2 Apr 2013

Spoken Language Controlled Assessment: Essay, Analysis on David Cameron's Speech and Sociolinguistic Theories for GCSE

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When Analysing a Transcript, you should consider:

What is the purpose, and style of the spoken language? Take care to see if the purpose changes, or is different for each different speaker. Does it change and why?

Get the list of features of spoken language here.

1. expressive - showing feelings
2. transactional - is to get something done, to get information or to a purpose
3. evaluative - is an analysis of or judgement on something
4. expository - an explanation
5. persuasive - to get the audience onside 
6. instructive - e.g. cooking programmes or ‘how to’
7. collaborative - using speech to work together to get things done


Language Theories

(1) Howard Giles’ Communication Accommodation Theory, 1973 “when people interact they adjust their speech, their vocal patterns and their gestures, to accommodate to others” Turner and West, 2010

In other words, people’s speech converges - moves into a similar style. Accents may converge, speakers may ‘echo’ each other’s language or mirror levels of formality, informality, colloquial language, dialect, jargon or slang. This is used to build intimacy.

Here are some examples of convergence from two interviews with David Cameron. Context (pragmatics) one interview is primarily political shown at seven pm, another is shown on daytime television for a largely female audience.

Features of convergence in Cameron’s language:
- inclusive language ‘we’ - meaning ‘we the government’ and ‘we the nation’
- colloquial language ‘not unlike your credit card’, ‘you know’, ‘max out’, ‘dad’ and ‘mum’ - informal, personal - intimate.
- contractions ‘cos’
- prosodic features ‘aha’ ‘aah’
- fillers ‘erm’ ‘er’ are used more in the programme for the female audience

Why would Cameron want to minimize social differences when he is in a high status position, and when men traditionally emphasise status?
1. because DC is having to make very unpopular, painful cuts and he needs popular support (political); he is part of a coalition and needs collaborative support to get his policies agreed.
2. DC suffers from being seen as being 'out of touch' due to his Eton and Oxford background and social privilege, so it’s even more important for him to show that he’s a man of the people

NOTICE that he shares his feelings using expressive language on the programme aimed at women.

(2) Politeness Theory
Janet Holmes’ definition of this is where a speaker gives ‘credit to someone other than the speaker’ (1986)
Why do people do this?
To be kind (altruism). This is usually intended to make others feel good, according to Wierzbicka.
It increases or confirms rapport between the speaker and addressee- Wolfso, Holmes, Herbert


484 naturally occurring compliments were analysed between New Zealand men and women. What did they find? Women gave 68% and received 74% of all compliments. Compliments between men were fairly rare (9%). Men received overall considerably fewer compliments than women (26%). American studies support this.
Why does this happen?
Herbert (1990) suggested that though compliments between men are less frequent, they are more likely to be taken as ‘genuine expressions of admiration’. Women’s compliments are less sincere(!).

(3) Deborah Tannen’s Gender Theory
David Cameron’s talk seems to contradict Deborah Tannen’s gender theory of language about intimacy and independence. He shows plenty of signs of politeness, convergence and intimate, expressive language. The pragmatics show why: the audience of This Morning is likely to be people who stay at home in the day, of which a large proportion are women, so according to Communication Accommodation theory, he will try to converge with this audience. This Morning is a personal interview, the purpose of which is expressive and expository.

Status, independence is meant to be more important for men - but he’s trying to be a man of the people and is also part of a coalition, so getting things done requires cooperation, agreement and a sense of togetherness.