Register Variation Remains Stable Across 60 Languages

Haipeng Li, Jonathan Dunn, Andrea Nini

This paper measures the stability of cross-linguistic register variation. A register is a variety of a language that is associated with extra-linguistic context. The relationship between a register and its context is functional: the linguistic features that make up a register are motivated by the needs and constraints of the communicative situation. This view hypothesizes that register should be universal, so that we expect a stable relationship between the extra-linguistic context that defines a register and the sets of linguistic features which the register contains. In this paper, the universality and robustness of register variation is tested by comparing variation within vs. between register-specific corpora in 60 languages using corpora produced in comparable communicative situations: tweets and Wikipedia articles. Our findings confirm the prediction that register variation is, in fact, universal.

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