed previously, different types of lects also echo the types of language varieties:

  • Regional dialect: A variety spoken in a particular region.
  • Sociolect: Also known as a social dialect, a variety of language (or register) used by a socioeconomic class, a profession, an age group, or any other social group.
  • Ethnolect: A lect spoken by a specific ethnic group. For example, Ebonics, the vernacular spoken by some African-Americans, is a type of ethnolect, notes  e2f , a language-translation firm.
  • Idiolect:  According to e2f, the language or languages spoken by each individual. For example, if you are multilingual and can speak in different registers and styles, your idiolect comprises several languages, each with multiple registers and styles.

In the end, language varieties come down to judgments, often "illogical," that are, according to Edward Finegan in "Language: Its Structure and Use":

"...imported from outside the realm of language and represent attitudes to particular varieties or to forms of expression within particular varieties."

The language varieties, or lects, that people speak often serve as the basis for judgment, and even exclusion, from certain social groups, professions, and business organizations. As you study language varieties, keep in mind that they are often based on judgments one group is making in regard to another.

  • Definition and Examples of Dialect in Linguistics
  • Standard English Definitions and Controversies
  • Standard English (SE)
  • Linguistic Variation
  • Standard American English (SAE)
  • Definition and Examples of Jargon
  • General American English (Accent and Dialect)
  • What Is American English (AmE)?
  • New Englishes: Adapting the Language to Meet New Needs
  • Definition and Examples of Dialect Leveling
  • What Is Dialect Prejudice?
  • Definition and Examples of Syntax
  • Definition of Accent in English Speech
  • Scottish English Overview
  • Middle English Language Explained
  • What Is Caribbean English?

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British Council

Which variety of english should you speak, by urszula clark, 22 april 2014 - 17:00.

'We need to recognise the roles and functions that different varieties of English fulfil.' Photo (c) Marc Wathieu, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 and adapted from the original.

Marc Wathieu, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 and adapted from the original .

Ahead of UN English Language Day on 23 April 2014, English language and linguistics specialist Dr Urszula Clark presents  research  on variations in the use of English and what these could mean for education policy and teachers of English. Her live-streamed  British Council seminar  is later today from 19:00 to 20:00 BST.

You are what you speak: place of origin most important identity factor

My research took place in the West Midlands region of the UK and looked at variations in the use of English in creative spoken performance such as comedy, drama and poetry, as well as in written texts such as letters to local newspapers, stories and poems written in dialect.

The results suggest that people are increasingly and deliberately using English in a way that identifies them with a particular place. They do this by incorporating  into their speech a set of linguistic features drawn from a particular variety of English. In the West Midlands, for example, people may pronounce ‘you’ as ‘yow’, use ‘Brum’ for ‘Birmingham’ and ‘cor’ for ‘cannot’ or ‘can’t’. By using features in this way, people emphasise their place of origin over other factors such as age, gender, social class and ethnicity.

Is there a ‘correct’ variety of English?

The research highlights how dynamic, fragmented and mobile the English language has become. At the same time, the influence of traditional gatekeepers of ‘standard’ English, such as the BBC, is weakening.

We live in a world where English crosses national boundaries and migration brings people together from different backgrounds and cultures. Consequently, we are probably more aware than ever before of the different ways we draw upon language in relation to linguistic and socio-cultural contexts.

Even though English is used around the world for the purposes of trade, travel, medicine and so on, it is an interesting fact that the majority of the world’s population today is largely bilingual, if not multilingual, even in nations where English is the mother tongue. In parts of Birmingham in the UK, for example, there are primary and secondary schools where nearly 100 per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language; in many others, 40 per cent is the norm.

The implications of this for education policy is that we can no longer speak of the ‘superiority’ of one variety of English over all others. Instead we need to recognise the roles and functions that different varieties of English, including that of standard English, fulfil.

Which variety of English should we teach?

A common and long-held belief among many in the English teaching profession is that the best people to teach spoken English are ‘native’ speakers of the language, especially the teaching of pronunciation. But we know from research that linguistic variation is a characteristic of all languages, and all varieties have their own rules and systems. Often these leak from one variety to another. Once we accept that English comes in many varieties, such concerns become redundant.

Successful communication is more a question of understanding, and being able to engage successfully, in the contexts of use rather than whether one is a ‘native’ or ‘non-native’ speaker. This is as true of English taught in the UK as it is in other contexts around the world.

Find more  seminars for English language professionals  live-streamed from the UK.

You might also be interested in:

  • English teachers, are you talking too much in class?
  • Corpora in English language teaching

View the discussion thread.

