Using multi-dimensional analysis to explore cross-linguistic universals of register variation
Multi-dimensional analyses have been conducted for many different discourse domains and many different languages. Using bottom-up statistical analyses, these studies have investigated specific patterns of register variation in several different discourse domains of English, as well as the more general patterns of register variation in many different languages. Each study identifies linguistic dimensions that are peculiar to that particular language/domain. However, the more theoretically interesting finding is that linguistically similar dimensions emerge in nearly all of these studies. Two of these dimensions are especially robust, making them strong candidates for universal dimensions of register variation: (1) a fundamental opposition between clausal/‘oral’ discourse vs. phrasal/‘literate’ discourse, and (2) the opposition between narrative vs. non-narrative discourse. The present paper introduces the methodology of multi-dimensional analysis and surveys the research studies carried out to date, with an emphasis on these potentially universal patterns of register variation.