Spoken language

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Spoken language, sometimes called oral language,[1] is language produced in its spontaneous form, as opposed to written language. Many languages have no written form, and so are only spoken.

In spoken language, much of the meaning is determined by the context. This contrasts with written language, where more of the meaning is provided directly by the text. In spoken language the truth of a proposition is determined by common-sense reference to experience, whereas in written language a greater emphasis is placed on logical and coherent argument; similarly, spoken language tends to convey subjective information, including the relationship between the speaker and the audience, whereas written language tends to convey objective information.[2]

The relationship between spoken language and written language is complex. Within the field of linguistics the current consensus is that speech is an innate human capability while written language is a cultural invention.[3] However some linguists, such as those of the Prague school, argue that written and spoken language possess distinct qualities which would argue against written language being dependent on spoken language for its existence.[4]

The term spoken language is sometimes used for vocal language (in contrast to sign language), especially by linguists. (Informally, sign language is also sometimes said to be 'spoken'.[5][6][7])

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a term that is ambiguous with vocal language
  2. ^ Tannen, Deborah (1982). Spoken and written language: exploring orality and literacy. Norwood, N.J.: ABLEX Pub. Corp. 
  3. ^ Pinker, S., & Bloom, P. (1990). Natural language and natural selection. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 13, 707–784.
  4. ^ Aaron, P. G., & Joshi, R. M. (2006). Written language is as natural as spoken language: A biolinguistic perspective. Reading Psychology, 27(4), 263–311.
  5. ^ Nora Groce (1985) Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard
  6. ^ Harry Hoemann (1986) Introduction to American sign language
  7. ^ Brooks & Kempe (2012) Language Development