Social Purpose and How it Relates to Informal Language

Social Purpose and How It Relates to Informal Language

This article has been written by Liam McAlary, a Years 7 – 12, VCE Legal Studies and VCE English Language Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Liam then please check out his page here.

Hey guys, here is my second article for December, which primarily focuses on the purposes of informal language, which will be useful for unit 3 Area of Study 1 (Informal Language). This article also will briefly address the very important distinction between function and social purpose.

Social purpose and function are not interchangeable terms. The function of a text is its very basic rationale, such as to inform, to instruct or to persuade. On the other hand, social purpose has a much broader application and tends to go deeper into the text and why it was said or written. For example, a recipe may have the function of instructing someone as to how to make a particular dish, however there may be a social purpose of establish rapport and trust with readers, or helping to establish, ‘branding,’ for the purposes of marketing and promotion.

The study design lists the main social purposes of informal language as:

  • Encouraging intimacy, solidarity and equality
  • Maintaining and challenging positive and negative face needs
  • Promoting linguistic innovation
  • Supporting in-group membership

If you do not know where to find the study design, it can be found here:

It is also important to be aware that informal language can serve purposes other than listed by the study design, although these are the ones that you absolutely must be across.

Informal language tends to be effective in building rapport, solidarity and intimacy among those who use it. One example of this is the way that the colloquial term, “mate,” tends to be used in Australia. It is very common in Australia that somebody will say something along the lines of, “thanks mate,” or, “no worries mate,” especially after receiving or providing goods and services. The use of this less formal term helps to reduce social distance between interlocutors, and thus helps to promote a sense of solidarity between them. Additionally, slang (which is generational, so please make sure that you can distinguish slang from colloquialisms), also helps to create rapport and solidarity among those who use it, as well as a strong sense of in-group membership as it includes those who use and understand the terms, whilst simultaneously excluding those who do not.

Additionally, creative word formations such as shortenings, blends (where two or more words are combined to form a new word, although some letters are omitted), and compounding (where two or more words are combined to form a new word, and no letters are omitted), also tend to be informal and these processes help to promote linguistic innovation, as do initialisms and acronyms. Linguistic innovation can also act as a significant marker of in-group membership as it tends to be generational or done within certain social groups.

I hope that you guys have a good festive season and I will have more articles for you in the new year. Also, in doing some research for this article, I came across this website which proved to be a very useful resource.

If you loved this article, you will LOVE all of our other articles, such as: Maintaining Mental Wellness in Year 12!Will anyone care about your ATAR in a year? and Welcome to English Language 2019.  – LearnMate Tutoring.


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Social Purpose and How it Relates to Informal Language