Discourse Styles Spoken vs. Written English
Types of Discourse • There are many ways to classify discourse: • Classification of discourse according to medium, mode or channel (Dell Hymes) Written vs. spoken discourse. • Classification of discourse according to the register (level of formality and style: formal, contractual,...). • Classification of discourse according to genre or text type (communicative purpose and audience: argumentative, narrative,…). • Classification of discourse according to genre or text type: Monologic (one speaker/writer produces an entire discourse) / dialogic / multiparty (two/more participants interact / construct discourse together).
The English of speech and the English of writing • The English we use in speech tends to be different from the English we use in writing. The differences are related to: • Conditions of delivery and • Strategies and forms of writing/ speaking. • For example, in writing a letter or email we usually have time to plan our message, to think about it carefully, and to revise it afterwards if necessary. • On the contrary, in speech (unless it is, say a lecture or a formal speech prepared in advance), we have no time to plan our message. we must shape our message as we deliver it. We say that Spoken English is normally used in real-time interaction.
A Sample of Spoken English • What are the characteristics of the following text?
“Well I’ve just come back from New York where it was pretty clear that . this was a general trend with young people there…and er I um I’m worried though because you see . it seems that . you’re kind of putting the whole blame on the family instead of on the conditions of a family’s being forced to live in these days . look . if you took er I mean monkeys are very good parents aren’t they . rhesus monkeys and so on . They look after their young marvelously _now you put them together you crowd them . and they’re extremely bad parents…” A Communicative Grammar of English, p. 23
“WellI’ve just come back from New York where it was pretty clear that . this was a general trend with young people there…and er I umI’m worried though because you see . it seems that . you’re kind of putting the whole blame on the family instead of on the conditions of a family’s being forced to live in these days . look . if you took erI mean monkeys are very good parents aren’t they . rhesus monkeys and so on . They look after their young marvelously _now you put them together you crowd them . and they’re extremely bad parents…”
Characteristics of speech: Contractions, expletives • Speech is characterized by contractions like can’t, won’t. • Speech is also frequently characterized by words and phases like well, you see, anyway, right, actually, and the kind of. • These words add little information, but tell us something of the speaker’s attitude to his audience and to what he is saying. • Such words are called expletives.
Expletives • An expletive is a word or phrase that does not significantly contribute to meaning but is added only to fill out hesitation. • This use of the term expletive is different from its use as an exclamation or oath, especially one that is profane, vulgar, or obscene
Discourse markers • Such words (well, you see, anyway, right, actually, and the kind of) are also called discourse markers. • They often occur at the beginning of an utterance (e.g. OK. Erm what I’d er like to say is…). • Their function is to orient the listener to what will follow, e.g. indicating some kind of change of direction in the talk or seeking the approval of the listener in some way.
“Here are some common discourse markers and their meanings: • “Right, now, anyway, well: these mark the beginning or closing of a segment of talk. This is a very common way of initiating a turn and linking it to the preceding turn, often to mark the onset of a contrast, e.g. a difference of opinion. • Oh: this is typically used to launch an utterance, or to respond to the previous speaker’s utterance, often with implications of surprise or unexpectedness.”
Discourse markers (cont) • “Then: this is often used to signal an inference based on what someone else has said. • Y’know, I mean: these markers serve to gain attention or to maintain attention on the speaker- the first by appealing to the addressee’s shared knowledge, and the second by signalling that some kind of clarification is going to follow. Scott Thornbury, 2006. An A-Z of ELT
Linkers • “Linkers, which connect what has been said to hat follows, are sometimes classified as discourse markers as well. In sopoken language, the most common linkers are: • And, but, or: ‘and’ marks some kind of continuity, ‘but’ marks a contrast, and ‘or’ marks an option. • So, because: these signal that what follows is (respectively) the result or the cause of what has been mentioned.” Scott Thornbury, 2006. An A-Z of ELT
“In this short extract, in which three people are talking about ballroom dancing, the discourse markers and linkers are highlighted: • “Speaker 1: but (1) you’re not doing it any more are you? • Speaker 2: No we’re not. But (2) when you start dancing you, it’s like getting a high on exercise and (3) when Alison started she was going three times a week which, you know (4), is a fairly big commitment, and (5) just in, you know (6) she had some relationship problems and (7) she decided okay (8) I’ll see if I, take up dancing, and (9) for six months, three times a week she just, her dancing improved. • Speaker 3: Well (10) she was having personal tuition lessons wasn’t she?” Scott Thornbury, 2006. An A-Z of ELT
1 and 2 linker: contrastive • 3, 5, 7, 9 linker: additive • 4, 6 discourse marker: appealing to shared knowledge • 8 discourse marker: indicating decisiveness • 10 discourse marker: indicating continuation but with some qualification
Other Characteristics of Speech: Pause fillers • In speech, we also often hesitate a lot and we fill in gaps with hesitations ‘hesitation fillers’ (pause fillers) like er /з:r/, um /əm/, erm, and uh /Λ/. • These hesitation fillers give us time to think of what next to say.
