Differences between Speech and W riting

Vivian Cook 
Writing System
Second Language Home

Quotes on Writing

Main Differences 

 sounds versus letters


 first and final drafts

 purposes of language

 interaction between listener  and speaker

Radio interview with NHS Worker




Interviewer (Male): Now Joan tell me what what do you get paid and for what working what sort hours.
Nurse (Female): I I get about five hundred and fifty pounds to six hundred and fifty six hundred pounds a month for thirty hours a week.
Interviewer: Now the the prospect we've been hearing of a pay freeze seems to be receding but tell me first, if there was to be a pay freeze, what would that mean for you?
Nurse: Well it just means that you have to cut the cloth back a little bit more. It would be all right er freezing pay if you could freeze inflation.
Interviewer: And what about the the mood among other nurses in the hospital that you work with?
Nurse: Well the mood amongst other nurses in the hospital, erm most of it is erm unrepeatable. Their their morale is very low. There are other things and other issues in the hospital that are causing low morale at the moment and this even makes it mor- worse for the nursing staffs here.

Which comes first: speech or writing?

Speech comes before writing historically
Many languages lack a written form
Many individuals cannot use written language
Children automatically learn to speak but have to be taught how to read

Guardian report on NHS

Labour claims 2.3 million in 'hidden' queues that belie Bottomley claims
True hospital waiting lists 'double official figures'
Chris Mihill Medical Correspondent

About 2.3. million patients in England are waiting either for their first   appointment to see a consultant or for hospital treatment, more than double official figures, the Labour Party said yesterday.
The "hidden" waiting list, covering the time from a GP referral to seeing a consultant, undermines the Government's claims that no one now waits more than two years for an operation, said the shadow health secretary, David Blunkett.
Some people have been waiting as long as 182 weeks - 3 1/2 years - just to see a consultant, according to figures compiled by Labour.
The 182 weeks is the maximum waiting time for ear, nose, and throat appointments at Burton Hospital Trust, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire.
The official waiting list, from seeing a consultant to having treatment, is about a million.
The Labour researchers looked at the Mersey region, which says no one waits longer that a year for treatment, finding 57,256 people waiting for hospital care. However, a further 75,558 were waiting for their first consultant appointment - some 132 per cent more than the official list.
The researchers found similar ratios in the North Western and South West Thames regions, and calculate that if the figures were extrapolated across England it would mean a true waiting list of 2.3 million.
Mr Blunkett said: "These figures are the waiting lists the Government refuses to reveal.
"Virginia Bottomley has been trotting out misleading statistics about waiting lists at every opportunity. The one thing she and her ministerial colleagues have always claimed is that nobody has to wait longer than two years for treatment. That is clearly untrue."
Guardian Feb 2nd 1994

Characteristics of Spoken Language

first draft status

Characteristics of  Written Language

final draft status
density of content
neutrality of social roles

Unique Written Vocabulary

some words are never really said in ordinary speech

Lifeboat donning instructions

Access Egress Notice

Bill Stickers funny street sign



Involved <-------> Informational

Biber's Continuum

" ... an identical spoken and written language would be practically intolerable; if we spoke as we write, we should find no one to listen; and if we wrote as we speak, we should find no one to read. The spoken and written language must not be too near together, as they must not be too far apart. "  T.S. Eliot

Useful Reading
Major books
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985), Spoken and Written Language, OUP: Stubbs, M. (1980), Language and Literacy
, Routledge Kegan Paul: Biber, D. (1988), Variation across Speech and Writing, CUP: Hughes, R. Comprehending Oral and Written Language USA Routledge 1996
Differences between speech and writing
Intriguing article on speech and writing are:
Householder, F.W. (1971), Linguistic Speculations, CUP; Liberman, A.M. (1992), ‘The relation of speech to reading and writing’, in Frost, R. & Katz, l. (1992), Orthography, Phonology, Morphology, and Meaning, North Holland
Characteristics of spoken language
Tannen, D. (ed.) (1982), Spoken and Written Language: Exploring Orality and Literacy, Ablex, New Jersey
Characteristics of written language
Perera, K. (1984), Children’s Writing and Reading: Analysing Classroom Language, Blackwell. Tannen (1982) includes: Chafe, W.L. (1982) ‘Integration and involvement in speaking, writing, and oral literature’ p.35-54: Clancy, P.M. (1982), ‘Written and spoken style in Japanese narratives’, 55-76

Les langues sont faites pour être parlees, l'écriture ne sert que de supplément à la parole … L'écriture n'est que la représentation de la parole, il est bizarre qu'on donne plus du soin à déterminer l'image que l'objet'. (J.J. Rousseau, cited by Derrida 1962)


Decorative English in Japan

Chocolate bars: a heroines’ treasured chocolate born is cozy for the heroines in the town
A lovely and tiny twig is on the forest.
The sentimental taste.

