English - Features of Speech

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

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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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Chaining

The linking together of adjacency pairs to form a longer unit of discourse.

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Deixis

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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Feedback

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

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Fillers

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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Hedges

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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Initiation

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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