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Colloquial (casual) style

Colloquial (or casual) style is used in personal two-way everyday communication, which is maintained in the form of dialogue. The speech is casual, not prepared in advance. The presence of the interlocutor allows the speaker not to trouble himself with careful choice of language means. The speaker sees whether he is understood or not and gives explanations, if necessary. All kinds of changes in the voice and gestures give additional information. Therefore the speech is not as accurate as in writing: grammar rules are not very strictly observed, the vocabulary is not very rich, the pronunciation is careless, jerks and repetitions occur.

Besides, the speech is usually emotional. It must also be noted that this kind of speech varies with different speakers to a greater degree than within any other functional styles. The speech may be determined socially and regionally. All this predetermines the peculiarities in the use of language means which are not found in any other functional style. They are mostly all kinds of deviations (отклонение) from the standard caused by carelessness which accompanies the quick tempo of speech and excites of mind.

The peculiarities of this style are:

Phonological: careless pronunciation;

Morphological : contracted forms - it's, you've, we'll, she's, I'd , I've, he'd, etc.


1) The use of words and phrases typically colloquial : 1 take it (I understand it), a sort of, to be up to, etc.;

2) Words belonging to non-standard groups: slang, jargons, vulgarisms (damn, beastly, confounded, lousy);

3) Verbs with post-positions instead of their neutral counterparts: give up, give in, etc.

4) Words with a wide meaning: get, fix, thing, affair, business, stuff, etc.

5) Interjections;

6) Intensifying words: who-, what-, which-, where-, now-, why-, whenever-, or why on earth, who the devil, why the hell, after all, really indeed, certainly surely and the like;

7) Hyperbole;

8) The so-called "time fillers", or "fill ups", words without any meaning, used by the speaker to fill the gap when he is unable to find the proper words, for example: well, you see, so to say, and all, I mean, you know, you understand, or m-m, er-r.


1. Simple sentences, sometimes compound and complex.

2. No conjunctions in complex sentences,

3. Ellipsis.

4. Unfinished sentences.

5. Disjunctive sentences.

6. Questions with the direct word-order i.e. Scrooge knew Marley was dead? (Ch. Dickens).

7. Structures with a tautological subject, for example: He was a kind boy, Harry. Helen, she was here.

8. Structures with repetition and other kinds of emphasis: e.g. You are crazy, you are. Believe her, do

Most linguists distinguish two kinds of colloquial style: Literary colloquial style is intermediate between bookish and colloquial styles. It is employed when interlocutors do not know each other well, or speak about business or some other serious matter. On the one hand, it has features of bookish style, such as:

(a) Careful pronunciation;

(b) Bookish and foreign words are used occasionally, special colloquial vocabulary (slang, Jargon, etc.) is not used, as a rule;

(c) Correct sentence patterns.

On the other hand, it has peculiarities of colloquial style:

1. It is rather emotional and contains emotionally coloured word, such as:

a) interjections;

b) words with emotive meaning acquired with the help of suffix -ie: Charlier, duckie, dearier, etc.;

2. contracted forms are frequently used;

3. sentence patterns, though built n strict accordance with grammar rules, are not very complicated. Most sentences are simple. Elliptical sentences are widely used. Familiar colloquial style is very free. It is less restricted by the rules of Standard English.


Consider your answers to the following questions:

1. Why is it difficult to classify functional styles?

2. How do functional styles differ from one another?

3. What are the common features of the functional styles?

4. Why is belles-letters style not recognized by some scholars?

5. What is understood by basic vocabulary?

6. What determines the choice of stylistically marked words in each particular situation?

7. Where are formal words used? Are learned words used only in books?

8. Which types of learned words, do you think, is especially suitable for verbal communication? Which is the least suitable and even undesirable?

9. In what situation are informal words used?

10.What are the main kinds of informal words?

11. What is the difference between colloquialisms and slang? What are their common features?

12. What are the main features of dialect words?

13. Give definition of lexical meaning. How does it differ from grammatical meaning?

14. Give definition of logical meaning.

15. Give definition of emotive meaning. What is the difference between logical and emotive meaning?

16. What is the difference between logical and nominal meaning?


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