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Different Varieties of the English Language

English is the most widely-spoken language in the world, having the distinct status of being the official language of multiple countries. While the English language is uniform with major variations in spelling present between American English and British English, the dialect or accent is usually the factor that enables one to distinguish the various types of English out there. Like most languages, there are varieties of English too, however, the difference is not as prominent as you may see in other languages.

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From the thick Ugandan English to the French-themed Canadian English , the varieties of accents present are both diverse and beautiful. Apart from accents, there is a tendency for people to mix English with their local lingo to form a hybrid variety of English language that is as colorful as the culture in that country.

Read on to find out more about the various types of  English language that are present in countries around the world.

various English language dialects from around the world

British english.

British English is the English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom or, more broadly, throughout the British Isles. Slight regional variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom.

English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the northern Netherlands. The resident population at this time was generally speaking Common Brittonic—the insular variety of continental Celtic, which was influenced by the Roman occupation. This group of languages (Welsh, Cornish, Cumbric) cohabited alongside English into the modern period, but due to their remoteness from the Germanic languages, influence on English was notably limited.

American English

American English sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States and widely adopted in Canada. English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and is the common language used by the federal government, considered the de facto language of the country because of its widespread use. English has been given official status by 32 of the 50 state governments. If it happens that you lack writing skills to complete your English 101 essay we recommend visiting

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Australian English

Australian English is a major variety of the English language, used throughout Australia. Although English has no official status in the constitution, Australian English is the country’s national and de facto official language as it is the first language of the majority of the population.

Australian English began to diverge from British English after the founding of the Colony of New South Wales in 1788 and was recognized as being different from British English by 1820. It arose from the intermingling of early settlers from a great variety of mutually intelligible dialectal regions of the British Isles and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English.

Canadian English

Canadian English is the set of varieties of English native to Canada. According to the 2011 census, English was the first language of approximately 19 million Canadians (57% of the population) the remainder of the population were native speakers of Canadian French (22%) or other languages (allophones, 21%).

Indian English

English public instruction began in India in the 1830s during the rule of the East India Company (India was then, and is today, one of the most linguistically diverse regions of the world). In 1835, English replaced Persian as the official language of the Company. Lord Macaulay played a major role in introducing English and western concepts to education in India. He supported the replacement of Persian by English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction in all schools, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers.

The view of this language among many Indians has gone from associating it with colonialism to associating it with economic progress, and English continues to be an official language of India, albeit with an Indian twist, popularly known as Indian English .

Learning the English language has benefited from a career perspective too. By getting TEFL certification , you can teach English as a foreign language in any region of the world.

Philippine English

Philippine English is any variety of English (similar and related to American English) native to the Philippines, including those used by the media and the vast majority of educated Filipinos. English is taught in schools as one of the two official languages of the country, the other being Filipino (Tagalog).

Philippine English has evolved tremendously from where it began decades ago. Some decades before English was officially introduced, if not arguably forced, to the Philippines, the archipelagic nation has been subject to Spanish rule and thus Spanish was the language of power and influence. However, in 1898, when the Spanish gave the United States control of the nation, the English language, although initially not favored, became widely used in a matter of years, which was catalyzed by the coming of American teachers.

Ugandan English

Ugandan English, or Uglish (pronounced you-glish), is the dialect of English spoken in Uganda. As with similar dialects spoken elsewhere, Ugandan English has developed a strong local flavor. The speech patterns of Ugandan languages strongly influence spoken English. Uganda has a large variety of indigenous languages, and someone familiar with Uganda can readily identify the native language of a person speaking English. Ugandan speakers will alter foreign words to make them sound more euphonic.

New Zealand English

New Zealand English is a unique dialect of the English language that is spoken by the majority of the population of New Zealand. The dialect has its roots in the English spoken by the early settlers of the country, but has since been influenced by the Maori language and culture. New Zealand English is similar to Australian English, but has its own distinctive features.

South African English

South African English is a distinctive dialect with its own quirks and characteristics. It is spoken by around 4.89 million people in the country, making it one of the most widely spoken languages in South Africa. The dialect has its roots in the country’s history, with influences from Afrikaans, Dutch, and other languages. Over the years, it has developed into its own unique form of English.

The English language is an amalgamation of cultures, intricacies, and experiences. A lot of the common words used have strange origins. Would you like to find out? Check out our article about English Eponyms.

