Formal language, based on rules of SAE, forms the basis for official communication in Australian society.
It also reflects and enhances the credibility and prestige of an institution, experts, spokespersons or group(s) of people.
Depending upon the text type, the official context and the social purpose – a report, media release, promotional or informative document — there may be specific discourse features such as report-style headings and subheadings, images and listing devices.
This is evident in the Victorian Government’s official notification (via the Visit Victoria website) of its “Regional Travel Voucher Scheme”. The informative document provides advice who is eligible – “Victorian residents over the age of 18” – and who can apply. To achieve clarity, the authors use declarative and simple sentences to make sure that only one person from each household applies for the voucher: “Each household is limited to one voucher for the entire scheme.”
The scheme (and the language) promotes social harmony as is evident in the compound adjectives warning all residents that the program “works on a ‘first-come-first-served’ basis”. That is, it is a fair and inclusive scheme as evident in politeness conventions: “For great travel ideas … please visit Visit Victoria”.
Throughout the document, lexical and syntactic patterning aids coherence – another hallmark of formal language. The focus on specific domain fields of travel and recreation, as well as the repetition of synonyms, “”paid accommodation” and “tours” or “attractions”, helps to impart relevant information on the voucher scheme. Likewise, specialist terminology and jargon relating to financial details – “the right to claim a reimbursement”; “an incentive” for “eligible Victorians” and “2 nights in paid accommodation”.
From a syntactic perspective, to aid clarity, it uses a variety of sentence types and structures including an agentless passive which places emphasis on the use of the voucher: “The vouchers can be used to help cover the costs of accommodation”.
It uses nominals starting with the title of the scheme, “The Regional Travel Voucher Scheme” and listing devices to clarify what expenses the voucher does, and does not, cover. It includes superordinates in one list: “paid accommodation” is one such superordinate that is broken down into relevant hyponyms: “serviced apartments, backpacker and hostels”. Likewise, the superordinate, “regional attractions”, is also itemised according to relevant hyponyms – “museums, water parks, local attractions, theme parks”. Syntactic patterning also aids the social purpose. As one would expect, the authors accommodate negative face needs. This is evident in the provision of clear information so that Victorian residents can make decisions and choices based on the available information. This is evident in the declarative, complex sentence: “If you live in regional Victoria, the Yarra Valley, Dandenong Ranges, Mornington Peninsula and the Victorian alpine ski resorts, you can still apply”…
Formal language typically consists of modal verbs that help to convey differing degrees of necessity and obligation, and clarify nuances and shades of meaning. In this case, the authors stipulate conditions via modal verbs: “Applicants must provide evidence” and “you can still apply for a voucher” if you do not live in metropolitan Melbourne.
- Return to: Essays and contemporary examples 2021 for language variation
- References to linguists and relevant commentators (which ones?)