Spoken Language Terminology

Terms necessary for identifying features of spoken language in an exam.

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 12-11-12 15:10


The way words are pronounced depending on the region and social class of the speaker.

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Adjacency Pair

Ritualistic and formulaic pairs of utterances,

e.g. "how are you?"... "Fine thanks".

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Back Channelling

Words, phrases and non-verbal utterances that a listener will give to a speaker to show understanding and support

e.g. "yeah", "I know", "Uh-huh"

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Deixis/Deictic Reference

"Verbal Pointing" - an utterance that is context bound, such as "over there" or "here".

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The words and phrases specific to a particular regional variety of English.

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Discourse Marker

Words used to signal connections between utterances and to signpost changes in topic and the direction of speech.

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The omission or slurring (eliding) of sounds in speech such as, "wanna", "gonna", "cos".

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The omission of part of a grammatical structure ("you going to the party?" "Might do" - "are" and "I" have been omitted)

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False Start

The speaker begins and utterance and then stops to refomulate it and start again.

Also self - correction or repair.

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Items that do not carry conventional meaning but function to allow the speaker time to think, create a pause or hold a turn in conversation.

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Grice's Maxims

Grice's proposed four rules of conversation: quantity, relevance, quality and manner.

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Words and phrases that soften or weaken the force of something being said ("perhaps", "sort of", "possibly").

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An individuals way of speaking.

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Interactional Talk

Language in a conversation that has the purpose of maintaining a social relationship.

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A speaker interrupts another before they have finished their turn (often signifying dominance).

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Non-Fluency Features

The collective term for features that disrupt the "flow" of conversations (hesitations, fillers, false starts, repetitions, overlaps, interruptions).

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Paralinguistic Features

Body language (including facial expressions) that express meaning beyond that conveyed by words.

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Phatic Talk

Small Talk

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An approach to discourse analysis which focuses less on structures and more on contexts and purposes of people talking to each other (e.e. understanding sarcasm, implication, jokes).

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Prosodic Features

Collective term for features such as stress, rhythm, pitch, tempo and intonation - which are used by speakers to mark out key meanings in a message. Essentially, how something is said.

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A variety of speech used by a particular group, usually defined by class.

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Tag Question

Words added to declarative statements to turn them into questions, e.g. "It's a bit cold in here, isn't it?"

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Transactional Talk

Language to get things done or to transmit content or information.

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Turn Taking

The way in which interactions are structured to minimise overlap and unnecessary pauses.

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A unit of Speech

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Vague Language

Statements that sound imprecise or uncertain, e.e "whatsit", "whatever", "thingy".

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