What do the words we use say about us?

  • The way that we use language is an important part of our identity.

  • We each have an entirely unique way of speaking and using language. This is known as our idiolect.

  • We change the way that we speak to suit different situations.

What is an idiolect?

Everyone speaks in different ways.

We can use the term idiolect to describe language use which is special or unique to a person. You could think of it as a kind of language fingerprint: a pattern of language use that is unique to you.

You may think that you speak the same way as the people around you, but there will be subtle differences which make your language yours.

All sorts of things will have shaped that linguistic fingerprint.

A major influence will be where you grew up, which might have a regional dialect (a distinctive way of speaking in that geographical location). But influences from family, friends, school, clubs, work, television, and many more aspects of our lives will also have an impact.

What else impacts the words we use?

We don't speak the same way all the time. We adapt our language use depending on the circumstances we are in.

When speaking to a headteacher or going for a job interview we would typically use formal language. When discussing a film with a friend we might use more slang.

You will make language choices in those different situations almost without thinking about it.

Idiolect quiz

Test your knowledge with this quick quiz.

Where next?

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