A coffee cup: COFFEE.
Relax and have a nice coffee break. So you can meet the something wonderful happen

A milk shake: Nice day good day man and women’s drink
Delicious and my drink

Jackets: Revolting fashion for men

Sissy Boy     Posh Boy    Peanut Boy

Marathon race Your life will never be the same after SCENES WE’D

In my childfood the world was fulled over with the dreams. I was very good at finding the dreams from everthing. Having dreams is the best way to get happiness, doesn’t they?

Carring on the wind in the light my heart is filled with the feelings

We send you fiery winter fun for your life

Sports bags: TOUCH DOWN I basically feel you should sports for yourself

To all players aiming at success supporting you

A truck ad: Whenever and everywhere we can meet our best friend – nature. Take a grip of steering.

See Website Engrish.com

Compensating for not Hearing the Voice in Writing
Writing can report the words that someone says but not how they are said. Here are some of the devices used in one book, Isaac Asimov’s The Stars like Dust to compensate for this lack.
Introducing verb:
said, roared, grumbled, yelled, called, called out, gasped, mumbled, whispered, screamed, interposed, began, interrupted, spoke, cried, cried out, shouted, rang out, ordered, objected, muttered, mumbled, clipped, fired at him, prompted, retorted, repeated, snapped, breathed, murmured, insisted, stuttered, asked, added, replied, broke in, grunted, demanded
Adverb or Adverb phrase:
said... huskily, sharply, respectfully, softly, coolly, carefully, blankly, earnestly, with distaste, dryly, wearily, in a breathless manner, mildly, urbanely, desperately, automatically, peevishly, miserably, in a low voice, tonelessly, mockingly, very quietly, between his teeth, curtly, very brightly, abruptly, harshly, sadly, absently, cautiously, with a careful evenness of tone, coldly, vehemently, sombrely, rapidly, pleasantly, lazily, proudly, intensely, calmly, timidly, despondently, quietly, acidly, in delight, loudly, hurriedly, in a small voice, impatiently, freezingly, with polite indifference, uncertainly, savagely, urgently, in a horrified whisper, abruptly, fuzzily
Description of the voice:
His voice was sour and sharp. The words were jerked out. ... let his voice grow confidential. His voice was almost cool as he said.... There was a trembling eagerness in his voice. It was a weak whisper. The coolness had left his voice. His voice raised to a shout ... Biron’s voice was loud. ... in a voice that struggled vainly against stupefaction... His voice climbed in enthusiasm. ... her voice troubled. He said it in a flat monotone. ... his voice over-shrill.
Accompanying gestures:
Biron frowned. Jonti sighed and said... But Jonti laughed. Rizzet shrugged. Biron ... started and said. Rizzett wrinkled his forehead. The older man’s voice was coldly annoyed. Jonti’s voice had an irritated edge to it. The voice was urgent.

This Asimov book was chosen because of its style of introducing speech, which is sometimes condemned in style manuals; Strunk and White say that its cause is ‘the belief that the word said is always in need of support, or because they have been told to do it by experts in the art of bad writing’. Nevertheless most novelists use these conventions. Opening books at random, it is easy to find examples such as:
... said the Colonel, rather gravely (Trollope);
... he concluded with enthusiasm (Conrad);
‘Ah but you must’, Carlo delivered (Burgess);
‘Goodnight’, said Wallace Johnston hopefully (Hemingway).

Misc examples of Writing

Six year-old: I was reading the pepere this moning and it sed there was a thunderstorm and it strouck a train and mejd som holes in it and it hapend at Bolton.


Keats Ode to a Nightingale: Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies

Gatwick Airport: Off-airport car park courtesy coach pick-up point.

Tristram Shandy: How could you, Madam, be so inattentive in reading the last chapter?

Local paper: The latest grim find was made in the cellar


11-year old child’s experiment: Jill and me got a bowl with a 1/2 litre of water and put an egg in it and it sunk to the bottom. Then we got another bowl of water and put six spoons of salt in it and when we put the egg in it floated... Mrs Norris gave me and Jill an egg for our tea.