Wang Bingran Student ID: 11820787d
This study compared ‘talk’ and ‘speak’ in terms of their senses, grammatical patterns and collocations. The comparison is based on data drawn from the British National Sampler Corpus (the BNC Sampler Corpus).The vast majority of the examples in this essay were selected from the BNC Sampler Spoken Corpus, one example was drawn from the BNC Sampler Written Corpus.
While ‘speak’ and ‘talk’ both have the sense of making an utterance, they focus on different aspects of this human behavior: ‘speak’ frequently express the ability to articulate sounds while ‘talk’ mainly focus on the process of the behavior itself. For example: Oh fuck so you struggled, you couldn't speak, you know. The ability to ‘speak’ may associate with the biological condition of the speaker or should be acquired through learning: E.g. I could not speak although I was conscious. E.g. I learned to speak. Compared with ‘speaker’, the ‘talker’ is presumed to possess the capability of using verbal language to express their ideas. One thing worth noting is that ‘speak’ is specially used to express the ability of using a specific language: e.g. I can't speak Italian very well.
Apart from ability, ‘speak’ and ‘talk’ have different focus on the quality of an utterance: ‘talk’ mainly expresses the style of an utterance: e.g. you don't think they talk like that? ; E.g. No, if you know you don't talk normally. Sometimes, ‘talk’ can also express a special accent: e.g. they ["mimicking refined accent"] all talk like that. Compared with ‘talk’, ‘speak’ generally focus on the volume of voice and the clearness of the articulation, for example: you’ve got ta be[pause] speak loud and clear. To express loudness, ‘speak’ frequently collocates with the adverb ‘up’, forming the phrase ‘speak up’, which means to articulate in a louder voice so that people can hear you, for example: Speak up a bit!
Even though according to the Cambridge Dictionary Online, both ‘talk’ and ‘speak’ can be either transitive or intransitive verb, there are very few examples in the BNC Sampler Corpus showing ‘talk’ being used as transitive verb. ‘Speak’ exists more frequently as transitive verb, especially when referring to a language, for example: We always speak French to each other. ‘Talk’ can be a noun while ‘speak’ cannot, for example: she gave us a very interesting talk on a visit to El Salvador.
In most situations, ‘talk’ and ‘speak’ are used intransitively. As intransitive verbs, ‘talk’ and ‘speak’ share some grammatical patterns, meaning they are used with the same preposition. But ‘speak’ can fit into more grammatical patterns than ‘talk’. It is worth noting that in some cases, even though they are used with the same preposition, the properties of the objects after the preposition are different. To make these patterns easier to understand, Table 1 below shows the shared and different grammatical patterns of ‘speak’ and ‘talk’.
a) speak + to + sb| talk + to + sb|
b) speak+ about +sth| talk + about + sth|
Shared preposition, different prepositional objects|
c) speak + with + sth| talk + with + sb|
d) speak + for + sb/sth| |
e) speak + on + sth| |
Since there are very few examples of ‘talk’ and ‘speak’ being transitive verbs, the discussion of semantics will be based mainly on the collocations of them as intransitive verbs and focus on the prepositional objects of the preposition after the two verbs.
a) speak + to + sb| talk + to + sb|
sb: somebody, him, her, me, Michael, members, friends| sb: anybody, somebody, him, it, me, Steven, Sue, the client, the customer| ‘Speak to sb’ and ‘talk to sb’ both carry the meaning of to communicate or discuss with somebody. The...