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Linguistics Handnotes
Linguistics Handnotes
Biplob Prodhan
  • 1 month ago
  • 47
How is spoken language different from written language?


How is spoken language different from written language? [‘13,‘15] 

Ans. There are major differences between spoken and written language. Writing includes some medium which keeps record of the conveyed message while speech involves only air. From the point of view of production, spoken and written language make somewhat different demands on language producers.

In spoken language, the speaker has available to him the full range of voice quality effects, facial expression, postural and gestural system. Armed with these, a speaker can always override the effect of the words he speaks. On the other hand, these paralinguistic cues are denied to the writer.

In spoken language, the speaker must monitor what it is that he has just said and determine whether it matches his intentions or not. The speaker is under considerable pressure to keep on talking during the period allotted to him. He knows that any words which pass his lips will be heard by his interlocutor and if they are not what he intends, he will have to undertake active public repair. Besides, the speaker has no permanent record of what he has said earlier.

On the other hand, in written language, the writer may look over what he has already written, pause between each word with no fear. He can take his time in choosing a particular word, even looking it up in the dictionary if necessary, check his progress with his notes and even change mind about what he wants to say. But the writer has no access to get immediate feedback and simply has to imagine the readers’ reaction. Whereas, in a spoken language, the speaker has the advantage of being able to monitor his listeners’ minute by minute reaction to what he says.

However, the syntax of spoken language is typically much less structured than that of written language. Spoken language contains many incomplete sentences, often simply sequences of phrases, little sub ordination and active declarative forms. Speaker pauses and begins each new sentence before formally completing the previous one. For example: They are sort of + um + become a bit nicer.

In spoken language, the speaker frequently repeats the same syntactic form several times over.  He/she may produce a large number of fillers while speaking. For example: well, I think, you know, of course and so on. On the other hand, in written language, an extensive set of metalingual markers exists to mark relationships between clauses. For example: when, while, besides, moreover, however, in spite of etc. 

Besides, in written language, heavily pre-modified noun phrases are quite common. But it is rare in spoken language to find more than two pre-modifying adjectives and there is a strong tendency to structure the short chunks of speech so that only one predicate is attached to a given referent at a time. For example: Pretty Riya + she has a teddy bear + a big one + um + white colour + she loves playing with the thing.

Last but not least, spoken language is transitory but the written language is designed to be permanent.

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