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The spoken and the written varieties of the language

The actual situation of the communication has evolved two varieties of language—the spoken and the written. The varying aims of the communication have caused the literary language to fall into a number of self-sufficient systems (functional styles of language).

Of the two varieties of language, diachronically the spoken is primary and the written is secondary. The situation in which the spoken variety of language is used and in which it develops, can be described concisely as the presence of an interlocutor. The written variety, on the contrary, presupposes the absence of an interlocutor. The spoken language is maintained in the form of a dialogue, the written in the form of a monologue. The spoken language has a considerable advantage over the written, in that the human voice comes into play. This is a powerful means of modulating the utterance, as are all kinds of gestures, which, together with the intonation, give additional information.

The written language has to seek means to compensate for what it lacks. Therefore the written utterance will inevitably be more diffuse, more explanatory. In other words, it has to produce an enlarged representation of the communication in order to be explicit enough.

The written variety of language has a careful organization and deliberate choice of words and constructions.

The spoken language by its very nature is spontaneous, momentary, fleeting. It vanishes after fulfilled its purpose, which is to communicate a thought. The idea remains, the language dissolves in it. The written language, on the contrary, lives, together with the idea it expresses.

The spoken language cannot be detached from the user of it, the speaker, who is unable to view it from the outside. The written language, on the contrary, can be detached from the writer, enabling him to look upon his utterance objectively and giving him the opportunity to correct and improve what has been put on paper. That is why it is said that the written language bears a greater volume of responsibility than its spoken counterpart.

The spoken variety differs from the written language (that is, in its written representation) phonetically, morphologically, lexically and syntactically. Thus, of morphological forms the spoken language commonly uses contracted forms, as 'he'd' (he would), 'she's' (she is).

These morphological and phonetic peculiarities are sometimes regarded as violations of grammar rules caused by a certain carelessness which accompanies the quick tempo of colloquial speech or an excited state of mind. Others are typical of territorial or social dialects.

The most striking difference between the spoken and written language is in the vocabulary used. There are words and phrases typically colloquial on the one hand and typically bookish, on the other.

The spoken language makes ample use of intensifying words: interjections and words with strong emotive meaning, as oaths, swear-words and alike.

Another feature of colloquial language is the insertion into the utterance of words without any meaning, called “fill-ups”, “time fillers” or empty words.



The syntactical peculiarities of the spoken language are the omission of parts of the utterance easily understood from the situation; the tendency to use the direct word-order in questions or omit the auxiliary verb, using the intonation to show the meaning; unfinished sentences; a string of sentences without any connections or linked with and mostly.

The syntactical peculiarities of the written language are the abundance of all kinds of conjunctions, adverbial phrases and other connections; use of complicated sentence-units.

The spoken variety of language is far more emotional due mainly to the advantages of the human voice.


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 1633


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