Spoken Language Study
Features of Spoken Language
Non-Standard English/ Grammar
Sometimes, sentence constructions do not follow standard grammar rules.
Spoken language is spontaneous, meaning it is not scripted. It may be more or less planned depending on the situation.
For example, in an interview for a job, I may plan to use certain phrases or answers to questions I think I may be asked, but when I actually answer these questions in the interview, I still have to make up my sentences as I go along. My language is still spontaneous.
Non-standard grammar is sometimes the result of the language being spontaneous in this way.
For example, if I say ‘How do you do?’ instead of ‘Hi’, I am clearly expressing myself more formally.
The reverse of the above example – ‘Hi’ is an informal way of greeting someone.
Some informal expressions can also be examples of language spoken by a particular social group, such as younger people may use when saying ‘This lesson is long’, when they mean ‘boring/ taking ages’.
Some expressions are used in particular parts of the country (e.g. ‘wee’ means ‘little’ in Scotland; ‘croggy’ means ‘a ride on the back of someone’s bicycle’ in Leicester).
Some expressions are used by particular ethnic groups (e.g. ‘dem’ is Afro-Caribbean for ‘them’ or ‘those’).
These are words/ expressions which belong to a particular subject area, topic, occupation, field, etc. For example, the words ‘hard-drive’, ‘gigabyte, ‘malware’ and ‘server’ are all jargon terms from the field of computing.
These are expressions we use as we start to talk, to signal that we are about to speak and that the audience should listen.
Teachers use initiators all the time to signal various stages of the lesson, e.g. ‘Right, last lesson we were…’ or ‘So, the next activity is…’ or ‘OK, let’s recap what we just did…’
Questions can be straightforward requests for information.
They are sometimes rhetorical (when an answer is not really required or desired, e.g. ‘Do you take me for some kind of idiot?’).
Again, since spoken language is often spontaneous, we sometimes accidentally repeat ourselves as we make up the language we say. This is different from repeating ourselves for a particular effect.
In speaking, we sometimes pause briefly at various points for different reasons.
Sometimes we make no noise at all in these pauses - in the transcript, this is shown with the symbol (.)
A voiced pause is when we make a sound with our voice to fill the pause. This is often to give ourselves more thinking time or to show the listener that we haven’t finished speaking yet. There are various sounds we make to voice such pauses, the most common ones being ‘Er’, ‘Erm’, ‘Uh,’ ‘Um’.
A filler is a word or expression which we use to fill a pause. These can become quite frequent in particular speakers’ ways of talking. You may recognise some of these:
e.g. ‘you know’, ‘like’, ‘I mean’, ‘you get me’.
A false start is when someone is speaking, realises that they need to express themselves differently and so starts again, e.g. ‘It’s because it’s a bad…the reason it’s a bad idea is because…’
A self-repair is when someone speaking realises they have made a mistake and self-corrects, e.g. ‘Leicester is on the M6…M1’.
My name is Levi Roots (.) I’m looking for £50,000 for 20% in my Reggae Reggae Sauce (.) I’ve been in the music business for over thirty years (.) I’m a producer, a singer, a songwriter and a chef (.) For fifteen of those thirty years, I’ve been doing the Notting Hill Carnival supplying most of the stalls with my secret recipe sauce I entitled Reggae Reggae Sauce (.) So without further ado I like to let you have a look (.) Right the sauce what is the sauce? Reggae Reggae Sauce is a hot to mild jerk barbecue sauce (.) It replaces the typical tomato ketchup