Users and uses of English can be characterized in terms of variation in region, society, style, and medium. Regional variation is defined in terms of such characteristics as phonological, grammatical, and lexical features, as when American English is contrasted with British English: see AMERICAN ENGLISH AND BRITISH ENGLISH. Social variation represents differences of ethnicity, class, and caste, as in BLACK ENGLISH and CHICANO ENGLISH in the US, ANGLO-INDIAN ENGLISH in India, and HIBERNO-ENGLISH in Ireland. Stylistic variation is defined in terms of situation and participants (such as formal versus informal usage, colloquial versus literary usage) and function (as with business English and the restricted variety known as Seaspeak). Variation according to medium is defined in terms of writing, speech, and the use of sign language for the deaf (where there are, for example, differences between American and British practices).
In discussing English at large, the term variety permits the identification of differences without pre-empting the argument in favour of one or other set of such differences: for example, standard usage is no more or less evidence of a ‘variety’ than non-standard usage, and non-standard forms need not be approached as ‘deviations’ from a norm. In order to describe regional varieties of English, the Indian scholar Braj B. Kachru has proposed a model consisting of three concentric circles: inner, outer, and expanding. The Inner Circle contains territories where English is the primary or native language. To it belong such varieties as American English and New Zealand English. The Outer Circle refers to territories colonized by Britain (such as India, Nigeria, and Singapore) and the US (such as the Philippines). In it can be found such institutionalized and increasingly autonomous non-native varieties as Indian English and Philippine English. The Expanding Circle contains those countries not colonized by Inner Circle nations: that is, the rest of the world. To it belong such performance varieties as German English and Indonesian English.
va·ri·e·ty / vəˈrīətē/ • n. (pl. -ties) 1. the quality or state of being different or diverse; the absence of uniformity, sameness, or monotony: it's the variety that makes my job so enjoyable. ∎ (a variety of) a number or range of things of the same general class that are different or distinct in character or quality: the center offers a variety of leisure activities. ∎ a thing that differs in some way from others of the same general class or sort; a type: fifty varieties of fresh and frozen pasta. ∎ a form of television or theater entertainment consisting of a series of different types of acts, such as singing, dancing, and comedy: in 1937 she did another season of variety | [as adj.] a variety show. 2. Biol. a taxonomic category that ranks below subspecies (where present) or species, its members differing from others of the same subspecies or species in minor but permanent or heritable characteristics. Varieties are more often recognized in botany, in which they are designated in the style Apium graveolens var. dulce. Compare with form (sense 3) and subspecies. ∎ a cultivated form of a plant. See cultivar. ∎ a plant or animal that varies in some trivial respect from its immediate parent or type.
Plant species maintain different levels of variation within and among populations , much of which is genetically determined. As such, variation in form below the taxonomic rank of species, called infraspecific variation, is widely recognized in plants. In contrast to zoological taxonomy, three categories have been applied to recognize this variation in plants. In order of decreasing taxonomic rank, these are: subspecies, variety, and forma. Additionally, the category of cultivar is used to recognize horticultural varieties not typically found in naturally occurring populations. The subspecies, which is the most inclusive of the three categories, is usually applied in recognition of population variation that is correlated with geography. By definition, populations of subspecies differ from other such populations. Furthermore, subspecies are expected to interbreed more freely than species, which may comprise two or more subspecies. The category of variety is similarly applied to recognize variation below the level of subspecies. Unfortunately, the two categories are not distinct, and application of the taxonomic rank of variety is more frequently encountered. Forma, the least-inclusive category, is applied to recognize minor infraspecific variation that is presumably due to variation at a single gene and, as such, may vary within populations. Flower color variants are typically recognized at this level.
see also Clines and Ecotypes; Cultivar; Species; Taxonomy.
Leo P. Bruederle
a number or collection of different things. See also miscellany.
Examples : variety of discourse, 1757; of goods, 1708; of movements, 1851; of pleasant orchards and gardens, 1680; of pleasures, 1553; of prospects, 1718; of readers, 1623; of simpler scenes, 1798; of temporary blessings, 1623; of vices, 1891.