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Spoken and Written English
By: Samir K. Dash

The English of speech tends to be different from the English of writing some fairly obvious ways. For instance:

  • We have time to plan our message in writing, but that is not possible while using the spoken form of English.

  • We often use words like Well, You see etc in speech. But in writing we tend to avoid these. These kind of words and phrases add little facts , but tell us something about the attitude of the speaker towards the context and audience.

  • We often use Hesitate fillers, i.e. some speech forms like um / /, err/ / while we think of what next to say.

  • More over in spoken form, we may fail to complete the sentence and mix up one grammatical construction with another. These do not occur in writing.

  • In spoken form a sentence has a less strict construction than the sentence in a writing form. It is also difficult to divide a spoken conversation into separate sentences and the relationships between one clause to another is less clear in this case as the speaker relies more on hearer’s understanding of the context. The speaker also depends upon the ability of the listener to interpret if he fails to provide the exact sound representation to his expression.

More over the speaker is able to rely on features of intonation which tell us a great deal, which can’t be given in written punctuation.

Even, as far as the sound or the phonetic aspect of the analysis is concerned, there are some important point to note which makes spoken form some what special. Though the sound system of our spoken language serves us primarily as a medium of communication, its efficiency as such an instrument of communication does not depend upon the perfect production and reception of every single element of speech.

The speaker will , in almost any utterance, provide the listener with far more cues than he needs for easy comprehension. The situation or the context of which both the speaker and the listener are aware of , limit the purport of an utterance. A.C. Gimson, in his book An Introduction to Pronounciation in English gives an example as follows:

Thus, in any discussion about a zoo, involving a statement such as ‘We saw the lions and the tigers’, we are predisposed by the context to understand lions, even if the n is omitted and the word actually said is liars . or again , we are conditioned by grammatical probabilities, so that a particular sound may lose much of its significance, e. g. in the phrase ‘The men are working’, the quality of the vowel in men is not as vitally important for deciding whether it is a question of men or man .as it would be if the word were said in isolation , since here plurality is determined in addition by the demonstrative adjective preceding men and the verb form following.

This kind of appropriation of sound is called redundancy.

This article was posted on Aug 4, 2005

About The Author
Samir K. Dash

About The Author Samir K. Dash is a MA in English (UGC-NET qulaified) from Ravenshaw College, Cuttack (INDIA). Currently he is working as senior content developer at He can be contacted at his homepage: E-Mail:

                                 Other Articles By Samir K. Dash


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