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nailpolishfanatic's avatar

How to understand informal and formal - General Linguistics class?

Asked by nailpolishfanatic (6612points) August 19th, 2010

I have homework due Wednesday and I just want to finish it all up before the weekend if I can. I was in General Linguistics class and the teacher told us to re-write EminemsĀ“ – “Not Afraid” into informal, I think sorry I have bad cramps and I don’t feel like standing up and look it up in my diary. I don’t quite understand the informal and formal part, I am also using online dictionary right now but it’s all still complicated and stuff. Can you explain it to me in a much easier way?
I know like informal is related to how you talk to older people and stuff like how you would approach your grandparents is much different that how you’d approach your friends.

It’s a little complicated for me so I want to spend the weekend teaching myself it…

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10 Answers

cazzie's avatar

Formal is how the old Danish would use De instead of deg, and even use a capital…. is that what you mean? In English, they used to use Thou instead of ‘you’ but they don’t so that any more and the Danes and Norsk have pretty much given up on the formal stuff, too. Informal is when you just use regular, everyday speech.

muppetish's avatar

Hm. I’m not entirely sure I have a grasp on what she is asking for, but I’ll do my best :) Let me know if my answer is completely off base from what you’re instructor may be asking for.

Translating the lyrics from informal to formal, as best I can gather, involves taking the lyrics and turning them into sentences. Here are a few of the lyrics:

“You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ‘em
But you won’t take the sting out these words before I say ‘em
‘Cause ain’t no way I’ma let you stop me from causing mayhem”

Here are the lyrics written as a sentence, but untranslated: “You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ‘em But you won’t take the sting out of these words before I say ‘em ‘case ain’t no way I’ma let you stop me from causing mayhem.”

Making this sentence “formal”, for the most part, involves targeting the words that have been altered to match speech. “Them” has been shortened to ”‘em”, for example. “I’ma” is slightly more complicated as it involves more words (I am going to – which would sound far more clunky in the song.)

Try translating a couple verses from the song here and I will you :)

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

@cazzie , you are right about the ‘everyday speech part’ :)

@muppetish, You are on the right side! I was using this page after I had posted the question. It really helped and I have added it to my bookmark bar :)
You really did explain it very well for me and it was easy to understand. Because there are a lot of infomal words in most of Eminem’s songs, so it will be very easy I think since I now understand more what I am supposed to do.

Though what do you mean by ‘try translating a couple verses from the song here and I will you’, I get that you want me to translate some verses from the song of course and is “i will you” does it mean like I tell you were you are wrong?

muppetish's avatar

*and I will help you. Even English Majors are prone to making the simplest of typos.

The page you linked to has a good list of differences :) I think you’ll do well. If you have any further questions as you translate, feel free to post them here. I’ll be sticking around for quite some time.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

@muppetish , yeeei!:)
I will be doing it tomorrow while on short breaks at school and stuff like that, then I will post it to you if you want and you can go over it and see how I did my first time ever, I have never done this before…
I have been learning everything in Icelandic the past four years, so it’s actually quite hard for me to do good I think. But my mum is a good supporter she knows I will do well :)

Well going to rest now

Good Night :)

the100thmonkey's avatar

I think you’re talking about register.

Are you sure your teacher didn’t ask you to render the lyrics in formal English?

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

@the100thmonkey , Yeah Exactly!! That’s what the teacher was talking about and I did not really understand her. I am pretty sure that’s what she meant… So I am going to change the eminem lyrics into formal, from all those ”em’” and stuff.
I think I understand now….
Though it is difficult to quite understand what the register and stuff means..

the100thmonkey's avatar

Basically, register is the use of a certain variety of a language for a certain situation.

For example, if Eminem were to release a version of “Not Afraid” written in very polite English, most of his fans would be very confused.

A quick thought experiment illustrates register:

Do you speak a different way when with your parents than when you are using MSN/Yahoo!/Google Talk to chat with your friends?

If you changed the way you interact with either set of people by being very polite or very formal with them, they would be confused, because there are expectations about how people will speak in certain situations.

That’s what register is all about, really – it’s a complex area of language with a very simple initial premiss.

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