The term vernacular refers to the writing or speaking that is used by "the public," or by common people. In other words, it is "everyday language." It is the dialect spoken by the people on a daily basis. This sets it apart from formal written language.
Authors often use vernacular in their writing as a way to develop character and setting. Different regions of the country and world have specific dialects and language patterns that make up the vernacular speech used by everyday people. Authors will use vernacular when writing to create characters and settings so that they are more authentic.
Examples of Vernacular in Literature:
From Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God:
Hand me dat wash-rag on dat chair by you, honey. Lemme scrub mah feet.
This excerpt from Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh contains examples of Scottish vernacular:
Suppose that ah ken aw the pros and cons, know that ah'm gaunnae huv a short life . . . but still want tae use smack? They won't let ye dae it. They won't let ye dae it, because it's seen as a sign ay thir ain filure.
This excerpt from Huckleberry Finn shows Mark Twain's use of vernacular to develop character and setting on the Mississippi river:
What's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and it ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?
Here is another excerpt from Huckleberry Finn that shows the strong dialect and vernacular speech of a slave:
Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn' hear sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it agin.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee also uses vernacular speech to help create character and setting in Maycomb, Alabama:
"He goes out, all right, when it's pitch dark. Miss Stephanie Crawford said she woke up in the middle of the night one time and saw him looking straight through the window at her... said his head was like a skull lookin' at her. Ain't you ever waked up at night and heard him, Dill? He walks like this-" Jem slid his feet through the gravel. "Why do you think Miss Rachel locks up so tight at night? I've seen his tracks in our back yard many a mornin', and one night I heard him scratching on the back screen, but he was gone time Atticus got there."
Literary Terms Examples