Idiolects, sociolects and other animals
This is a guest post from James P in Chile:
Two things have made me think about “vocabulary worlds” recently: reading past papers for the DELE exam and picking up a José Donoso novel (Coronación) from the library.
The vocab section of the DELE exam is going to be rather a matter of chance as significant proportions of the vocab that is used on a daily basis in Latin America – at least in Chile and on Colombian radio which are my two main sources of spoken LA Spanish – are bound to be different from the vocab used in Spain. That is certainly true of British and US English (“I like your bangs”, “Do you have any spackle?). This, rather than my joking references before, is the more substantial problem with the DELE vocab test, at least for those of us who take it as speakers of LA Spanish: even when the words might be understood by a cultured Chilean or Guatemalan, they are not used much over here as compared to Spain and so we are much less likely to have heard them, even if our total vocabulary is larger than a learner in Madrid or Seville.
José Donoso, in common with a number of other Chilean writers of the second half of the 20th Century, spent a number of years living outside of Chile (in his case in Mexico, Spain and the USA). His diction (choice of vocab) is very unusual (one of my Chilean friends says that he makes up words!). Every author has a range of words they use commonly, but for me it seems that Donoso overlaps much less with my vocab than for example García Márquez, or Roberto Ampuero. Before I get round to Coronacíon I’m reading Pérez-Reverte’s El pintor de Batallas, which also has a different vocab world, one that is new enough for me to learn new words (such as estrambótico and un chasquido), but not so alien I want to give up (which is what happened last time with Donoso when I tried to read Casa de campo about a year ago).
Can others give examples of this phenomena of different “vocab worlds”, either with specific authors or with national forms of a language which is spoken in different countries?