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  • The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples

The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

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english varieties essay

Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language Essay

Most of the languages have standard and non-standard varieties. English belongs to those languages in which these varieties are not only numerous, but powerful enough to have an influence on each other. However, with non-standard forms being preferably used by the youth, these language varieties gradually modify and supplant Standard English. This can especially be seen from the mysic which the modern world listens to. The majority of popular and rap music song lyrics today are written in a non-standard form of English that changes and expands daily while Standard English can mostly be found in old melodies and is rarely used entirely in a song. As a result more and more “slang” words and phrases make their way in our daily speech showing the great influence song lyrics can have on the evolution or annihilation of the Standard English language and especially the way young people speak. Through a comparative analysis it will be shown that the non-standard varieties of English used in music lyrics become a part of the common spoken language much faster and easier and maintain their status through time whereas the Standard English we are taught when learning the language properly becomes more and more obsolete.

To begin with, standard varieties of languages have a number of peculiarities as for vocabulary and Grammar. The most important thing to mention is that Standard English, despite the fact that it is spoken by intelligent people, government agencies, broadcasting services, newspapers, etc (Slim 2), does not follow any official rules because there is no separate linguistic governance body for English language. However, Standard English does have definite grammatical rules that demand using certain structures, tenses, noun and verb phrases, as well as moods, conjunctions, and prepositions in a definite way. Apart from Grammar, Standard English has certain vocabulary peculiarities. Though the definitions of certain words and idioms may be different in different countries (such as the word ‘ pants’ which has different meanings in British and American English), the vocabulary words are mostly the same in all the varieties of the language. Finally, there are pronunciation peculiarities; Standard English may be “accentless” or spoken with Received Pronunciation (or “British” accent).

As far as non-standard varieties of English are concerned, they have certain similarities with those of the standard ones. Among these non-standard varieties, there are Black English, Cockney, Chicano English, etc (Bache and Davidsen-Nielsen 5). All these varieties do not have an official form, either written or oral. This makes them to some extent similar with Standard English for which there are also no official rules. Nevertheless, even the least widespread varieties have their own peculiarities. Even though they are characterized by complete ignorance of grammar rules as compared with Standard English (double negation, for instance), there are grammatical features characteristic only for them; besides, these features can be traced in the speech of every bearer of the dialect. The same goes for vocabulary (each dialect has words typical for it only) and pronunciation (especially intonation in Black English, for instance). This means that there is one more definite similarity between standard and non-standard language varieties, namely, specific Grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

Finally, these similarities between standard and non-standard varieties of English can be reflected in old melodies and modern rap songs, which shows the effect of “slang” words and phrases on Standard English and proves that the latter becomes more and more obsolete these days. Let us consider two songs of completely different language varieties, an old melody, Dawn – Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree and a rap song by Snoop Dogg – Gangsta Luv . In the former song, we can find grammatically correct language, for instance, in “If you received my letter telling you I’d soon be free” ( Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the ole oak Tree para. 2). Such Grammar is maintained throughout the song. Similarly, the peculiarities of Black English (ignorance of Standard English Grammar rules) can be observed in the second song under consideration, for instance, in the line “That’s what I aim fo’, that’s how the game go” ( Gangsta Luv para. 10) with the same “grammatical mistakes” observed in other lines, such as in “she like it,” “she make it do,” etc. Moreover, comparison of these songs allows observing the gradual effect of slang on the Standard English. For instance, in both the songs the contraction ‘cause may be observed. This contraction is not typical for Standard English, which reflects the effect of non-standard varieties of language on the standard ones.

Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, it can be concluded that the topic statement was proved and the aim was fulfilled. The comparison of standard and non-standard varieties of English has shown that there are many similarities among them. Thus, both of them lack official forms and have certain peculiarities in Grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The analysis of two songs that represent the opposing varieties has reflected these peculiarities and shown how much modern “slang” words and phrases have affected Standard English.

Works Cited

Bache, Carl and Davidsen-Nielsen, Niels . Mastering English: an advanced grammar for non-native and native speakers. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1997.

Lyrics A-Z. Gangsta Luv . Lyrics A-Z. 2010. Web.

Mp3Lyrics. Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree . Mp3Lyrics. 2010. Web.

Slim, Mark. Explore Good English Grammar: Master the Structure of the Language. London: A.D.R. London Limited, 2004.

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IvyPanda. (2023, October 31). Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language.

"Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language." IvyPanda , 31 Oct. 2023,

IvyPanda . (2023) 'Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language'. 31 October.

IvyPanda . 2023. "Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language." October 31, 2023.

1. IvyPanda . "Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language." October 31, 2023.


IvyPanda . "Standard and Non-Standard Types of the English Language." October 31, 2023.

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Essay on Varieties of English

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wrote the passage were highly noticeable. The way these authors wrote the texts exhibited the nonstandard and standard English, also known as the varieties of English. So, does knowing about these varieties of English help a writer in his/her composition?


