Utterance

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For the legal term, see Uttering.
"Utter" redirects here. For the surname, see Utter (surname).
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In spoken language analysis an utterance is a smallest unit of speech. It is a continuous piece of speech beginning and ending with a clear pause. In the case of oral languages, it is generally but not always bounded by silence. Utterances do not exist in written language, only their representations do. It can be represented and delineated in written language in many ways.

In oral/spoken language utterances have several features including paralinguistic features which are aspects of speech that range from facial expression, gesture, posture, etc. In addition, prosodic features which are stress, intonation, tone of voice,etc, as well as ellipsis which are words that the listener inserts in spoken language to fill in gaps. Moreover, other aspects of utterances found in spoken languages are non-fluency features including: voiced/un-voiced pauses (like "umm"), tag questions, and false starts which is when someone begins their utterances again because what they had previously said was incorrect. Furthermore, other features include: fillers ("and stuff"), accent/dialect, deictic expressions which are utterances like "over there!" which needs need further explanation to comprehend the statement, simple conjunctions ("and," "but," etc), and colloquial lexis which are everyday informal words. [1]

Utterances that are portrayed in writing are planned vs utterances in spoken language are not planned, rather impromptu. in written language there are frameworks that are used to portray this type of language. These include: discourse structure (which can also be found in spoken language) which is how the conversation is organized in which adjacency pairs are used which is an utterance and the answer to that utterance, as well as discourse markers which are used to organize conversation ("first," "secondly," etc), lexis (linguistics) which means words, the words that are being used in a text or spoken, these words can create a semantic field, for example a semantic field of love can be created with lexical choices like: adore, admire, care,etc. Grammar/syntax is another feature of language in general but also utterances which are used in language, and pragmatics which means that when utterances are spoken or written the meaning is not literal, like when using sarcasm something could be taken literally or in the sarcastic manner.[1]

Characteristics/ Features[edit]

An utterance which is found in spoken and written language such like a script which has several characteristics. These include paralinguistic features which is a feature of communication that doesn't involve words but is added around an utterance to give meaning. Examples of paralinguistic features include: facial expressions, laughter, eye contact, gestures, etc. Prosodic features refers to the sound of your voice as you are speaking which includes: pitch, intonation and stress. Ellipsis can be used in either written or spoken language, when an utterance is conveyed it is when the speaker leaves out words because it is already understood. For example: A: Juice? B: Please. A: Room temperature? B: Cold. Non-fluency features also occur when speaking utterances, as we think about what were going to say to when we voice it out loud, there are errors and corrections that we make to our speech. For example, voiced/un-voiced pauses which are "umm," "erm," etc in voiced pauses and in transcripts un-voiced pauses are denoted as (.) or (1) relating to the amount of time of the pause. Tag question are also a part of non-fluency features, these are used by the speaker to check if the listener understands what the speaker is saying. Examples include: "Do you know what I mean?" False alerts is when the speaker is voicing an utterance but stops and starts again usually as a correction to their speech. More general features include: fillers which usually give the speaker time to think and gather their thoughts in order to continue their utterance, these include lexis such as, "like," "and stuff," etc.[2] Accent/dialect is also a characteristic included in utterances which is the way the words are voiced, the pronunciation and the different types of lexis used in different parts of the world. Deictic expressions are utterances that need more explanation in order to be understood, like: "wow look over there!" Simple conjunctions in speech are words that connect other words like "and," "but," etc. Colloquial lexis is a type of speech that is casual in which the utterance is usually more relaxed. [3]

Child-Dircted speech[edit]

The development of utterances in children is facilitated by parents, adults, or any other guardian the child has growing up. Studies have indicated that this development of utterances is affected by the parent, adult, or guardian's socioeconomic status (SES). It has been shown that children have bigger vocabularies and a learn new vocabularies faster during early childhood from parents with a high education and higher SES status, while children that come from less educated parents and lower SES status have a smaller vocabulary and a slower growth in their vocabulary skills (Arriaga, Fenson, Cronan & Pethick, 1998; Hart & Risley, 1995; Hoff, Laursen & Tardif, 2002; Hoff-Ginsberg, 1991; Lawrence & Shipley, 1996; Ninio, 1980). This correlation is due to the fact that more educated parents use more lexis when speaking to their children as opposed to parents that are less educated (Hart & Risley, 1995 ; Hoff, 2003 a ; Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva, Waterfall, Vevea & Hedges, in press). Hoff conducted an analysis that shows support for this correlation in 2003 which shows that the mean length of utterance and vocabulary of mothers that talk to their children is related to their SES status and thus child vocabulary development. High-SES mothers use longer utterances when talking to their children and words that vary in diversity, they also spend more time talking to their children. While low-SES mothers use shorter utterances and use the same type of words, thus, the children with more educated parents have larger vocabularies (Hoff, 2003). [4]

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In child directed speech, utterances have several additional features. For example, the phonology in child directed speech is different in which utterances are spoken more slowly, with longer pauses in between utterances, higher pitches, etc. The lexis and semantics is different, in which one uses words suited for children words like "doggie" instead of dog in one's utterances, the grammar is simpler, repetitive, and fewer use of verbs, adjectives,etc. There is a greater use of one word utterances and the pragmatics uses supportive language like expansions and re-casting. [5]

Gricean Maxims[edit]

Paul Grice (1989) came up with four maxims necessary in order to have a collegial conversation in which utterances are understood.

1. First Maxim of Quantity : provide the right amount of information needed for that conversation

2. Maxim of Quality : provide information that is true

3.Maxim of Relation : provide information that is relevant to the topic at hand

4.Maxim of Manner : give order to your utterances throughout conversation, be clear [6] [7]

Bakhtin's theory of utterance[edit]

According to philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, there are four accepted properties that utterances should have.

  • Boundaries – All utterances must be bounded by a "change of speech subject". This usually means, as previously mentioned, that they are bounded by silence.
  • Responsivity or dialogicity – The utterance must be either responding/following a previous utterance or generating dialogue.
  • Finalization – An utterance must have a clear ending, and only occurs if the speaker has said everything he or she wishes to say.
  • Generic form – The choice of the speech genre is determined based on the specific circumstances and sphere in which the dialogue occurs.

Bakhtin also emphasizes that an utterance and a sentence are not the same thing. According to Bakhtin, sentences do not indicate a change of speech subject, and thus do not automatically satisfy one of the four properties of utterances. According to him, the sentence as a language unit is grammatical in nature, while an utterance is "ethical".[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Level Up: English Language". www.allinfo.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  2. ^ Candea, Maria (2005). "Inter- and intra-language acoustic analysis of autonomous fillers". Hal: 47–52. 
  3. ^ "Level Up: English Language". www.allinfo.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  4. ^ Rowe, Meredith. "Child-directed speech: relation to socioeconomic status, knowledge of child development and child vocabulary skill" (PDF). Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ "Child Directed Speech | a2-level-level-revision, english-language, child-language-acquisition, child-directed-speech | Revision World". revisionworld.com. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  6. ^ Mako, Okanda (2015). "Understanding violations of Gricean maxims in preschoolers and adults". Frontiers in Psychology. 6 – via Frontiers Media SA. 
  7. ^ Benjamin, Spector (2013). "Maxims of Conversation". Oxford Bibliographies. 
  8. ^ Utterance

Further reading[edit]