Speech and Writing in Linguistics

Vivian Cook 
Writing System Home

Rough Notes (you may need SILDoulos for the IPA)

1. Linguistics claims to be based on speech

Emperor's clothes questions

Lyons (1968, p.38) 'the spoken language is primary and writing is essentially a means of representing speech in another medium'

John said he was looking for a cat, and Bill did too. Minimalist Program p.126

/dZnsedIwzlUkINfrkQtn`bIldIdtu /

Chomskys sentences
Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.
Furiously sleep ideas green colourless.
The book seems interesting.
The child seems sleeping. [1957]
John is eager to please.
John is easy to please.
The boy may frighten sincerity.
Sincerity may frighten the boy. [1965]
It seems to each other that they are happy.
They seem to each other to be happy.
They spoke angrily to John.
John was spoken angrily to. [1981]
John reads often to his children.
John reads often books. [1995]

2. Data Collection

what is the data of linguistics? E-language versus I-language

A) alterations made to spoken language

1) Pluses




Bill John

2) Minuses


John said he was looking for a cat, and Bill > did > too.


Whispers, creaky voice; VC fall-rise

B Use of dominantly written sentences in terms of density etc

It isn't likely that John will sneeze during the aria but it is (likely) that Frank will cough.
It seems that the car is in need of repair.

Everybody in some California city hates its climate.

Therefore the data is already analysed - words, phonemes, clauses, sentences, and some of it has been thrown away

Effects on the Luser

a) Phonological system is different:

Derwing 1992 OHP

Like children with spelling: Olson (1996, p.100) puts it, 'Writing systems create the categories in terms of which we become conscious of speech'.

b) thinking is different

Luria: non-literate people reason in a less abstract way: polar bears

Goody People who can read store information in different ways from those who do not (variable rendition of same event)

Epic poetry; oral poetry, different memory system

Therefore linguist qua literate person is already conditioned to see language in a particular way, unless illiterate.

"The concepts 'sentence', 'word' and 'phoneme' may be the cultural artefacts of linguists who were brought up to read alphabetic scripts and who consequently rely on full stops, word-spaces and letters to define their analytic terms (Aronoff, 1992); a word is indeed sometimes defined as a 'sequence of letters without any spaces' (Hurford, 1994, 247). (Cook, 2001)

Cultural imperialism

Group A says Group B should be judged by Group A (to which it cannot belong)

Children, blacks, working-class, women, native speaker
Labov arguments

Assumption that ideal form of own system is best

Therefore alphabetic is best; English isn't bad but pure sound would be better!

Anything that distracts from pure sound is wrong!

- project word spaces onto other languages (computer people)

- signs = phonemes


linguists should explicitly state their relationship to speech and writing

Past tense experiments


IPA (SIL) with intonation marked

/ dZnsedIwzlUkINfr kQ tn`bIl>dId>tu /

IPA spaced, no tone marks

/dZn sed I w z lUkIN fr kQt n` bIl dId tu /

Written unspaced


Written spaced

john said he was looking for a cat and bill did too.

Written with caps and punctuation

John said he was looking for a cat, and Bill did too.

(Minimalist Program p.126)


Derwing 1992

How many sounds in

1.Chin 2.Pitch 3.Gem 4.Badge

5.Rich 6.Page 7.Catch 8.Judge


pitch/catch (3) 3.70

rich/chin (3) 3.05

badge/judge (3) 3.48

page/gem(3) 3.00