Ellipsis, repetition, word order shifts • Furthermore, in speech we may fail to finish a sentence, hence ellipsis (i.e. words left out), • We may lose track of our sentence and mix up one grammatical construction with another, hence repetition, and word-order shifts. • Speech is often vernacular (i.e. regional). • All these features do not normally occur in writing.
Prosodically, spoken discourse demonstrates more variety than Written Discourse • Gestures – body language (Cf. Mr. Bean’s serials); • Intonation; • Pitch range (↑ for the shift to the higher pitch; ↓ for the shift to the lower pitch, V to indicate a fall rise, etc.); • Stress (underline a word if we want to show that it is stressed); • Rhythm; • Spoken Discourse is less complex than written discourse in other respects.
Other Characteristics of Speech: fronting, tags • Other common features of speech include fronting and tags. • For example, in the utterance, The email. Yeah I got it erm yesterday I think it was, the I think it was at the end is a tag which qualifies what has just been said.
Backchannels • Also in spoken language are backchannels (i.e. Verbal signs given by the listener to signal feedback, e.g. indicate interest, attention, surprise, etc. such as mmh, uh-huh)
Characteristic of conversations is the use of "softening" words like "a little bit", "maybe", "I think", and "I guess". • In a conversation, instead of saying, "You spoke too fast", you say, "Maybe you could speak a little bit slower." for the purpose of face saving.
In conversation analysis, the technical term for these hedging words is "downgrading”, when the force of something is downplayed (downgraded) in the way it's formulated. • In general English a hedge is “an intentionally noncommittal or ambiguous statement”. • The opposite is a downgrader is an 'Intensifier’.
The use of hedge as a linguistic term goes back at least to the early 1970s, when G. Lakoff (1972) published his article "Hedges: A Study in Meaning Criteria and the Logic of Fuzzy Concepts". Lakoff, however, was not interested in the communicative value of the use of hedges (words and phrases like rather, largely,a bit, sort of, in a manner of speaking, very, literally, par excellence, strictly speaking) but was concerned with the logical properties of such words and in their ability "to make things fuzzier or less fuzzy" (Lakoff 1972: 195). He asserts (1972:183) that "natural language concepts have vague boundaries and fuzzy edges and that, consequently, natural language sentences will very often be neither true, nor false, nor nonsensical, but rather true to a certain extent and false to a certain extent, true in certain respects and false in other respects". Lakoff (1972: 213) points out the possibility that hedges may "interact with felicity conditions for utterances and with rules of conversation".
In accordance with Lakoff's main concern, however, the term hedge has later been defined, for example by Brown/Levinson (1987: 145) as "a particle, word or phrase that modifies the degree of membership of a predicate or a noun phrase in a set; it says of that membership that it is partial or true only in certain respects, or that it is more true and complete than perhaps might be expected". This definition is interesting in that it includes in hedges (as 'qualifiers') both detensifiers (downgraders) and intensifiers (upgraders), which was how Lakoff also saw hedges. However, many users of the term limit it only to expressions that show that "the match between a piece of knowledge and a category is less than perfect" (Chafe 1986: 270). In this latter case, hedgescould be considered as cases of indetermination or understatement or tactfulness. They share a hint of euphemism but aren't really euphemistic.
