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What is elaborated language?

In linguistics, elaborated language refers to the specially developed manner of speaking among the social middle and upper classes of a society. The British sociologist Basil Bernstein also referred to elaborated code. The adjective elaborated stands for carefully formulated, highly developed and nuanced.

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Social differences in language

In linguistics, there are various terms for language in the context of social differences. While a distinction was initially made between “educated” and “uneducated” language, the more neutral terms “elaborated” and “restricted” have become established over the past 20 years.

Elaborated vs. restricted language

Restricted describes a restricted form of language that is assigned to the social lower class. It is mainly characterised by short, grammatically simple and often incomplete sentences and is due to poor schooling and language education. Elaborated language code is available to people with a more comprehensive education and is assigned in theory to the social middle and upper classes. It is characterised by a wide vocabulary, more complex sentence structures and a higher level of nuance. Depending on the situation, more highly educated people can also use the restricted code, which usually happens in a private and family environment, while people with a lower level of education usually do not manage to use elaborated language.

Basil Bernstein’s code

The terms elaborated code and restricted code come from the code theory developed by Basil Bernstein, also called the deficit hypothesis. The British sociologist was concerned with researching the role of language as a factor in school success. The result of his empirical research was that the use of a code is closely linked to the social structure of a society. According to this, the middle and upper classes use a common standard language that differs significantly from the variant used by the social lower class. According to Bernstein, the elaborate code can be observed where there is no shared knowledge.

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FAQ: More questions about elaborated language

What is the elaborated code?

The elaborated code is a synonym for elaborated language and refers to the specially developed way of speaking of the social middle and upper classes.

What does the Bernstein hypothesis entail?

The theory developed by Basil Bernstein deals with the differences between members of the same speech community. His basic statement was that people of the middle and upper classes express themselves differently, and thus in a primarily more nuanced way, than people of the social lower class.

What is the opposite of elaborated language?

The opposite of elaborated language is restricted language, which is characterised by simple, short and sometimes incomplete formulations.

How can one learn elaborated language?

Elaborated language is learned through the acquisition of education. Those who want to change their language habits and acquire parts of elaborated language should pay attention to correct grammar, complex sentences and the correct use of foreign words. Improving one’s own rhetoric can also have a positive effect on figures of speech.

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