Key Linguistic Theories for Speech Analysis/Language Issues

  • Created by: lwilson23
  • Created on: 21-01-19 15:53

Accommodation Theory (Howard Giles - 1970s)

- posited that we adjust our speech to ACCOMMODATE to the person we are speaking to. Two types: 

  • Convergence - where the speaker's speech styles move closer in discourse. 
  • Divergence - where the speaker's speech styles move apart in discourse. 


  • upward = regional speaker uses more RP (receieved pronunciation) when in presence of upper-class speaker. 
  • downward = the inverse of this. 
  • mutual = convergence occurs in an equal manner - same distance covered by both speakers.

- upward convergence is found to be more common than downward convergence. 

- COUPLAND used a study of a woman in a Cardiff travel agency as evidence for convergence occuring, as she mirrored the speech styles of her customers in order to decrease the social distance between them and therefore guarantee a sale. 

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Grice's Maxims/The Co-operative Principle (1975)

- Grice identified that CO-OPERATION is the most important aspect of a successful conversation as speakers work together to achieve their own personal goals and agendas. 

- to do this they abide by four maxims, which are as follows: 

1- Maxim of Quantity - speaker should say no more or less than is required. 

2- Maxim of Relevance - discourse should remain relevant to the overarching topic. 

3 - Maxim of Quality - speakers should always be truthful in conversation. 

4 - Maxim of Manner - speakers should avoid ambiguity and obscurity in their speech. 

- these maxims may sometimes be FLOUTED (whether consciously or not) - if a speaker is aware they are going to flout they may intend to minimise the impact this has on conversation through their discourse ("I'll try to be brief"/"Sorry to repeat myself, but" etc.). 

- flouting may occur in order to be POLITE ('white lies' etc.).

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Brown and Levinson and Politeness (1987)

- politeness defined as sensitivity towards others, and may be exemplified via appropriate forms of address, appropriate degrees of formality, regards to the relationship between speakers etc. 

- Brown and Levinson categorised politeness into two different types, POSITIVE and NEGATIVE:

  • POSITIVE - showing signs of liking and admiring a person (paying compliments etc.) 
  • NEGATIVE - intentionally avoiding the affairs of others ('excuse me...' etc.)

- there are cultural differences between the type of politeness displayed. Britain, for example, tends to be stereotyped as placing greater emphasis on negative politeness than positive politeness. 

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Robin Lakoff and The Politeness Principle (1973)

- Lakoff stated conversation was governed by three politeness principles: 

  • Don't impose - has similarities with negative politeness. 
  • Provide options - avoid putting pressure on someone to answer a certain way. 
  • Make the receiver feel good - flatter and appreciate other people. 
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Irving Goffman and Face Theory (1955)

- proposes the idea that the world is a stage and we are all actors on that stage, who all present a self-image to other people known as a 'face'. 

- this image may be different for different audiences. 

- face may be 'lost' or 'saved' dependent on the conversation. 

- another person's face is generally accepted, but when this doesn't occur and it is REJECTED instead it is labelled by Goffman as a FACE-THREATENING ACT (e.g. 'you don't know what you're talking about').

- face work is often seen as a way of maintaining status in conversation. 

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Roman Jakobson's Functions of Language

- Jakobson proposed 6 functions of communication: 

  • 1 - the REFERENTIAL function - descriptive in nature. 
  • 2 - the EMOTIVE function - expressions used for emotive effect in language. 
  • 3 - the CONATIVE function - concerned with commanding (imperatives). 
  • 4 - the POETIC function - how eloquent one chooses to be in speech.
  • 5 - the PHATIC function - opening conversation for the sake of it (small talk). 
  • 6 - the METALINGUAL function - requires language analysis.
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Austin's Speech Act Theory

- this theory attempts to trace how different meanings are formed in context. Once again - a three-part framework is proposed: 

  • LOCUTION - the precise words (literal meaning) a speaker actually speaks.
  • ILLOCUTION - the intended meaning of the utterances. 
  • PERLOCUTION - the perceived meaning of the words spoken.
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Factors Affecting Differences in Speech

- when analysing spoken language and drawing comparisons between two transcripts, six aspects should be considered: 

  • Speaker identity/relationships - factors such as ethnicity, gender, age, social circle and relationship between the speakers may affect speech. 
  • Context - the aspects surrounding the conversation taking place. 
  • Audience - similar to relationships between speakers, only with the added note of looking for both convergence and divergence in their speech patterns dependent on who is being spoken to. 
  • Setting - different settings can create varying degrees of formality (a classroom setting compared to a living room setting for instance).
  • Topic - often affect the semantic fields and possibly the tone of the conversation. 
  • Purpose - refers to the functions of spoken language - what does each speaker hope to achieve through their utterances? 
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Register and Formality in Language

- register helps to clarify the link between language use and context, and is split into three distinct sections: 

  • FIELD - what the topic is about (the field of activity) - will often have close links with jargon. The general subject matter of a conversation or piece of text. 
  • TENOR - the social relationship enacted in a text/transcript - has links with linguistic principles such as politeness and degrees of formality.
  • MODE - the means used for communication (may be written, spoken or multi-modal).

- formality occurs on a spectrum ranging from informal to excessively formal, with the degree of formality varying dependent on situation. 

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Participation Framewrks/Production Fts (Goffman)

- participation frameworks is the study of the way in which different people interact (and the roles they take in conversation) in different situations. 

- production formats entail the different ways in which a speaker can be considered: 

  • ANIMATOR - the person through which the utterances are made. 
  • AUTHOR - the individual who composes the words spoken by the animator. 
  • PRINCIPAL - the individual or party whose beliefs are represented by the words uttered.
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thank u

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