In Arabic theological tradition, علم الكلام, there was a debate among the Arabic trends or فرق about the status of one who commits a major sin مرتكب الكبيرة, is he a moslem or a kaafir?, the Muatazala claimed that he is neither, but is منزلة بين المنزلتين
Hedges could also occur in written discourse, but in a slightly different way. • On Hedges in Written discouse, see: • Raija Markkanen (ed.) Hedging and Discourse. De Gruyter, 1997 • (includes among other things: • Hedging Strategies in Written Academic Discourse: Stengheing the Argument by Weakening the Claim • Cross-Cultural Aspects of hedging • Impersonalisation as a Form of Hedging)
From a cross-cultural perspectices • What is softened in one lg may not necessarily be softened in another. Compare the following two expressions: • Before attempting to answer the question • And its Arabic equivalent: • In English, it is considered a case of tactfulness. But in Arabic it might be seen as indeterminacy or hesitation to say: • قبل محاولة الاجابة
Connectedness in Spoken conversation • “It is difficult to divide a spoken conversation into separate sentences, and the connections between one clause and another are less clear because the speaker relies more on the hearer’s understanding of context (..) and on his ability to interrupt if he fails to understand. But in ‘getting across’ his message, the speaker is able to rely on features of intonation which tell us a great deal that cannot be given in written punctuation” A Communicative Grammar of English, p. 23
Paralinguistic features • “for much of its force, conversational (spoken) English depends upon the physical presence of the speaker. Personality, gesture, and intonation all contribute to the success of spoken communication. Handbook for Writers, p. 8 • The consequence of this is that it is not only what is said, but how it is said that is essential to meaning. Consequently, stress, rhythm, and intonation are of interest to the linguist as well as the listener….
“Some of the characteristic features of conversation have been identified in this short authentic extract (the symbol ∟ indicates an overlapping turn) • “Speaker 1: That eggplant is gorgeous (1) • Speaker2: I did it sort of (2) um (3) you know (4) you drain it for a long time then you (5) I rinsed it then (6) I dried it then I fried it • Speaker 1: ∟(7) Must have took (8) forever • Speaker 2: then I sprinkled lemon juice on it put it in the fridge. • Speaker 3: The eggplant? (9) • Speaker 2: Delicious. Yeah. (10) • Speaker 4: Did you put salt on it first? To draw the (11) • Speaker 2: No (12) I didn’t actually. (13) It doesn’t seem to have made any difference.” Scott Thornbury, 2006. An A-Z of ELT
1: appraisal language • 2: vague language • 3: filled pause • 4: discourse marker (appealing to shared knowledge) • 5: false start • 6: linker • 7: ellipsis • 8: non-standard form • 9: clarification request • 10: response (9 and 10 form an adjacency pair) • 11: incomplete utterance • 12: response (second part of adjacency pair) • 13: discourse marker Scott Thornbury, 2006. An A-Z of ELT
Characteristics of Written English • “Written English, on the other hand, uses structure, rather than the physical presence of the writer, to achieve clarity.” • “Written English communicates through the precision of its diction , the orderliness of its sentence and paragraph structure, and the relative fullness of its detail.” Handbook for Writers, p. 8
Spoken and written Grammar • As explained before, Spoken and written Grammar can be very different. • Forms which are acceptable in one type of grammar are not necessarily acceptable in the other. • All in all, the grammar of spoken English is simpler and less strict than the grammar of written English.
Written Discourse • Grammatically, written discourse is more complex than spoken discourse. It has more subordinate clauses, more that/to complement clauses, more sequence of prepositional phrases, more attributive adjectives, more nominalizations (less verb-based phrases), and more passive verbs than spoken language; • In formal written discourse we often use a passive when we don’t want to specify who the agent is. In spoken English we would use a subject like “people”, “somebody”, “they”, “you”. • Written discourse is more complex from the lexical viewpoint (the percentage of different words is usually < 40% for spoken discourse and >40 % for written discourse)
Written discourse exploits typographical variety. Structurally and typographically written discourse can be divided into: paragraphs, chapters, sections, units, headings, subheadings, quotations, etc.
