Analysis of a Sample of Spoken and Written Discourse

To begin with, in this task we are to analyze two types of discourse: written and spoken. In order to do it successfully, we should, first of all, make two notions clear: “discourse types” and “discourse analysis”.

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A. Georgakopoulou and D. Goutsos suggest the following definition of the term “genre” or “discourse type”:

Genre is essentially a classificatory concept, referring to a class of communicative events, the participants which share a certain set of conventions defined in terms of formal, functional, and contextual properties (Georgakopoulou and Goutsos 2004).

“Discourse analysis” is described by B. Paltridge in the following way: “Discourse analysis focuses on knowledge about language beyond the word, clause, phrase, and sentence that is needed for successful communication” (Paltridge 2007).

Speaking about the texts under consideration, let us formulate their common features first of all because it is evident that written and spoken types of discourse have more differences in comparison with common features.

So, their first common feature is that both texts represent language in use, so they are types of discourse, because the written text may be regarded as an abstract from a special guide for young parents and the spoken text is an abstract from a dialogue between two male parents. Each text contains more than one sentence and is grammatically coherent.

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Let us elaborate on the texts from the point of view of the functional perspective. The common thing about the texts is the theme of the texts: “infant’s cry”.

Speaking about the participants of the discourses under consideration, the written text is monologic, because the writer produces an entire discourse, the spoken text is dialogic, because two participants construct the discourse together.

That is why the relationship between the participants of the discourse can be analyzed only in the case of spoken discourse. Probably, two male friends are speaking about their infant children, sharing their knowledge of ways of managing infant’s cry. In the written text the objective information about the infant’s cry and the main reasons for the infant’s cry is given. In both cases, we can interpret the texts, because the sentences composing the text are logically bound and carry allied information. The spoken discourse abounds in words imitating sounds, but they do not interfere with our perception of the text.

B. Paltridge stresses grammatical intricacy as one of the differences of spoken and written discourse and in this case, under consideration, this difference is evident, because in the written text a number of composite sentences can be observed, and in the spoken text simple elliptical sentences prevail because we deal with a sample of informal colloquial speech (Paltridge 2007).

Written discourse is more lexically dense, which means that content words (nouns, verbs) prevail over grammatical. E.g. “However, cries are discomforting and may be alarming to parents…” (written discourse); “Oh yea” (spoken discourse).

The written text may be also characterized by a high level of explicitness – directness. Really, each sentence in the written discourse carries direct evident meaning. In the spoken discourse some sentences may be interpreted only on the basis of the context: “==Jim – James Taylor” (James Taylor is the author of the song.)

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One more thing to be mentioned about spoken discourse is its spontaneous nature that accounts for its being disorganized and ungrammatical (Paltridge 2007). E.g. “C. 27. == No reason or ….28. Yea”.

B. Paltridge also stresses “repetition, hesitation and redundancy” as a characteristic feature of spoken discourse (Paltridge 2007). The reason for that is that the participants think and utter almost simultaneously, that is why a great number of “fillers” and pauses are used in spoken discourse: “10. Yea I used to use ….”

Speaking about the written discourse, it should be mentioned that it has a high level of generic coherence because every new sentence contributes to the unfolding organization of the text (e.g. the description of the reasons for crying). We think that the spoken discourse has registerial coherence because we can recognize a situation in which these sentences could occur as an informal conversation between two friends about a child’s cry.

Enlarging upon references, it should be mentioned that in both texts we have presented participants (infants, composers) who later become presumed: “C. 14. == James Taylor … 16. He was pretty good.” This is an example of an anaphoric reference. Besides, they prevail in both: the spoken and written discourse.

Speaking about the reference chains in the written speech, here main participants in the whole text are infants, but in sentence #2 parents are introduced. In the second text, participants change during the text: kids, the men who are speaking, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor.

Speaking about taxonomical lexical relations in the written discourse, the following example may be set: “infant – caregiver – parents (one class)”. An example of expectancy relations may also be set: “infants – cry”. The same example of expectancy relations may also be found in the second text: “baby – colicky”.

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An example of hyponymy may be found in the written discourse: “heat, cold, illness, and lying position – reasons for infants’ cry”. The second text is deprived of such examples.

The last thing to be mentioned about the spoken discourse is that it abounds in elliptical sentences, presenting mainly situational ellipsis: “S. 4. Well == what did you do? C. 5. ==still do.” Ellipsis is not characteristic of the written discourse under consideration.

Drawing a conclusion, let us say that we have managed to analyze two types of discourse, have stated that they have some common features, but there are few of them and a number of features that are peculiar for the particular type of discourse.

Works Cited

Georgakopoulou, Alexandra, and Dionysis Goutsos. Discourse Analysis: an Intoduction. Chippenham: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

Paltridge, Brian. Discourse Analysis: an Introduction.London :Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007.

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