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Language functions in two main forms: the spoken language & the written language. Though the main concern of phonetics is to investigate the varieties of the spoken language, the written lan-ge can not be dismissed altogether, as it is very often read aloud, or recited, or it guides the speaker when his speech is prepared & written down in advance.

Scholars distinguish a number of functional styles of the written lan-ge, such as belles-lettres style, publistic style, newspaper style, the style of official documents & that of scientific prose, which have clearly distinguishable lexical & syntactical peculiarities. Apart from a few scattered studies of oratorical & conversational styles, the styles of the spoken lan-ge are not as yet unanimously defined, though we are well aware of the phonetic differences between, say, a casual conversation & an official exchange of views.

A close examination of the speech characteristics of one & the same person easily reveals that each native speaker uses several varieties of the lan-ge. He uses one at home, another with his colleagues, a third when addressing an audience & so on.

At home he usually speaks rather carelessly, with colleagues his speech, though rapid at times, is less careless, & when addressing an audience his speech is more careful.

Each of these varieties may differ in the usage of items of vocabulary & in grammatical structures, but by far the most striking distinctions are phonetical. At times these varieties differ only phonetically, nevertheless they are easily identified by all the native speakers. E.g. “Do you know her?”, when pronounced as [d `n ә], or again “come here”, when pronounced [k'miә] are easily identified as belonging to informal conversation.

The main circumstances of reality that cause phonetic modifications in speech are as follows:

a) the aim of speech (which may be to instruct, to inform, to persuade, to narrate, to chat etc.;

b) the extent of spontaneity of speech (unprepared speech, prepared speech, etc.);

c) the nature of interchange, i.e. the use of a form of speech which may either suggest only listening, or both listening & an exchange of remarks (a lecture, a discussion, a conversation, etc.).

d) social & psychological factors, which determine the extent of formality of speech & the attitudes expressed (a friendly conversation with close friends, a quarrel, an official conversation, etc.).

These circumstances, or factors, are termed extra linguistic factors.

Different ways of pronunciation, caused by extra linguistic factors & characterized by definite phonetic features, are called phonetic styles, or styles of pronunciation.

The notion of styles of pronunciation was introduced by M. Lomonosov in the 18th century. Since then it has attracted many linguists. Though the difference in the styles of pronunciation are recognized by all, there is no generally accepted classification of styles of pronunciation as yet L. Scherba, one of the first linguists to make a study of the styles of pronunciation, distinguishes two styles: the full style & the colloquial style.

The full styles is the pronunciation used in deliberately careful speech, while the colloquial style of pronunciation, as he defines it, is the pronunciation used in ordinary conversation. Cf. “Александр Александрович” & “Альсан Саныч” or “Сан Саныч”. L.Scherba notes that the colloquial style embraces different varieties of pronunciation which, as he says, are not easily differentiated one from another.

Most of the phoneticians who deal with Russian pron-n (R. Avanesov, L. Bulanin) distinguish 3 styles of pronunciation:

a) the full style or elevated style (used when speaking officially, reciting & reading aloud to a large audience)

b) the neutral style (used when lecturing, broadcasting)

c) colloquial style (used in rapid & careless speech)

English phoneticians distinguish a greater number of styles of pronunciation, although among them there is no generally accepted classification of pronunciation styles either. Thus, D.Jones distinguishes 5 styles of pronunciation:

a) The rapid familiar style,

b) The slower colloquial style,

c) The natural style used in addressing an audience,

d) The acquired style of the stage,

e) The acquired style used in singing.

J.Kenyon distinguishes 4 principal styles of “Good Spoken English”:

a) Familiar colloquial,

b) Formal colloquial,

c) public-speaking style,

d) public-reading style.

D.Crystal & D.Davy consider that the term “the English Lan-ge” is not a “single homogeneous phenomenon at all, but rather a complex of many different ‘varieties’ of lan-ge in use in all kinds of situation”. They consider that the differences between these varieties are due to the kind of social situation the speaker is in, including the social position of the speaker & the person spoken to. Their main concern is to establish the general phonetic distinctions of the varieties of current En-sh, such as conversational En-sh (which in its turn includes “discussion»,» talking”, etc.), television advertising (which is written En-sh being recited often by professional actors), etc.

All the classifications mentioned above differ not only in the number of styles which they are singled out. The main distinction between them is that they are based on different principles: the degree of carefulness (L.Scherba’s & R.Avanesov’s classification of styles of pronunciation), the extent of formality (J.Kenyon’s classification), and the rate of speech (D.Jone’s classification), the social situations (D.Crystal & D.Davy).



There is evidently a correlation between phonetic & the ‘speech styles’. ‘Speech styles’, just as phonetic styles, are conditioned by the circumstances of reality in which lan-ge functions, by the kind of situation the speaker happens to be in & by the aims of the speech situations. They may be a great variety of situations, aims & circumstances (the situation may be private or public, the speaker may be informing, entertaining, persuading, advertising, he may be excited, friendly etc.).

The question remains open whether there are just as many phonetic styles as there are speech styles.

Phonetic investigations of some of the speech styles have shown that there also exists definite phonetic distinction between lecturing, reading aloud, responding in an interview, casual conversation, official talk & other speech styles.

Some attempts have been made to classify all the numerous varieties of speech forms on account of their phonetic features & other linguistic characteristics. Thus, D.Abercrombie classes them into:

a) Reading aloud (which includes most radio speech & recitation by heart,

b) Monologue (it includes lectures, radio commentaries, etc),

c) Conversation.

But this classification is not consistent, as both “monologue” & “conversation” are spontaneous speech, they differ in the extent of spontaneity & the nature of interchange, whereas “reading aloud” is a different type of speech activity.

Some scholars distinguish between:

a) Phonetic styles of spontaneous speech (conversation, spontaneous monologue, etc), b) phonetic styles of prepared speech (lectures, speeches, etc),

c) Phonetic styles of reading aloud.

In their turn, the phonetic styles of spontaneous speech should be classified into: a) official style,

b) Informal style or the style of everyday-life discourse,

c) Familiar (careless) style.

Each of these subgroups includes numerous varieties which are modified by extra linguistic factors. This classification of phonetic styles was worked out by S.Gaiduchik.

The investigation of phonetic styles have originated a new branch of phonetics-phonostylistics, which is concerned with the identification of the style – forming means, i.e. the phonetic features that enable the native speaker to distinguish intuitively between different styles of pronunciation.


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