Analysis on Conversation Features. Differenfes Between British and American English

Topics: 2008 singles, 2007 singles, 2006 singles Pages: 40 (16021 words) Published: April 19, 2012
The purpose of our project is to find and analyze conversational features and discover if there are any differences between American and British English. In order to achieve our aim, we have selected as a corpus two chapters of distinct TV series: The first one from the American series ‒Six Feet Under‒ and the other one from the British series – Teachers. Our corpus contains approximately 12000 words, each script having around 6000 words. Both series belong to comedy genre, with adult characters of similar age and social status. Both series reflect the real use of language in their respective societies. They were released in similar dates, between 2001 and 2002. Six Feet Under is a black comedy-drama of a group of people, who work in a mortuary, dealing with issues such as relationships, infidelity, and religion. In the episode we have chosen, called Familia, Fisher & Sons (the mortuary) arranges a funeral for a gang member (Paco), while Nate (Ruth’s son) is a suspect in an arson and Ruth holds a welcoming dinner for Brenda (Nate’s girlfriend). Teachers is a comedy-drama which is situated mostly in and around a fictional school and gives us a realistic view on how school life is from the eye of the teachers. In the first episode of the second season, a new year at Summerdown School starts, and there are two new staff members. Simon worries about falling into the same old routine whilst Kurt is still trying to dump Carol. Susan finds herself with a crush on new French teacher JP. The classification we are going to follow is the one that Biber et al. explain in their book: Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English (1999). They classify the conversational features according to the social and situational characteristics of conversation they are associated with. As Biber et al. state, “conversation cannot be characterized in terms of communicative goals or social functions”. This does not occur in the other registers: academic prose, news, fiction. Conversation has a special set of features which cannot be found in the other registers. As there is not a clear classification, they summarize those features into six functional traits, according to a functional overview of conversational grammar: 1. Conversation takes place in a shared context Speakers habitually have a lot of contextual background, including a large amount of specific social, cultural and institutional knowledge. As a consequence, conversation uses a very high frequency of pronouns (especially you and I), substitute pro-forms and ellipsis, deictic words (this, that, there, then…), non-clausal or fragmentary components, such as inserts. 2. Conversation avoids lexical and syntactic elaboration or specification of meaning In comparison with the three written registers, it has a low density of lexical words. It also implies the use of short phrases and a higher frequency of verbs and adverbs, as well as multi-word expressions like phrasal and prepositional verbs, idioms, collocations, lexico-grammatical associations and lexical bundles.


3. Conversation is interactive It is co-constructed by at least two people. As a result of this, several features are implied. The use of negatives is greatly increased in comparison with the written registers. Also eliciting responses are frequent (sequences of Question-Answer are typical, also as non-clausal fragments, question tags and some types of inserts: greetings and farewells, backchannels, response elicitors). Other features are used, such as attention signaling forms, vocatives, and discourse markers. 4. Conversation expresses stance Interactive nature of conversation just discussed extends to the use of polite, emotional or respectful language in exchanges. Stance is realized by speech acts, such as requests, greetings, offers and apologies, and also by interjections, expletives, exclamations, evaluative predicative adjectives, and stance adverbials. 5. Conversation takes place in real time...
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