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I know "register" is said 使用域, or レジストル, or レジスター, and that for instance "informal register" is said くだけた レジストル (https://ameblo.jp/atelier-elsur/entry-12142554743.html).

How do we say "literary register"?

I mean by "literary register" a usage of some words or grammatical constructions that are reminiscent of classic novels language (Shakespeare, Balzac, etc.), and that therefore may sound unnatural in everyday speech.

Can we say "文芸レジストル", and can this expression be understood, by Japanese people, as what is described above?

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  • It looks like the linked article using レジストル is about French language, and it is a transliteration of the French "registre". Oct 16, 2023 at 8:45
  • I have not found translation for "literary register", but in addition to 使用域 and レジスター, similar concept is also known as 位相 in the context of Japanese linguistics. Anyway most people aren't familiar with the concept so you should add explanation unless you talk with linguists. By the way, 武芸 "martial arts" seems strange here so probably you meant 文芸?
    – rk03
    Oct 16, 2023 at 15:59
  • @rk03 Thanks for the explanation (and the correction of the typo).
    – Starckman
    Oct 17, 2023 at 0:27

2 Answers 2

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Keep in mind that "register" is a piece of linguistics jargon, so the correct translation depends on who you are writing or talking to.

  • You can use レジスター when you know the reader of your text is a linguist.

  • If your target audience is ordinary people who are interested in languages (like most people on this site), it's safer to introduce the term 言語使用域 (or 使用域 for short) first, which is a common and self-explanatory translation for this.

  • If you're talking to the general public, it's usually better to avoid using such a difficult concept in the first place. For example, you almost never encounter this term in language education programs on TV. I have posted thousands of answers on this site, many of which are related to literary register (example), but I generally don't use the term register or レジスター because many people simply don't understand it.

  • レジストル seems to be the French pronunciation of "register," but I don't think it's used outside contexts of French.

If you still think レジストル is the right term for you after reading this, yes, 文芸レジストル (or 文学レジストル) should be a correct choice, although it's likely to be understood only by French experts. Otherwise, you will need to come up with a correct expression on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the knowledge level of your readers. For example, if I really wanted to say "literary register" on a site like this without further elaboration, I might use 文学の言語使用域.

By the way, I found several articles that mention "the six (or five) registers of the French language", but I haven't seen such prescribed classifications with respect to Japanese.

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  • Then can we simply say: "This expression X in language A is quite literary?": A語の言葉は、ちょっと文芸的です?
    – Starckman
    Oct 17, 2023 at 4:36
  • Or might we simply say 書き言葉, if we want to keep things simple?
    – Starckman
    Oct 17, 2023 at 4:54
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    @Starckman You can say "Xは文学的表現です", "Xには文学的な響きがあります", etc. 書き言葉 may include 文学的表現, but 書き言葉 usually refers to prosaic expressions that are simply formal or academic. Other common adjectives that can describe Shakespeare-type sentences include 高尚な ("elevated"), 修辞的な ("rhetorical") and 優美な ("elegant").
    – naruto
    Oct 17, 2023 at 5:19
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If you are talking about literary registers of Japanese, 文語体 (or simply 文語) and 雅語 are some specific terms that you might want use.

These terms are more specialized than 'literary register', though. They are primarily used to discuss Japanese from the Heian period and styles modeled after the Heian period Japanese, so if you are talking about non-Japanese languages or even Japanese literature without the same distinct features, they might be less appropriate.

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  • I was thinking about foreign languages, but your precision is important here, thx
    – Starckman
    Oct 20, 2023 at 13:11

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