Semantic Markers

Some registers can also be defined by their specific semantic markers. That is, they use a range of words which are typical for these registers and which have a register-specific meaning with which outsiders may not be familiar.

For example, legalese – the register of the legal profession - features a jargon whose specialist words and expressions have a meaning that is different from their meaning in common everyday use (e.g. alienation, motion, party, sentence, to serve). Accordingly, the ‘notes’ mentioned in the legalese passage in the section Grammatical Markers are not short, informal written messages but denote promissory notes in legal jargon:

A promissory note is “a written promise by a person (variously called maker, obligor, payor, promisor) to pay a specific amount of money (called "principal") to another (payee, obligee, promisee), usually to include a specified amount of interest on the unpaid principal amount (what he/she owes) […].”


Similarly, medical jargon characteristically features Latin and Greek-based words and expressions and particular medical abbreviations. There are, for example, Latin names for the parts of the human skeleton or body parts used in medical jargon which are rather not part of common everyday usage and whose meaning, therefore, may often not be understood by everyone. (Cf. collarbone vs. clavicle, breastbone vs. sternum, shoulder blade vs. scapula).

For more examples of this type see the illustration of the human skeleton in the Jargon: Two Examples section.

(Information adapted from Finegan, 2004)