Professor-Student Register Differences

Something students are conditioned to do is change the way they speak to people in power, specifically their professors. They want to sound knowledgeable and inquisitive, refraining from using slang, meme speaks, and overuse of filler words. One difference we were intrigued by was register changes in lectures. Register is defined as the style of speaking and writing distinguished by its formality, purpose, or audience. Key aspects include vocabulary/jargon, tone, or grammar complexity. This research explored how university students linguistically interact with their professors and classmates in upper and lower-division courses, focusing on register changes. Previous research in this field of study found that students who are fluent in two languages (English and French) use control processes to produce speech registers that are either formal or informal (Declerck et al., 2020). Our null hypothesis was that no difference in the register formality occurred between upper and lower-division courses. Our alternative hypothesis was that register changes were more significant, including the formality in upper-division courses through primarily observational methods and a supplemental survey. This research is important to analyze the way register changes can be impacted by a student’s conditioning and how professors can use this impact to reframe their lecture approach.

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