Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2002
10 Pages, Grade: 1,3
4. Lexicon and Morphology
Two texts will be compared in the following essay. One text is a spoken text. It is a conversation among a couple and one of their female friends. The topic is Planning a family holiday. The speakers talk about the towns they are going to visit and how they will get there. The conversation was recorded in the couple’s house. It is not known if the three persons knew that their conversation was recorded.
The other text is a written text. It is a report on the housing situation in Amsterdam and titled Living in Amsterdam. It is three pages long, but only the first page is analysed in this essay. It was written by Johanneke Helmers in March 2001 and published on the Internet on March 1st, 2002.
The following essay will analyse the different choices of vocabulary in both texts, its differences concerning grammar, syntax, phonology etc. The conclusion will be a summary of the differences between the two texts dealing also with the influence of the medium on the composition of the texts.
One main difference between the two texts is in their different choice of vocabulary.
The spoken text uses words that would be inappropriate in a written text as the following examples show. The expression ruckie (l.5) is an informal expression for rucksack, as wells as the word hassle (l.19) meaning problem, nuisance or difficulty. Other examples of informal vocabulary are quid (l.30) for the British pound, loads (l.34) for a lot of / many, jaunt (l.89) meaning excursion or a day out etc. These words are perfectly natural in a conversation but they would stand out in a written text. The words used in the conversation are very simple; the speakers do not have much time in a conversation to choose their vocabulary carefully.
In contrast, certain words used in the written text would seem very odd if they appeared in a conversation. Particularly hard words such as exodus (l.17), influx (l.17) or priority (l.22) would be out of place in a conversation. This text has a lexical variety and specificity. The writer has more time to chose his vocabulary and uses words appropriate for his special purpose.
There are also more nouns and longer words used in the written text than in the spoken text.
Words that do occur in both texts are very simple and the most frequent words in the English language: the, and, a, to, that etc.
It is very typical for a spoken text to contain many phonological abbreviations, which means contractions and abbreviations of verbs are used instead of the standard and normally longer form. They are used because they are time-saving which is important in a conversation. Some examples of the various abbreviations found in the spoken text are: we’ll (l.1) instead of we will, that’s (l.2) instead of that is, train’s (l18) instead of train is, station’ll (l.21) instead of station will etc.
The written text has full phrases; it does not use any abbreviations at all although there are expressions where comparable forms could appear, as in: figure had risen (l.3) for figure’d risen, Amsterdam is occupied (l.19) for Amsterdam’s occupied, here is (l.28) for here’s etc. But the author of the text does not use them. They would not fit to the style of the text because they would give an informal impression. The standard for written texts is not to use abbreviations although there are more and more texts have started to use them.
Another type of abbreviations that is very frequent in the spoken text and that do nowhere occur in the written text are ellipsis. Grammar mistakes are also made when talking: you’re probably just better to get (l.35) instead of it would probably be better if. The written text follows the standard grammar; it uses a normal word order and standard sentence constructions. Examples of ellipsis in the conversation are: Delft Holland (l.15) where the is is missing, The only problem (l.19) where the is is missing as well, Don’t know (l.74) where the I is left out etc. Ellipsis are very typical for spoken language because they are as time-saving as the abbreviations mentioned above. In a conversation, the speakers have to be able to formulate their opinions and feelings very quickly. They can easily be used in conversations because normally, the context is clear. Although they are sometimes used in written texts as well, they would not be appropriate for this text. They are a sign of informality that would not fit into this written text.
Phonetic features cannot be examined in this text because there is no phonetic transcription or cassette of this text. But it is quite normal that not everything is pronounced correctly in a conversation, especially in a casual conversation among friends. Little words or endings of words are often left out, for example.
Generally speaking, the spoken text is more verbal than the written text, which is more nominal. This means that the written text has a very high frequency of nouns; the spoken text a high frequency of nouns and pronouns. First and second person pronouns are used especially in the conversation because speakers address each other, and they are typical for face-to-face interactions. Nominalization is therefore typical for this written text. It means the formation of a noun from a verb. The nouns improvement (l.12), influx (l.17), renewal (l.27) etc. could also be expressed by verbs but this would not fit to the style of the text. Nouns are more compact; they express facts, processes etc. much easier than long and complicated verb structures.
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