A Register Analysis of Written Messages from the Papacy and the Universal House of Justice

Conference: The Asian Conference on Language (ACL2022)
Title: A Register Analysis of Written Messages from the Papacy and the Universal House of Justice
Stream: Religion, Spirituality
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Dylane Yue Ting Ho, SEGi University, Malaysia


This study investigates selected features of the Catholic and Bahá’í registers through an analysis of written messages from the Papacy and the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) using a corpus-based approach. The research questions of this study pertain to the situational characteristics and language patterns associated with these registers, and the functional relationships that connect the situational context to the linguistic features. Since previous studies on the interface between language and religion have predominantly focussed on liturgical language in Christian texts, this research addresses a gap in the literature, primarily the description of religious registers of other faiths. Based on Biber and Conrad’s (2009) framework of register analysis, a three-step process was applied to two corpora, each approximately 50,000 words in size. The results show that nearly all of the top 20 noun keywords in the Papal register belong to the animate and abstract/process categories, whereas the top 20 noun keywords in the UHJ register are almost evenly distributed across the animate, group/institution, and abstract/process categories. These findings illustrate how the Papacy and UHJ adopt distinctive registers to fulfil their social roles. As an ecclesiastical leader, the Pope guides the Catholic community with messages containing traditional Christian teachings, adapted to suit modern contexts. The UHJ, however, is the supreme administrative body of the Bahá’í community, and its messages outline systematic plans of action for the betterment of society. This study provides impetus for renewed interest in theolinguistics, presenting new opportunities for research on linguistic variation within the domain of religion.

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