English Language



ACCENT - the ways in which words are pronounced. A accent can vary according to the region and social class of the speaker.

ADJACENCY PAIRS  - parallel expressions used across the boundaries of individual speaking turns. They are usually ritualistic and formulaic socially. For example: 'how are you?"/ 'Fine thanks'

BACK-CHANNEL - words, phrases and non verbal utterance [e.g. 'I see', 'oh', 'uh huh', 'really'] used by a listener to give feedback to a speaker that the message is being followed and understood.

CONTRACTION - a reduced from often marked by an apostrophe in writing - e.g. can't = cannot; she'll = she will. See also ELISION.

DEIXIS / DEICTICS - words such as 'this', 'that', 'here', 'there' which refer backwards or forwards or outside a text - a sort of verbal pointing. Very much a context dependent feature of talk.

DIALECT - the distinctive grammar and vocabulary which is associated with a regional or social use of a language.

DISCOURSE MARKER - words and phrases which are used to signal the relationship and connections between utterance and to signpost that what is said can be followed by the listener or reader. e.g 'first', 'on the other hand', 'now', 'what's more', 'so anyway', etc.

ELISION - the omission or slurring [eliding] of one or more sounds or syllables - e.g. gonna = going to; wannabe = want to be; wassup = what is up.

ELLIPSIS - the omission of part of a grammatical structure. For example, in the dialogue: "you going to the party?" / "Might be." - the verb 'are' and the pronoun 'I' are missed out. The resulting ellipsis conveys a more  casual and informal tone.

FALSE START - this is when the speaker begins an utterance, then stops and either repeats or reformulates it. Sometimes called SELF - CORRECTION. See also REPAIRS.

FILLER - items which do not carry conversational meaning but which are inserted in speech to allow time to think, to create a pause or to hold a turn in conversation. EXAMPLES are "er", "um", "ah". Also called voiced pause.

GRICE'S MAXIMS - Grice proposed four basic conversational 'rules' [maxims] as criteria for successful conversation: quantity [do not say too much or too little]; manner [


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