English Language


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Discovering Colloquial Language - Definition, Examples, and Its Impact on Literature

Colloquial language, also known as informal language, is a commonly used mode of communication in everyday conversations among friends and family. It is also a literary technique writers use to bring authenticity to their characters and make them relatable. The incorporation of colloquial language in dialogues allows characters to be perceived as unique individuals with distinct social and cultural backgrounds.

At its core, colloquial language is a type of informal language used in casual settings. It can often be mistaken for slang, but its variations are influenced by geographical location and time period. For example, instead of being invited for a cup of tea, you may be invited for a "cuppa" or "brew" in England. The colloquial language used in Shakespearean England may differ from what is considered colloquial today.

Examples of Colloquial Language in Everyday Conversations

  • Wanna (want to)
  • Gonna (going to)
  • Yeah (yes)
  • Thanks (thank you)
  • Y'all (you all)
  • Kid (child)
  • Bruv (brother)

It is important to note that colloquial language is often confused with slang or jargon. However, it is different from these terms, as explained below.

Colloquial Language - Different from Slang and Jargon

Though colloquialisms share similar meanings with jargon and slang, there are distinct differences among the three. Jargon refers to technical language specific to a profession or workplace, making it difficult for those outside the industry to understand. On the other hand, slang is informal language used among friends or people with a close relationship. In contrast, colloquial language is simply informal language used in everyday conversations.

When is Colloquial Language Appropriate?

Colloquial language is suitable for casual settings, but it is not always appropriate. For example, in formal or professional environments, it should be avoided.

Colloquial Expressions in Literature - Why Do Authors Use Them?

Authors use colloquial language in literature for several purposes, such as:

  • To make characters appear authentic and genuine
  • To make characters relatable
  • To reflect the setting and social demographics
  • To reveal a particular time period

Making Characters Authentic and Genuine

Colloquial language is heavily influenced by time, culture, and social settings. Hence, when used in literature, it can add authenticity to characters, making them more relatable to readers who are familiar with their background.

For instance, in the poem "Message" by Wendy Cope, the use of colloquial language adds humor and allows readers to identify with the scenario described:

"Pick up the phone before it is too late / And dial my number. There's no time to spare - / Love is already turning into hate / And very soon I'll start to look elsewhere."

Reflecting the Setting of the Text

Colloquialisms can also help build the setting of a story or novel, making it more realistic and relatable to readers. Whether in descriptions of locations or dialogues between characters, colloquial language can add depth and authenticity to the setting.

In the following excerpt from Kayo Chingonyi's poem 'Andrew's Corner' (2017), the use of colloquial language creates a relatable urban environment:

"Where alleys are greeted with discarded condoms, kebab remnants, a ballet flat, and last week, a van pulled up and left a trail of blood. Today: joggers dodge a lifeless pigeon."

This passage shows how the language used by characters can reflect their physical location and suggest that the text is set in a place where this particular dialect is commonly used.

'Hey, Mr. MacAdorey, there's someone at the door. Oh, Malachy, it's three in the morning, for God's sake. You've got the whole house awake with your singing.'

'Oh, Dan, I'm only teaching the lads to fight for Ireland.'

'You can teach them that during the day, Malachy. Now get to bed like a decent man.'

'But, Dan, it's urgent, it's urgent.'

'I know, Malachy, but they're just children, babies. You go to sleep like a good man.'

This also reflects the social demographics of the characters.

In Conclusion

Colloquial language is a powerful tool used in everyday conversations and literature. Its ability to add authenticity, build settings, and create relatable characters makes it a crucial aspect of language that should not be overlooked.

The Power of Colloquial Language in Literature

In the novel Lara (1997) by Bernadine Evaristo, colloquial language plays a crucial role in depicting the working-class status and youthful age of the characters. The use of phrases like "meanie" and "nothing much" gives readers a glimpse into Lara's character and background. Similarly, in Thomas Hardy's poem 'The Ruined Maid' (1886), colloquial language is used to convey societal views on women and sexuality during that time.

Colloquial language is not confined to a specific time period or culture. It is constantly evolving, making it a powerful tool for indicating the setting and societal beliefs of a piece. By incorporating colloquialisms, authors can effectively convey the popular ideologies of a particular era to readers.

The Multiple Purposes of Colloquial Language in Literature

One of the main advantages of colloquial language in literature is its ability to serve multiple purposes. It can represent the beliefs and values of a specific time period and create a sense of place without explicitly stating it. For instance, in 'The Ruined Maid' (1886), Hardy uses colloquial language to reveal societal disapproval towards women who engage in premarital sex.

Moreover, colloquial language can make a text more approachable and relatable for readers. It allows a wider audience to engage with the work and discover hidden symbols and meanings. This is evident in the works of poets like Cope and Atta, where colloquialisms make the poems more relatable and accessible.

Why Authors Choose to Incorporate Colloquial Language

Authors often use colloquial language to create authenticity and relatability for readers. By employing informal language, they can make their characters more human and believable. It also adds depth and complexity to the characters, giving readers a better understanding of their background and origins.

The Significance of Colloquial Language in Literature

Colloquial language is not just limited to dialogue; it can also depict the setting of a text. As it is heavily influenced by culture and location, the use of colloquialisms can effectively create a sense of place. For instance, phrases like 'apples and pears' or words like 'mardy' can indicate a character's origins without explicitly stating it.

In conclusion, colloquial language plays a vital role in literature. It adds depth and authenticity to characters, conveys societal beliefs and ideologies, and creates a sense of place. By incorporating colloquialisms, authors can effectively engage readers and make their stories more relatable and meaningful.

The Importance of Colloquialisms in Writing

Colloquialisms play a crucial role in creating genuine and relatable characters for writers. These informal expressions and phrases allow authors to effectively establish character traits and the story's setting, making it a valuable resource for understanding the social context of a text.

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