Hevny Muhyiddin

Heather Twele

Stephanie Shirilan

Bruno Sakae

International Journal of English Linguistics

Saleh Abdulmughni

W. Nash (ed.), The Writing Scholar, Studies in Academic Discourse. London: Sage. 205-235.

Mike Hannay , Lachlan Mackenzie

Jeanette Bermudo

Godwin Owojecho

Angel Ortega

Ika Apriani Fata

Arab World English Journal (AWEJ)


Marija Omazic

Laurie Miller

Luján Di Benedetto

Meta: Journal des traducteurs

Agnes Whitfield

Lara Imeeco Balingit

Andrew Linn

George Ann Gregory

Cihan University-Erbil Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

mohammad salman

Jumardin Muchtar

Peter Smagorinsky

Holger Kersten

Christopher Candlin

Khadija Bentalhoute

Susheel K Sharma

salar drama

Fatiha Belmerabet

pooria alirezazadeh

… Practice and Critique

Jonathan Bush

jeyaraj john sekar

Vision: Journal for Language and Foreign Language Learning

Seyyedeh Mitra Niroomand

Reading Error: The Lyric and Contemporary Poetry (Peter Lang)

Nerys O. Williams

Cecilia Saleme


Aida Nurutdinova

ICAME Journal

Magnus Levin

Ralf Thiede

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Varieties of Language


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  • Category: Language Sociology

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In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself.  Variation at the level of the lexicon, such as slang and argot, is often considered in relation to particular styles or levels of formality (also called registers), but such uses are sometimes discussed as varieties themselves. Language Varieties Language variety refers to the various forms of language triggered by social factors. Language may changes from region to region, from one social class to another, from individual to individual, and from situation to situation. This actual changes result in the varieties of language. Varieties of English

 VARIATION: Natural phenomenon Language is a form of social behavior and communities tend to split up into groups, each displaying differences of behavior Language manifests differences of behavior Language is the variety of speakers Speakers vary in their vocabulary and skills to use it Linguistic variables have both social and style variation, some only social, but none style variation only Varieties of English or Englishes

 How many varieties of English can you think of? Can you name a few? What particular variety of English do YOU speak? What variety or varieties do you think should be considered “proper” and “correct”? Regional dialect  not a distinct language a variety of a language spoken in a particular area of a country Some regional dialects have been given traditional names which mark them out as being significantly different from standard varieties spoken in the same place Sociolect the variety of language characteristic of a social background or status A dialect which evolves from regional speech may also have sociolectical implications Ex: standard Italian is a dialect in that it is particular to Tuscany; yet, being the national language of Italy, it is also a sociolect in that it carries a certain prestige from being the lingua franca throughout the country – both in broadcasting, in the press, and by people of high social status Not determiners of sociolects Ethnicity/race  Family (too little)  Region/Space (not based on social norms)

Occupation/Hobbies (only lexical differences, and it is the least stable) Age Social class Education Religion Gender Sociolect: A dialect or variety based purely on societal norms (race, social Idiolects and Sociolects  Idiolect (idios Greek “self” lect “speech” as in lecture): speech characteristics and linguistic behaviour of individuals  Sociolect: speech characteristics of members of social groups Registers and Styles  A register (sometimes called a style) is a variety of language used in a particular social setting. Settings may be defined in terms of greater or lesser formality, or in terms of socially recognized events, such as baby talk, which is used in many western cultures when talking to small children, or a joking register used in teasing or playing the dozens.

Register  term was originated by: Thomas Bertram Reid in 1956 Become common: in the 1960s introduced by a group of linguists who wanted to distinguish between variations in language according to the user and variations according to use, each speaker has a range of varieties and choices between them at different times (Halliday et al, 1964) focus is on the way language is used in particular situations Modify the definition of Register:  A set of specialized vocabulary and preferred (or dispreferred) syntactic and rhetorical devices and structures, used by particular socioprofessional groups for special purposes. A register may have a set of derivational devices!

A register is a property or characteristic of a language, and not of an individual or a class of speakers. Registers   Registers are varieties of language used in different situations, which are identified by the degrees of formality. Registers can vary from vocabulary, phonology, grammar to semantics. The register theory by Halliday Register is determined by 3 factors: field of discourse: what is being discussed mode of discourse: oral or written tenor of discourse: relation between participants The 3 variables determine the features of language fit with the situation. When fitted, the right register turns up. Style (variation as per the audience; also as per user, or situation, like it can be formal, cold, frozen, warm) Register (for Government, law, journalism, …). Variety associated with certain functions or professions. Think of the word “Area”… Collocation (use of same words in different collocation…)

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