Spoken and Written Discourses • Written texts exhibit a bewildering variety and richness of different structural forms. Poetry can give us a lot of interesting examples: • The so-called shape-poems, which usually describe an object being written about: Example 2 www.hku.hk/linguist/cou/adv/ling6015/L3.ppt
www.hku.hk/linguist/cou/adv/ling6015/L3.ppt Spoken and Written Discourses • Halliday compares a sentence from a written text with a typical spoken equivalent: Written form: • The use of this method of control unquestionably leads to safer and faster train running in the most adverse weather conditions. A typical spoken variant: • If this method of control is used trains will unquestionably (be able to) run more safely and faster (even) when the weather conditions are most adverse. A more natural spoken version: • You can control the trains this way and if you do that you can be quite sure that they’ll be able to run more safely and more quickly then they would other wise, no matter how bad the weather gets. • Halliday: the main difference is grammatical, not lexical www.hku.hk/linguist/cou/adv/ling6015/L3.ppt
www.hku.hk/linguist/cou/adv/ling6015/L3.ppt Spoken and Written Discourses
Spoken and written communication differ in a number of ways. These are summarized below. Spoken communication: Features of spoken language • Conveyed by sound • is (generally) spontaneous. Spontaneity - means that spoken language is unedited. • there are many non-fluency features (false starts, pauses, repetition, hesitations fillers (e.g. “um”, “like”). The language is not in sentences and may contain incorrect grammar • Frequent change of topic, not logically structured, loosely connected subject matter Written communication: Features of written language • Conveyed by written symbols • More carefully and logically structured/ planned. Drafting takes place to edit out mistakes or redundancy of extra words • the structure and content are carefully planned. The writing goes through a process of redrafting. The writing is clear and concise; it avoids redundancies , poor expression, and incorrect grammar and spelling. • Usually fully formed sentences. Complex and varied sentence structure used.
Spoken vs. Written • Two-way activity. Interaction means immediate feedback. How the interaction develops cannot be pre-determined; it is negotiated between participants • the speaker and listener share an understanding of the situation • One-way activity, no possibility of immediate feedback. There is distance between the writer and reader . • the writer cannot assume the reader has the required background
Spoken vs. written • (generally) the speaker knows the listener’s background knowledge of the situation • breakdown in communication can be repaired • the writer needs to establish clearly the purpose of the communication • writer ensures there is no breakdown in communication
Spoken vs. Written • speaker/listener can convey meaning not only through language but also through non-verbal signals (body language), such as gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and through prosodic features of voice, such as volume, speed, stress and intonation as cues • listener can ask for clarification, explanation, etc. • speaker can adjust message as required • Writer can use graphology, such as layout, punctuation, fonts and pictures to convey meaning. writer needs to anticipate reader response • explanations/definitions need to be provided • writer must be clear, precise and unambiguous
Spoken vs. Written • Informal colloquial vocabulary: can include slang, swearing, made up words and vague language (kind of, sort of). • Accent and dialect can be used. • Not much variation in linking words: 'and‘ or ‘but’ • Complex vocabulary used, more formal vocabulary, sometimes technical jargon. • Standard English used; accent and dialect are only represented in dialogue between characters, • Much variation in linking words, e.g. because, in order to, although, etc.
Spoken vs. Written • Context-bound and can, therefore, afford to be inexplicit, i.e. interaction means the listener can ask for further explanation, the physical environment can explain a lot -things talked about may actually be there. • Not context-bound. No interaction, no shared context with audience means the text has to explain everything explicitly and clearly to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
Spoken vs. Written • Has to be deliberately preserved or recorded for future access and reference • Has low status in society. • Permanent - has to be deliberately destroyed; can therefore be referred to many times. • Given high status in society.
Task:Try to re-write the following written discourse transferring it into a typical spoken version. Comment on the changes that you have made?
Glossary • Casual: unpremeditated (the usual general meaning of the term); being without ceremony or formality; relaxed; not formal (informal)
Glossary • Vernacular: everyday spoken language (dialect), which is different from the literary language), especially if specific to one region
Colloquialism • Colloquialism refers to a word, phrase or expression, i.e. a style, that is one of everyday use in speech and writing. A synonym is conversational. • The term colloquial “is used to describe the everyday speech of educated people and the kind of writing that uses the easy vocabulary, loose constructions, contractions, and other characteristics of that speech” • The colloquial style is plain and relaxed. • Handbook for Writers, p. 8
Edited • “Edited English is the written language of many books, magazines, and newspapers. It may be more or less formal, but is always marked by its observation of conventional spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure” Handbook for Writers, p. 8
See also 1. www.hku.hk/linguist/cou/sec/ling2023/DA-L2-Spoken&Wirtten_Discourse2.ppt "LECTURE 2 Types of Discourse: Written and Spoken Discourse 2. www.hku.hk/linguist/cou/adv/ling6015/L3.ppt "Three levels of DA: micro-, meso- and macrolevels"