English - Features of Speech

These revision cards define and apply analysis in the primary context of spontaneous speech. 


Adjacency Pairs

Linked utterances produced by different speakers, such as questions and answers, commands and responses, etc.

Furthermore, adjacency pairs can convey:

  • Measured reinforcement, especially if something is contextual, like two people taking part in a television show, possibly scripted.
  • A cordial relationship.
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The linking together of adjacency pairs to form a longer unit of discourse.

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Linguistic pointing. Deixis allows a speaker to point at places, times and individuals in a conversation. Typically that would include words like “this”, “here”, “there” “now”, “yesterday”, “he” and “you”. 

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The responses to an utterance form someone else. Feedback could include monitoring or interaction features as well as longer utterances.

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Non-fluency features such as “um” and “er” which speakers employ to avoid long pauses or silences.

Fillers can be used to convey:

  • Nervousness if fillers are exhibited to excess.
  • Lack of knowledge.

Also see non-fluency features...

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Any device used by a speaker to reduce the impact of an utterance, for example, “I am not sure but” or “that was rather poor”

Hedges can be used to convey:

  • Someone trying to assume control or direct the conversation. 
  • A person of a higher rank/class such as a teacher or parent.
  • A patronising tone - especially if the conversation is between two students. 
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The way in which someone begins a conversation or talk.

Initiation can be used to convey:

  • Dominance within particular speaker, possibly illuminating a mediator role if the initiating speaker is forceful in language by using declaratives and imperatives. 
  • A contextual background, a possible voice-over. 
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Non-fluency features

Features that result from the unprepared nature of speech such as hesitations, unintended repetitions, false starts and fillers.

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Paralinguistic features

Non-linguistic variables in speech, such as tone of voice, emphasis, elongation and intonation.

Paralinguistic features can be used to convey:

  • Affirmation (Elongation)
  • Distaste (Emphasis, especially when used in conjunction with a declarative)
  • Aloofness, arrogance.
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Phatic speech

Language we use to enable social contact rather than convey literal meaning, such as “It’s a nice day today”. 

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Tag questions

A short question attached so the end of an utterance for example, “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?”

Tag questions can be used to convey:

  • Seeking some sort of agreement or confirmation.
  • It allows for a relationship to be examined; dominant and submissive, during a conversation:
    • Useful for who possesses the most knowledge on a particular subject.
    • Can illuminate dependency.
    • Uncertainty.
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Turn taking

The way in which speakers regulate their contributions to a conversation, some people giving precedence to others, some taking precedence over others. 

Turn taking can be used to portray:

  • Dominance with some taking precedence over others. 
  • Arrogance.
  • Yet not always knowledge; it can equally show that someone is under-prepared for the conversation.
  • Politeness, mediating role:
    • Giving precedence to others. 
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