Colloquial English Grammar

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Estonian Business School
Institute of Foreign Languages

GRAMMAR OF SPOKEN ENGLISH
Term Paper

By Maria Esko BBL-2
Supervisor: Ludmilla Podolski

Tallinn 2012

Table of Contents
Introduction3
Common Features of Spoken English4
Grammar Characteristics7
Clause Combination7
Position of items8
Pausing, Repeating and Recasting8
Organising the discourse9
Ellipsis9
Response Tokens10
Vague Expressions11
Headers and Tails11
Conclusion12
References13

Introduction
In the business world, communication is vital for creating new networks and acquiring important business partners. Communication is the activity of conveying information. Effective communication skills can be considered the key to success. I have chosen to investigate English spoken language in order to clarify what spoken English grammar is. As a non-native speaker I consider learning spoken grammar incredibly important in order to understand the other party. The communication process can be considered successfully completed only when the listener has understood the message of the speaker. The fact that speaking and writing are different is quite obvious. The studies of the spoken English grammar have been neglected for a long time, since it was considered as confusing and full of mistakes. Development of technology has made it possible to analyse spoken language more thoroughly. Therefore many fascinating facts about spoken Grammar have arisen. In this paper I will use the term spoken grammar in the meaning of colloquial English. The characteristics of formal English speaking, e.g. prepared speeches are not analysed in this term paper. This paper gives an overview of the main features of the grammar of spoken English. The differences between spoken and written English are supplied with illustrations. In the conclusion the overall characteristics of the grammar of spoken English have been summarised.

Common Features of Spoken English
Is there any grammar in spoken English? To answer this question I have to define the overall meaning of grammar. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica the term grammar in a restricted sense refers only to the study of sentence and word structure (syntax and morphology), excluding vocabulary and pronunciation. Although language is the same the grammar of spoken English may differ since following the grammar rules during a conversation is time consuming and unnatural. When spoken language is observed in more detail it also has patterns and specific structures which may be considered as the grammar of spoken language. During a conversation we do not have much time to think what we are about to say and can not plan our speech in advance (excluding some special cases). While listening to a recorded speech it feels normal, fluent and easy to follow. On the other hand, when put on paper it is rather difficult to understand. However it gives an opportunity to notice some specific features of colloquial English language, such as silent pauses, voice filled pauses, repetitions, false starts, discourse markers(small words or fixed phrases used to indicate the beginning or the end of an idea) and short forms (Leech, Svartvik, 2002). Specific features mostly have a contextual meaning for the listener and can indicate different changes in the subject of the conversation. In this paper the term Spoken English language is understood in a narrow sense. It only includes the colloquial English and face-to-face interactions. Prepared speeches and other types of formal English speaking are not taken into account and are not discussed in the given work. In the figure below are presented the seven most typical conditions operating in real-time conversation. These features best describe why spoken language is so difficult to put in writing.

Figure 1: Seven conditions operating in conversation (Leech, n.d., figure 2)

Further is given an example of a conversation which illustrates the conditions...
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