Manner of Production:
Nunan (1993) states that the manner of production of speech is fast and speedy which makes the speakers’ talk less forethought and spontaneous. Whereas, writing is a slower activity in which the writers have time to organize their ideas and produce a “more complex, coherent and integrated whole”.
Moreover, Nunan (1993) believes that written and spoken texts are different in terms of durability and permanence. Spoken text is that of a transient nature, unless it is recorded, while written discourse is relatively permanent and durable. When a thing is written down, the resulting document serves as a proof that those words were expressed and this is how it can exist for years or even centuries. However, spoken words live for the moment.
There is a gap between speech and writing in terms of contextual features also. Nunan (1993) says that spoken communication shows an “on-line monitoring” where the interlocutors share the same context. They are physically present at the same place and normally have a considerable amount of background knowledge about each other and about the topic of conversation. However, written texts are decontextualized as they cannot depend on the reader’s contributions or any other contextual clues. The situation has to be inferred from the text and the words need to convey all shades of meaning in order to ensure the reader’s comprehension. That’s why, writing is considered to be processed “off-line”.
“A speaker speaks to a listener who is right there, nodding or frowning, interrupting or questioning. For the writer, the reader’s response is either delayed or non-existent. The writer has only that one chance to convey information and be interesting and accurate enough to hold the reader’s attention.” (Chafe 1982)
To highlight the differences in terms of linguistic features Nunan (1993) states that written language contains a properly structured syntax with meaningful sentences and embedded clauses. On the contrary, speech is loaded with incomplete expressions and fragmented sentences. Secondly, he says that the writers use logical conjunctions to connect their thoughts (such as: then, when, however, moreover etc). Whereas, speakers replace these conjunctions with gap-fillers such as ‘er’, ’emm’, ‘hmm’ etc. Similarly, the use of punctuations in writing is substituted by hesitation and pauses in speech.
While dealing with linguistic differences, Nunan (1993) also writes that written language is grammatically more complex than speech. Written text contains more information packed in it with the use of well-organized grammar. However, speech occurs in several clauses where less information is being conveyed in a longer chain of sentences.
Nunan (1993) introduces the term “lexical density” with reference to linguistic features of spoken and written discourse. He says that spoken and written languages also differ in the ratio of content words to grammatical or function words. Content words include nouns, adjectives and verbs while grammatical words include such things as prepositions, pronouns and articles. The number of content words per clause is referred to as “lexical density”. Thus, written language is lexically denser than oral language.
In spite of all these differences there lie certain contradictions as well. It is generally observed that a “one-way” speech (monologue) has more in common with writing than a “two-way” talk (dialogue). Thus, it reveals that the degree of reciprocity and formality within the different forms of the same medium of language make some of the absolute differences blurred and unreliable.
ANALYSIS OF THE TEXTS
This section aims at presenting a comparative analysis of two samples of speech: one spoken and one written. Both the texts are structured around the same topic. The spoken text has been recorded from a live cricket commentary of the match held on May 11, 2009 between Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals in Indian Premier League (IPL). The duration of the extracted commentary is one minute. Similarly, the written text is a commentary-based online article about the same cricket match entitled “IPL: Deccan Chargers Thrash Rajasthan Royals”.
The following discussion states some of the major differences between spoken and written language with reference to the chosen texts.