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What is the context of an expression?

 

Definition
 

The context of an expression or a text is the social situation in which something is said. It includes any information relevant to understanding the appropriate use of an expression or the interpretation of a text.

Discussion
 

The context of an expression answers the following questions:

 
  • Who said it? Who was addressed?
  • What were the circumstances? What was the occasion?
  • When was this word or expression used? When was the text given?
  • Where was it spoken?
  • Why was it spoken?
  • How was it spoken? How was it received?
Examples: Speech registers in Javanese (Indonesia)
 

In Javanese, the social context of an expression is very important. The difference in social status between the speaker and the hearer determines the choice of speech register.

 

Formal register

 

When speaking to someone with a higher status, you use a formal register.

 
  • Kulo saweg maos buku Djawi
  • I be (PROG) read book Javanese
  • 'I'm reading a Javanese book.'
  •  

    Informal register

     

    When speaking to someone with a lower status, you use an informal register:

     
  • Aku lagi motjo buku Djowo
  • I be (PROG) read book Javanese
  • 'I'm reading a Javanese book.'
  •  

    Note that both expressions mean the same thing. It is, therefore, very important in data collection to record the social context of an expression.

    Source
     

    Anderson, S. and Keenan 1985 274–275


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