Definition of Vernacular

Vernacular is a literary genre that uses daily used language in writing and speaking. It is different from written works, as they normally follow the formal variety of language. The word “vernacular” refers to writing or speaking of the public. We find the origin of vernacular literature during middle ages in different countries of Europe. In fact, Latin was the language of historical documents, religion and ordinary people would not even speak it in the Medieval Europe like that of Sanskrit language in India. However, the writers of vernacular language diverged from this tendency by writing in the language of ordinary people such as Dante, Geoffrey Chaucer and Mark Twain. Dante Alighieri was the first in this regard, who used vernacular language in his famous epic poem, Divine Comedy.

Vernacular Vs. Dialect

Vernacular is the use of ordinary, everyday and plain language in speaking or writing, such as corn is a common name of a plant, and its scientific name is Maize or Zea mays, whereas dialect is related to a particular region, geographical area, a particular social class, or an occupational group. Also, it uses a distinguished pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, such as people in Shanghai has different pronunciation or dialect than in Yunnan.

Vernacular Examples from Literature

Example 1

“Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;”

(From “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer)

In these opening lines, Chaucer has used words from the Middle English, which is a very different language. The poet has employed a vernacular style in the words such as “whan, Aprille, soote, droghte, roote, veyne, licour, flour.”

Example 2

Anthony Burgess uses vernacular language in his novel, A Clockwork Orange. Although Burgess has made the base of his novel with English, yet he used vernacular words from Russian, Arabic, Gypsy and English, and formed a different language style of its own that managed to portray the state of mind of Alex as well as cruelty of the world around him in which he lived. Author uses the words such as, “eggiweg,” means eggs in English, describes the childlike nature of Alex, who often exhibits it. Another word is, “moloko,” that means milk blended with drugs, which shows dark side of Alex, characterized by demonic and criminal overtones. Other terms like “baboochka” means old woman and “Bog” means God.

Example 3

“We me an Star are waitin for Boxy his head. Waitin standin in the fone box in the station of Wolfer Humpton holdin the letter what we have tapped in the number from. Tappin the number what Boxy had typed on the letter. Tappin it in on the fone pad. Tappin it makin Boxy come on the screen of the fone makin on the screen of the fone his head.”

(From “Boxy an Star” by Daren King)

This novel is a perfect example of using futuristic vernacular. Its language is hypnotic and disturbing, unrefined and vernacular yet effective and proper. Here author’s words are expressing brevity, directness, childlike effect and honesty.

Example 4

“Suppose that ah ken aw the pros and cons, know that ah’m gaunnae huv a short life…but still want tae use smack? They won’t let ye dae it. They won’t let ye dae it, because it’s seen as a sign ay thir ain failure. The fact that ye jist simply choose tae reject whut they huv tae offer. Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows…”

(From “Trainspotting” by Irvine Welsh)

It takes time to know the rhythm of this book, as it is rich with Scottish vernacular, and slang words makes its tone lilting.

Function of Vernacular

The use of vernacular is everywhere, in schools, university courses, at home, offices, in law terms, medicine and media, etc. In fact, language is a starting point for any literary work, and if it is ineffective, then readers cannot get anything from the work. Vernacular is one of the literary techniques that can strike a chord with the majority of the people, makes a strong connection with them because it is closer to their everyday conversation. Also, the dialogues and phrases often reinforce the setting of a narrative, and add depth by creating a sense of realism and thus readers can relate their real lives with a literary piece.

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