What is variance?

In linguistics, variance is the possibility of saying something in different ways. The option of language to express something in different ways is called variance in linguistics. If something can be said in different ways, it is linguistic variance.

Almost everyone who has ever had the privilege of writing a scientific paper or a term paper is probably familiar with synonym search engines. These search engines are a practical aid if you are looking for alternative terms and if you want to express a fact with a different wording and as few content changes as possible. This is only possible because our language has the ability to vary.

Variance in linguistics

Linguistics defines variance as an alternative means of expression within a single language. In fact, variance is a linguistic phenomenon with various manifestations. Depending on the specific field of linguistics, the focus of the investigation will also be on different aspects. Accordingly, the individual disciplines also have their own definitions of variance.

Variance is found, for example, in pronunciation. To a certain extent, words can be pronounced and stressed in different ways, but the speakers still understand each other. An example of this is the pronunciation of ‘r’ in different regions where German is spoken. It can be formed in the throat or rolled on the tongue. Linguistic investigations of this kind are the subject of the prosodic-phonological branch of science.

Words, as well as sentence structures themselves, can also show variance. For example, it is possible to realise the possessive in different ways (Peter’s friend – the friend of Peter). Morphology and syntax deal with this. In addition, as already mentioned at the beginning, there are also variables in the lexicon that show up in the repertoire of words which can denote something (for example: cold – rhinitis; teacher – instructor – educator). Linguistic variance is something that can be observed on all grammatical levels.

Unique content through variance in online texte

In online marketing, variance plays a major role when it comes to producing unique content. First and foremost, it is relevant for companies or knowledge-based internet portals to provide texts that generate added value for readers. Texts should be intriguing and of high quality, while also conveying interesting content and possessing a certain uniqueness.

A positive side-effect of formulations that are not simply copied from the internet and ‘strung together’ is that they are also rated positively in an SEO ranking. Accordingly, it is becoming more and more important for companies to have online texts that show a high variance, use synonyms meaningfully and exploit the grammatical bandwidth. The subject of variance is therefore decisively related to the quality of texts.

References & PDF:

  • Glück, Helmut: «Metzler Lexikon Sprache. Zweite, überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage». Stuttgart/Weimar, 2000. S. 770.
  • Meibauer, Jörg (Hrsg.)/ Demske, Ulrike/ Geilfuß-Wolfgang, Jochen / Pafel, Jürgen/ Ramers, Karl Heinz/ Rothweiler, Monika/ Steinbach, Markus: Einführung in die germanistische Linguistik. Zweite aktualisierte Auflage. Stuttgart/Weimar, 2007, S. 3, S. 83f., S. 335ff., S. 357.
  • Steinbach, Markus / Albert, Ruth / Girnth, Heiko / Hohenberger, Annette / Kümmerling-Meibauer, Bettina / Meibauer, Jörg / Rothweiler, Monika / Schwarz-Friesel, Monika: Variationslinguistik. Schnittstellen der germanistischen Linguistik. Stuttgart, 2007, pp 188f

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