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Tema 6- La lengua oral y la lengua escrita. Autonomía, dependencia y relaciones mutuas.

Spoken and written language. Manner of production:

From the point of view of production, it is clear that spoken and written language make somewhat different demands on language producers, the speaker and the writer.

  1. The speaker has available to him the full range of voice quality effects as well as facial expression, postural and gestural systems. Armed with these, he can always override the effect the words he speaks. These paralinguistic cues are denied to the writer.

Not only is the speaker controlling the production of communicative systems, he is also processing that production under circumstances which are considerably more demanding. The speaker must monitor what it is that he has just said and determine whether it matches his intentions, while he is uttering his current phrase and monitoring that, and simultaneously planning his next utterance and fitting that into the overall pattern of what he wants and monitoring not only his own performance but its reception by his hearer.

  1. The writer on the contrary, may look over what he has already written, pause between each word with no fear of his interlocutor interrupting him, take his time in choosing a particular word, even looking it up in the dictionary if necessary, reorder what he has written and even change his mind about what he wants to say.

Whereas the speaker is under considerable pressure to keep on talking during the period allotted to him, the writer is not under such pressure.

Whereas the speaker knows that any word which pass his lips will be heard by his interlocutor, the writer can cross it out and rewrite it.

There are of course advantages for the speaker. He can observe his interlocutor and if he wishes to, modify what he is saying to make it more accessible or acceptable to his hearer. The writer has no access to immediate feedback and simply has to imagine the reader´s reaction.

The relationship between speech and writing:

The view that written language and spoken language serve quite different functions in society has been forcefully propounded by scholars whose main interest lies in anthropology and sociology.

Written language has 2 main functions:

1. The first one is the storage function, which permits communication over time and space.

2. The second one is that which swifts language from the oral to the visual domain and permits words and sentences to be examined out of their original contexts.

Whereas in daily life in a literate culture we use speech largely for the establishment and maintenance of human relationships (primarily interactional use), we use written language for the working out and transference of information (primarily transactional use). However, there are occasions when speech is used for the detailed transmission of factual information.

The major difference between speech and writing derive from the fact that one is essentially transitory and the other one is designed to be permanent, speech is a process and writing is a product.

Differences in form between written and spoken language:

  1. The syntax of spoken language is typically much less structured than that of written language:

ü Spoken language contains many incomplete sentences, often simply sequences of phrases

ü Spoken language typically contains rather little subordination and a lot of coordination.

ü In conversational speech, active declarative forms are normally found. We find very few examples of passives, if-clefts, wh-clefts, inversions etc.

  1. In written language, an extension set of metalingual markers exists to mark relationships between clauses (that-complementisers, when/while temporal markers), the so-called logical connectors like besides, moreover, however, in spite of etc. In spoken language the organised chunks are related by and, but, then and more rarely if. The speaker is typically less explicit than the writer. In written language, rhetorical organisers of large stretches of discourse appear like firstly, more important than and in conclusion. These are rare in spoken language.
  2. In written language rather than heavily premodified noun phrases are quite common. It is rare in spoken language to find more than 2 premodifying 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.
  3. Whereas written language sentences are generally structured in subject-predicate form, in spoken language it is quite common to find topic-comment structures: the cats + did you let them out?
  4. In informal speech, the occurrence of passive constructions is relatively infrequent. That use of the passive in written language which allows non-attribution of agency is typically absent from conversational speech. Instead we have active constructions with indeterminate group agents are noticeable: everything they do in Edinburg + they do it far too slowly.
  5. In chat about the immediate environment, the speaker may rely on gazing direction to supply a referent: looking at the rain: frightful, isn´t it?
  6. The speaker may replace or refine expressions as he goes along: This man + this chap she was going out with.
  7. The speaker typically uses a good deal of rather generalised vocabulary: a lot, got, do, thing, nice, stuff and things like that.
  8. The speaker frequently repeats the same syntactic form several times over: I look at the fire extinguishers + I look at fire exits + I look at electric cables.
  9. The speaker may produce a large number of prefabricated filler: well, erm, I think, you know, of course and so on.

To sum up, in written language we have a rich lexis, a well-organised structure because the writer takes his time in the construction and reconstruction of the final product. There are complete sentences, containing subordination, frequent modifications via adjectives and adverbs.

In spoken language we have frequent pauses, often interrupting major syntactic units, repetitions, incomplete sentences, generalised vocabulary, fillers and sometimes even tongue-slips.

Two different realities:

  1. In spoken language the signs are sounds and in written language the signs are letters.
  2. But the differences are bigger. Writing and speech are different communicative systems with lexical and grammatical diversity. We can see how many words and idioms which are very frequent in written language are impossible to be used in spoken language. When someone speaks with very unusual words, we say that he speaks as if he wrote, that is because he uses one system instead of the other one and see its inconvenience.
  3. There are 2 different kinds of language because the spoken language is learnt spontaneously and the written language requires a special study or at least a special attention. Many people who express themselves orally with an acceptable normality, are incapable of drawing up a brief text correctly. That is because both faculties are not developed simultaneously.

The writing prestige. Reasons for its influence over speech:

Writing and speech are 2 different systems: the only reason for writing is to represent speech. They are 2 independent tough interrelated systems, sharing a common grammar with specific devices of their own.

The linguistic object is not defined by the combination of the written and the spoken word. It is only the spoken word that constitutes the linguistic object. However, the written word is so closely attached to the spoken word of which it is the image, that takes the main role and we give more importance to the representation of the vocal sign than to the sign itself.

Reasons for the prestige of writing:

1. The graphic image of words is a permanent object, much more suitable than the sound to constitute the unity of language with the passing of time.

2. The literary language gives more importance to writing. It has dictionaries, grammars. Orthography has a big importance.

3. When there is a disagreement between the written and the oral language, always the written form wins.

Reasons for the disagreement between pronunciation and spelling:

  1. Language evolves continuously, while writing remains motionless. That is why the spelling with the passing of time does not correspond to what it should represent.
  2. Another reason is when a nation takes the alphabet from another one, so this graphic system does not fit very well sometimes.
  3. Another reason is preciosity. In these cases the origin is not etymology. In German for instance we have “h” that does not represent aspiration (thun instead of tun).