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Utterance


In spoken language analysis an utterance is a smallest unit of speech. It is a continuous piece of speech beginning and ending with a clear pause. In the case of oral languages, it is generally but not always bounded by silence. Utterances do not exist in written language, only their representations do. They can be represented and delineated in written language in many ways.

In oral/spoken language utterances have several features including paralinguistic features which are aspects of speech such as facial expression, gesture, and posture. Prosodic features include stress, intonation, and tone of voice, as well as ellipsis, which are words that the listener inserts in spoken language to fill gaps. Moreover, other aspects of utterances found in spoken languages are non-fluency features including: voiced/un-voiced pauses (like "umm"), tag questions, and false starts when someone begins their utterances again to correct themselves. Other features include: fillers ("and stuff"); accent/dialect; deictic expressions, which are utterances like "over there!" which need further explanation to be understood; simple conjunctions ("and," "but," etc.); and colloquial lexis which are everyday informal words.

Utterances that are portrayed in writing are planned, in contrast to utterances in improvised spoken language. In written language there are frameworks that are used to portray this type of language. Discourse structure (which can also be found in spoken language) is how the conversation is organized, in which adjacency pairs - an utterance and the answer to that utterance - are used. Discourse markers are used to organize conversation ("first," "secondly," etc.). Lexis denotes the words being used in a text or spoken; these words can create a semantic field. For example, a semantic field of love can be created with lexical choices such as adore, admire, and care. Grammar/syntax is another feature of language in general but also utterances, and pragmatics means that when utterances are spoken or written the meaning is not literal, as in sarcasm.



  • Boundaries – All utterances must be bounded by a "change of speech subject". This usually means, as previously mentioned, that they are bounded by silence.
  • Responsivity or dialogicity – The utterance must be either responding/following a previous utterance or generating dialogue.
  • Finalization – An utterance must have a clear ending, and only occurs if the speaker has said everything he or she wishes to say.
  • Generic form – The choice of the speech genre is determined based on the specific circumstances and sphere in which the dialogue occurs.
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Wikipedia

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