Linguistic variants types and characteristics with examples

Linguistic variants

The linguistic variants are defined as the set of the different modes of speech. These variants appear by virtue of the social and cultural situation of the speakers and of each historical moment. In the same way, they depend on the place where they are or the particular communicative situation in which they are immersed. Linguistic variants types and characteristics

In general, the term applies to any distinctive form of a language or linguistic expression. Linguists commonly use it to cover a wide range of overlapping subcategories of a language, including dialects, registers, slang, and idiolects. These variants deviate from what is considered the standard norm of the language.

However, the fact that languages ​​are in constant development makes the term “standard language norm” controversial. Some agree that those who follow this rule are educated users. Others use it to refer to a particular geographic dialect or one favored by the most powerful and prestigious social group.

In the particular case of Italy, what is considered standard Italian derives from the 13th century Tuscan, or Florentine, specifically. After centuries of disputes between linguists, a number of factors were taken into account. Among them, the economic and cultural prestige of Florence and the works of the great writers of the time played a crucial role.

On the other hand, there are several reasons why language variants develop. They can arise because their users live in different geographical areas (compare the French of France and that of French Guyana). Also, certain groups tend to adopt a particular mode of communication (legal language, for example). Linguistic variants types and characteristics

Types of linguistic variants and their characteristics

Diatopic or geographic variants

They are the linguistic variants that are related to the geographical differences of the speakers. This consists of variations in the way of speaking of people who have the same language but occupy different geographical spaces. This difference is more accentuated the further away they are from each other.

On the other hand, diatopic variants guarantee the location and identification of the speaker with a specific linguistic community and geographic and geopolitical region. In other words, the use of this type of variant can indicate to the receiver that the sender comes from the same region, nation or linguistic community.

Different terms with similar meanings

The same object or situation can be called differently by different linguistic groups, even when they speak the same language. These linguistic variants are known as diatopic.

Thus, for example, the sports garment that covers only the trunk and that generally does not have a collar is called a shirt in Chile, flannel in Venezuela, a shirt in the Dominican Republic and a shirt in Argentina.

Likewise, the word used to describe a newborn or very young child is “” baby “in Mexico and” guagua “in Chile. It is also the case of clothing for swimming or going to the beach: swimsuit in Spain, swimsuit in Chile and mesh in Argentina.

Similar terms with different meanings

Frequently, the case arises in which the same word – or similar words – has different meanings in different geographical areas. The word guagua serves to illustrate this phenomenon. This means “baby” in Chile and “urban bus” in Cuba and the Canary Islands.

In this sense, examples with words that have a sexual connotation can be found in different regions that speak the same language. This phenomenon can be observed with the term catch . Both in Cuba and in Spain it means to take / grab, but in some Latin American countries it is a restricted word due to its sexual connotation.


The word dialect derives from the Greek words dia (through, between) and legein (to speak). A dialect is a regional or social variety of a language that is distinguished by pronunciation, grammar and / or vocabulary.

Generally, these are linguistic variants that occur between speakers of the same nation. They constitute a whole formal structure that includes meanings and even pronunciation and intonation when speaking. All speakers of a particular dialect assume this structure completely and this differentiates them from other regions.

Now, dialects subsist in parallel with the language from which they come. In many cases, they even dominate a geographical region above the official language of the country.

An example of these dialects are the different types of Spanish spoken in Spain. In addition to the official Spanish, the Canarian, the Aragonese, the Galician or the Madrilenian are clearly recognizable and distinguishable. Similarly, there are differences with the Spanish spoken in South America or Central America. Linguistic variants types and characteristics

Historical or diachronic variants

The historical or diachronic variants appear in the language throughout its development in time. They can be active during a particular moment and disappear later.

An example of this is the use of the verb to be with participles of verbs intransitive in medieval Spanish: Valencia was surrounded (compare the modern Spanish: Valencia was fenced).

In some cases, these changes do not occur naturally. For example, the Academie Francaise, the governing body of the French language, voted to make some official changes to the language in 1990. These would be optional and acceptable at the same time as the old forms.

Among the changes is the removal of the caret (punctuation mark that looks like a little hat or triangle: ^). It appears above the “i” or “u” in thousands of French words to note that a letter that was once in the word has been removed, but to remind the speaker to pronounce it properly.

In addition, other changes were proclaimed in about 2,400 words to simplify their spelling. For example, oignon (onion) loses the “i”, becoming ognon .

T also, removing scripts set in words like mille-Patte, le week-end and porte-monnaie (centipedes, weekend and bag, respectively).

Social or diastratic variants

Diastratic variants are those linguistic variants related to the different social classes in which individuals develop. Thus, the mastery of the language by the subjects is different depending on the level of education to which they have had access.

In general, three levels are recognized: cult, familiar or colloquial level and vulgar. In relation to the cultured level, its speakers use an elaborate and elegant form of expression. In addition, they select and combine linguistic signs with special care, seeking originality and avoiding stereotypical phrases.

Regarding the linguistic variables of family or colloquial level, they are present in any speaker regardless of their cultural level. Its features are typical of the family language. It is characterized by the frequent use of questions, exclamations, and proverbial phrases and phrases.

Finally, with respect to the vulgar level, the speakers use a restricted and de fi cient code. Depending on the level of familiarity they have with written language, they commit numerous mistakes, known as vulgarisms. Linguistic variants types and characteristics

Common vulgarisms

Among the expressions considered common vulgarisms are phonic inaccuracies. For example, in some linguistic variants of Spanish the lisp (pronouncing the S sound with the tongue interdentally) is considered incorrect.

Also, in this group are metathesis (changes in the position of phonemes: Grabiel for Gabriel or dentifrice or toothpaste), accent changes (master for teacher or subtle for sutiI) and changes of phonemes (agüelo, azaite, midicina instead of grandfather, oil and medicine, respectively).

In addition, there are the morphological inaccuracies related to the use of gender (the heat or the pins), the pronominal forms (demen por denme) and the distortions of the verb forms (walked by walked or haiga por haya).

Likewise, syntactic errors are considered vulgarities. Among them are the wrong matches ( people are instead of people are ) and uses incorrect syntax ( my daughter ‘s kissed or Io di barley to the donkey).

Situational or diaphasic variants

Situational or diaphasic variants depend on the intention of the sender and the nature of the receiver. Similarly, these variants appear depending on the communicative situation and the mode of expression chosen by the speakers.

Thus, the way to approach different issues will depend on the type of relationship that the interlocutors have. Also, the choice of the form of expression will be different if it is a common issue and public management (such as time or politics) than if it is a special or transcendental issue (terrorism or reincarnation).

On the other hand, different social groups have different linguistic habits according to modes, behaviors and social uses. Even users of the language who carry out the same profession often use the same code. This type of language uses differentiated subcodes and its own lexical forms and is known as jargon. Linguistic variants types and characteristics

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