Differences between Spokenand Written DiscourseLecture 3:Source: Paltridge, p.p. 13-19
Objectives Students should be able to:2. List the differences between spoken and Written discourse3. For each difference, explain the commonly held view and its rebuttal, if any.4. Explain McCarthy’s view of a continuum.
Outline I. General Differences between Spoken and Written Discourse (Slides 4-13) II. A Continuum View (Slides 14- 19)
I. General Differences 1. Grammatical intricacy 2. Lexical density 3. Nominalization 4. Explicitness 5. Contextualization 6. Spontaneity 7. Repetition, hesitations, and redundancy
1. Grammatical Intricacy View:Written discourse is more structurally complex and more elaborate than spoken discourse .In other words, sentences in spoken discourse are short and simple, whereas they are longer and more complex in written discourse.
1. Grammatical Intricacy Rebuttal: Halliday argues that spoken discourse is NOT less organized. He claims that spoken discourse has its own kind of complexity. In spoken discourse clauses are long and spread out => Spoken discourse can be grammatically intricate as well.
2. Lexical Density Lexical density refers to the ratio of content words (i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) to grammatical or function words (e.g. pronouns, prepositions, articles) within a clause. View: Spoken discourse is less lexically dense than written discourse. Content words tend to be spread out over a number of clauses, whereas they seem to be tightly packed into individual clauses. (See extracts p. 15)
3. Nominalization Nominalization refers to presenting actions and events as nouns rather than as verbs. View: Written discourse has a high level of nominalization: i.e. more nouns than verbs. Written discourse tends to have longer noun groups than spoken discourse. (See extracts bottom of p. 15 and the second extract on p. 16)
4. ExplicitnessView:Writing is more explicit than speech.Rebuttal:-This is not always true.-It depends on the purpose of text.A writer/speaker can state something explicitly or infer it depending on many variables.
5. Contextualization Contextualization refers to the extent knowledge of context is needed to interpret a text. View:Writing is more decontextualized than speech: Speech is more attached to context than writing because speech depends on a shared situation and background for interpretation.
5. Contextualization Rebuttal: This may be true of conversations, but not in all types of spoken discourses. Some types of written discourse may show high dependence on shared contextual knowledge, e.g. personal letters between friends.
6. Spontaneity View:b. Spoken discourse lacks organization and is ungrammatical because it is spontaneous, whereas written discourse is organized and grammatical.c. Spoken discourse contains more uncompleted and reformulated sentences.d. Topics can be changed.e. Speakers may interrupt and overlap Rebuttal:Spoken discourse is organized, but it is organized differently from written discourse.
7. Repetition, Hesitation, and Redundancy View:b. Spoken discourse contains more repetition, hesitations, and redundancy because it is produced in real time (i.e. on the spot).c. Spoken discourse has many pauses and fillers, such as ‘hhh’, ‘er’ and ‘you know’.(See extract on p. 18)
II. A Continuum ViewMcCarthy (2001) argues for a continuum view rather than simple, one-dimensional difference between spoken and written discourses.In other words, differences are viewed as being on a continuum:
A. Grammatical ComplexityTightly packedand integrated ---------------------------------------------------------------Fragmented
B. Detachment/inter-personal involvementDetached-------------------------------------------------------------Interpersonally- involved
Biber’s(1988) corpus-based study: No absolute difference between speech and writing in EnglishThere are dimensions of variation for different kinds of texts (i.e. genres).Considerable variation may occur even within particular genres.
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