Spoken Language Essay

6 June 2016

In this essay I shall explore the ways in which my speech changes according to the context I am in. Most people change the way they speak without knowing it and only realise it when they consciously try to listen for differences in their idiolect, such as their pitch, intonation, pronunciation, speed, lexis and length of their utterances. One aspect of speech which changes is my pitch. I use sarcasm occasionally when speaking to friends which involves placing unusual stresses, a higher pitch and speech is often slower, louder and more forced to emphasise the statement. For example, “ well done Adam” becomes “well done Adam” when spoken sarcastically.

Confidence also affects my pitch and when unsure I tend to speak with a rising pitch, almost as if it were a question. Such as once when talking to a strict & imposing teacher I was unsure whether I was allowed to leave , I said “… I’ll leave for prep break now …” with a rising tone. Conversely, when one is more confident one speaks with a dropping tone, resolutely with a louder volume and with accents on the most significant words, I would speak this way with friends where conversations tend to be more chaotic with many people trying to dominate the conversation .For example I would say ‘I don’t think so’ with a dropping pitch & stress on the “don’t”.

Spoken Language Essay Essay Example

The purpose of communication affects my tone ; in informal situations, much of communication is phatic (which is for social purposes only, not for acquiring information) , for example I often greet a friend by saying ‘how are you?’, although I know that my friend is fine . If I genuinely wanted to know how they were, I would ask the question with a very different and concerned tone saying “how are you” placing stress on the ‘are’, compared to the phatic gesture “how are you”. In the context of being amongst a large group, one’s pitch can change drastically. At a football match groups of spectators cheer together with a low pitch and forceful tone in a catchy rhythm to make their chanting more orderly.

Informal conversations often involve imitating other people, such as teachers, friends or an accent from a different dialect, as shown in this utterance :

A : I think I’ll get a discount at the chippie at Oban , I’ll just go in and be like ( in a very strong Scottish accent ) “ I’d like a fish and chips , please and a wee bit of –“

This can be done to make your message more effective by involving the listener in your story.

Pronunciation can also vary according to the context, in an informal situation, such as in school when conversing with friends I use more elisions and glottal stops (consonants formed by the audible release of the airstream after complete closure of the glottis). Also, ‘l’s are not pronounced when speaking quickly (e.g. when speaking to friends I would pronounce the ‘alright’ as (transcribed using the International Phonetic Alphabet) , which facilitates speaking faster) . However, in formal situations such as with teachers I put in more effort to avoid glottal stops and use a pronunciation which is closer to ‘received pronunciation’ is used to make my speech sound clearer and easier to understand . My pronunciation differs when I speak to someone from a different background. For example when I speak to someone who has a ‘Northern’ accent, I would also use this accent for words like ‘castle’ and ‘grass’ (pronouncing //gras// instead of the ‘southern’ //gra:s//), to avoid sounding grandiose (because the ‘southern’ pronunciation of these words is sometimes stereotyped as a rather formal register of English) and to make sure that the person talking to me has a greater ease of understanding me . My pronunciation can depend on country or community I’m in ; In school I use an English accent, so that people at school understand me more easily, but when I am at home and when speaking to relatives in India, I always use an Indian accent . One example of a difference between the two accents is that with an Indian English accent the word ‘our’ is pronounced  as opposed to the native English pronunciation. I use different accents in the two contexts so that the listeners understand me and because it feels more natural since almost everyone in that community speaks with that sort of accent.

Another aspect of our idiolect which changes according to the context is the speed and manner of discourse. With friends I tend to speak more quickly and discourse is less flowing and tends to be fragmented by redundancies and fillers: words such as ‘like’, ‘err’ or ‘ur’. Contractions are very common during conversation with my friends, and the utterances are brief, as there is not much time to talk. Interruptions, interventions and overlaps are very common with friends, because everybody wants to have their say and dominate the conversation, but often it is just a sign of support and reassurance. Overlaps occur because the listeners anticipate the end of the utterance, and interrupt by finishing off the utterance at the same time . For example :

A : Do you remember in 3rd year when we had that massive fight with loads of tissue – B&C: (interrupting ) paper , Oh yeah … A : – paper

In slightly more formal situations such as meetings in the boarding house my utterances are less fragmentary because I apprehend what I may have to talk about and plan what I shall say, for an example when asked why I was late in leaving the boarding house. This degree of preparation makes my discourse much more flowing than what it would be in more informal conversations.

Our lexis (choice of words) changes according to the context we are in. There are many linguistic features which occur during conversation with friends that do not occur in other types of conversation, such as slang language. Slang phrases such as “that was sick!”, which I use with friends, would never occur during conversations with teachers, as it would seem inappropriate and disrespectful towards the teacher. Nicknames are frequently used , such as “mate”in informal circumstances, however in formal situations (e.g. with teachers) , “sir” and “miss” are used as it is a respectful and quick way of addressing them. Your lexis depends also on how educated the audience are on the subject, for example I would talk about ‘weather’ with friends and parents but mention ‘meteorology’ in a Geography lesson. Informal conversations tend to follow different grammatical rules to written language, an example being that utterances often begin with ‘and’, which would not occur in written English. Also the extremely common mistake of saying, for example, ‘me and Owen’ ( which I often use in informal situations) rather than the more grammatically correct ‘Owen and I’ ( used in formal situations, such as with teachers as they expect you to be grammatically correct). This illustrates how the grammar of your speech can change depending on the formality of the situation.

In conclusion, we have explored the ways that my idiolect changes according to the context I am in, such as with friends, teachers or parents and that many of us change the way we speak massively in different circumstances without usually realising it.

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