In 1961, Martin Joos identified five styles of spoken English and these are still commonly referenced to this day:
- Frozen: the language of printed historical texts which do not change and which often feature archaic language. Examples include biblical quotations and poetry.
- Formal: uninterrupted speech without exchange with others when technical or subject specific language is required such as when delivering presentations and lectures.
- Consultative: two-way participation in situations where prior knowledge is not assumed and interruptions are permitted such as when doctors are addressing patients.
- Casual: interactions between friends or acquaintances in informal settings when the use of slang and regional dialects is common.
- Intimate: interactions between close friends and relatives when tone and body language are more important that vocabulary and grammar.
In truth, it would be possible to establish an almost infinite number of styles for spoken English.
There are so many contexts to consider and every speaker’s delivery would be influenced by their knowledge, experience, command of English and regional dialect.
There are many overlaps between styles and so most people inevitably move between styles as they speak to one degree or another.