English Unit 2 - Spontaneous Speech

Features of Spontaneous Speech.

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Pattern of spontaneous speech where participants co-operate or compete for the roles of listener / speaker

  • Who dominates the turns and why?
  • How speakers get a turn and gain control of the conversation
  • Who does not get a turn and why
  • How speakers prevent others from getting a turn
  • How speakers indicate that their turn is finished and they are ready to pass the turn on to another speaker
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Adjacency Pairs

A pattern and convention of of speech where one utterance is follow by an appropriate linked response


  • a question follow by an answer
  • a request followed by a reply, either positive or negative
  • greeting or farewell
  • a commander follow by obediance or disobedience


Linking a series of adjaceny pairs to build up a conversation

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Interruptions and Overlaps


Where a speaker begins to talk before previous speaker has finished in an attempt to take over the conversation and gain control.


When a speaker begins to talk before the previous speaker has finished either because they are enthuastic about what the speaker is saying or want to support them. Generally co-operative and support and less competitive than an interruption

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Omission of part of a sentence

eg: "Hope you get well soon" is an example of ellipsis as the pronoun "I" has been left out

Ellipsis can also be represented by three dots (...) to indicate the missing part of the sentence

Ellipsis can be used for a variety of affects. It can create a chatty informal tone and register thats appropriate to a conversation between friends. In a discussion it can be used to make several points very quickly and add pace to create a lively discussion.

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Sounds such as "erm", "um" and "er" which speakers use to fill pauses in speech. Some speakers also use expressions such as "y'know" and "like" as verbal fillers

Reasons why you might use fillers

  • Feel nervous or uncertain of yourself
  • May not be sure what your saying is right
  • Feel worried about offending the other person
  • Create time to think about what you say next
  • Indicate that it is still your turn to talk, even though you have not quite decided what to say - a silent pause could encourage another speaker to steal your turn.
  • Might not be articulate enough to express what you want to say and therefore struggle to find the words you need.

Features such as fillers can occur for a variety of reasons, avoid over - generalised responses. Would be sensible to suggest there are two or more possible interpreations of a speakers use of fillers.

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Side Sequence

A sequence of utterances inserted into the conversation which cause the maint topic to be temporaily suspended.

eg: a parent talking to a friend may have to turn away from the conversation to deal with a interupption from their child, before returning to the main conversation or a point made by someone in discussion may spark off a short debate about something different before the main topic is resumed.

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A self- correction in spontaneous speech

Common in spontaneous speech. Used to put right a mistake in speech but can also be used for other reasons

  • Realise what you are saying may cause offence, and so adapt and amend your language
  • May think of a better way or more interesting way to express yourself.
  • Pick up signals from your audience that what you are saying is too diffuclt or boring for them and so you chane or shortern what you are saying.
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Tag Questions

A phrase tagged on to the end of a statement to turn it into a question e.g "we're going to the zoo today, arent' we?

Words such as "right", "yeah" or "OK" can also be used with the same function, e.g "see you at sevenish, yeah?"

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Accent and Dialect


Pronounciation, features and speech rhythms of speaker, related to regional or social infleunces. Usually identified in the way someone pronounces their words


Use of non-standard language.Particular language used by people from a particular geopgraphical area or social group.

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Framework for analysing spontaneous speech.

  • AUDIENCE, PURPOSE AND CONTEXT: What influence do these factors have on the nature and style of the spoken text?
  • STRUCTURAL FEATURES OF SPOKEN LANGUAGE: what can we learn about the attitudes of the speakers involved from analysing the use of turn - taking, adjaceny pairs, side sequences, repairs, interruptions and overlaps.
  • VOCABULARY FEATURES: What can we learn about speakers attitudes and intentions from their use of particular vocabulary choices, as well as phatic utterances, hedges and dialect terms
  • STYLE: How do features such as ellipsis, elision and the representation of a speaker's accent help us to create an impression of the speaker?
  • NON - VERBAL FEATURES- What do non - verbal aspects of speech such as fillers, pauses, intonation and emphasis reveal about speaker's feelings and attitudes?
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