Difference Between Ordinary Language and Literary Language

Main Difference

The main difference between the ordinary language and the literary language is that ordinary language is the usual, common and everyday use of the language among people and literary language is the figurative form of language which is often used in literature.

Ordinary Language vs. Literary Language

Ordinary language is the ordinary daily usage of language by people. Literary language is the qualified language used by poets, writers, and literates. One can understand ordinary language easily. But it is quite difficult to comprehend the proper meanings of the literary language. Ordinary language is a simple language of daily use. It focuses on simplicity and directness which everyone (literate or illiterate) can comprehend easily. Literary language is a deviant type of language. It focuses on the use of various devices of diction to make the language different from the usual use of language. As ordinary language aims to make practical communication, literal devices and techniques are avoided in ordinary speaking and writing. Ordinary language is used daily among the public. Literary language is used in a literary context only. The ordinary language uses formal and standard syntax. The syntax of literary language can vary according to the writer’s style and the literary techniques used to enhance the figurative quality. Furthermore, directness and clarity are the distinct features of ordinary language. Contrarily, literary language uses a lot of figures of speech in which ideas with a sharp contrast are juxtaposed in a balanced or parallel grammatical structure. Ambiguity is a distinct feature of literary language and it can be considered as connotative meaning. The thoughts and ideas in ordinary language are clear and have no vagueness. The thoughts and ideas in literary language are expressed in a complicated manner which is not entirely comprehensible.

Comparison Chart

Ordinary LanguageLiterary Language
Ordinary language is the ordinary daily usage of language by people.Literary language is the qualified language used by poets, writers, and literates.
Usage
DailyIn the literary context
Syntax
StandardVary according to the writer’s choice
Language Enhancers
Not much usedUsed
Style
Simple and commonStylish and figurative
Aims at
Simplicity and directnessAmbiguity and vagueness

What is Ordinary Language?

Ordinary language is the general and everyday usage of a particular language. It consists of common phrases and vocabulary, which makes it understandable to everyone. In simple words, ordinary language is the language used by people generally daily. Its subcategories are; formal usage, informal usage, etc. It also differs from literary language in the grammar rules, vocabulary, syntax, and expressions. This type of language is direct with no vagueness to be understood by everyone easily. It does not create comprehension barriers during communication.

Example

“I love mangoes because they are sweet in their taste and delicious.”

What is a Literary Language?

The literary Language is an uncommon language containing literary devices, figurative language, figures of speech, rhythm, etc. Literary language is primarily used in the literature by the writers. It is mostly found in poems, novels, songs, oral narratives, and other literary texts. Also, this form of language is in its lexicon, syntax, and phonology. This language is difficult to understand by the ordinary man who does not know the literary techniques and the particular syntax, to uncover the underlying meaning conveyed through such language. Furthermore, the literary language is the most elevated form of a particular language. The terms such as figurative language, poetic language, are synonyms for this form of language. It usually possesses deeper and hidden meanings different from the meanings at the denotative level.

Examples

  • “Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
  • So far from variation or quick change?
  • Why with the time do I not glance aside
  • To new-found methods and to compounds strange?”

Key Differences

  1. Ordinary language is the simple and common language form for the public use conversely literary language is the stylish and figurative form of language often used in literature.
  2. Ordinary language is used daily among the public whereas literary language is used only in a literary context.
  3. The ordinary language uses the formal standard syntax; on the other hand, the syntax of literary language may vary from the writer’s style and the literary techniques used to increase the figurative quality.
  4. Language intensifiers like literary devices, figures of speech are not much used in ordinary language while the literary language always uses language enhancers like rhythm, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and alliteration, etc.
  5. Simplicity and directness are the main features of ordinary language on the flip side ambiguity and vagueness are known to be the main features of literary language.

Conclusion

Language use differs according to different contexts. The ordinary language and the literary language are two such main branches of language usage forms with their use in varied contexts of daily life.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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