Tag Archives: communication

Common Speech Functions

Functions of speech are different ways of communicating. The differences among the speech functions have to do with the intention of the communication. Different intention or goal leads to the use of a different function of speech. There are many different functions if speech but we will look at the six that are listed below.

  • Referential
  • Directive
  • Expressive
  • Phatic
  • Poetic
  • Metalinguistic


Referential speech provides information. For example, a person might share the time with someone (“It’s five o’clock” ). Referential speech can often provide information to a question (“what time is it?”).


Directives or commands that try to get someone to do something. Examples include “turn left” or “sit down”. The context of a directive is one in which something needs or should be done. As such, one person tries to make one or more other persons do something. Even children say directives towards their parents (“give me the ball”).


Expressive speech shares a person’s feelings. An example would be “I feel happy today!”. Expressive communication can at times provide clear evidence of how someone is doing.


Phatic speech is closely related to expressive speech. However, the main difference is that phatic speech is focused on the well-being of others while expressive speech focuses on the feelings of the person speaking.

An example of phatic speech is saying “how are you?”. This is clearly a question but it is focusing on how the person is doing. Another phrase might be “I hope you get well soon.” Again the focus on is on the welfare of someone else.


Poetic speech is speech that is highly aesthetic. Songs and poetry are examples of language that is poetic in nature. An example would be the famous nursery rhyme “Roses are red, violets are blue…..). Poetic speech often has a powerful emotional effect as well.


Metalinguistic speech is communication about language. For example, this entire blog post would be considered by many to be metalinguistic because I a talking about language and not really using language as described in the other functons of speech.


There are many more categories than the ones presented. In addition, the categories presented are not mutually exclusive. Many phrases can be correctly classified into many different categories. For example, if someone says “I love you” you could argue that it’s expressive, poetic, and or even phatic. What is missing is the context in which such a statement is made.


The ways in which we communicated have been briefly explained here. Understanding how people communicate will help others to better understand those around us and improve our style of communicating.


Accommodation Theory in Language Communication

Often when people communicate, they will make a subconscious or even a conscious decision to adjust their speech so that it is more alike or less alike. This is known as accommodation.

In this post, we will look at the following concepts related to accommodation

  • Speech convergence
  • Speech divergence

Speech Convergence

Speech convergence is when people speech starts to sound similar to each other. Often, this is a sign that the speakers are being polite to each other, like each other, and or when one speaker has the interest to please another.

Speech convergence is not only for social reasons. Another reason that a person will modify their speech is for the sake of removing technical jargon when dealing with people who are not familiar with it. For example, when a mechanic speaks to a doctor about what is wrong with their car or when a medical doctor speaks to a patient about the patient’s health. The modification happens so that the other person can understand.

Speech convergence can be overdone in terms of the perceptions of the hearers. For example, if a foreigner sounds too much like a native it can raise suspicion. Furthermore, over convergence can be perceived as insulting and or making fun of others.  As such, some difference is probably wise.

Speech Divergence

Speech divergence happens when people deliberately choose not to mirror each other speaking styles. The message that is sent when doing this is that the people communicating do not want to accommodate, seem polite, or perhaps that they do not like the people they are communicating with.

Examples of this often involve minority groups who desire to maintain their own cultural identity. Such a group will use their language judiciously, especially around the local dominant culture, as a sign of independence.

Accent divergence is also possible. For example, two people from the same country but different socioeconomic standings may deliberately choose to maintain their specific style of communication to indicate the differences between them.


Convergence and divergence in communication can send many different messages to people. It is difficult to determine how people will respond to how a people convergence or divergences from their speaking style. However, the main motivations for accommodation appear to be how such behavior benefits the communicator.

Social Networks and Language Habits

In this post, we will look at how relationships that people have can play a role in how they communicate with those around them. Understanding this can help people to comprehend differences in communication style.

In sociolinguistics, social networks  can refer to the pattern of informal relationships that people have and experience on a consistent basis. There are two dimensions that can be used to describe a persons social network. These two terms are density and plexity.


The density of a social network refers to how well people in your network know each other. In other words, density is ow well your friends know each other. We all have friends, we have friends who know each other, and we have friends who do not know each other.

If many of your friends know each other then the density is high. If your friends do not know each other the density is low. An example of a high density network would be the typical family. Everybody knows each other. An example of a low density network would be employees at a large company. In such a situation it would not be hard to find a friend of a friend that you do not know.


Plexity is a  measure of the various types of interactions that you are involved in with other people. Plexity can be uniplex, which involves one type of interaction with a person or multiplex, which involves many types of interactions with a person.

An example of a uniplex interaction may be a worker with their boss. They only interact at work. A multiplex interaction would again be with members of one’s family. When dealing with family interactions could include school, work, recreation, shopping, etc. In all these examples it is the same people interacting in a multitude of settings.

Language Use in Social Networks

A person’s speech almost always reflects the network that they belong too. If the group is homogeneous we will almost always speak the way everyone else does assuming we want to be a part of the group. For example, a group of local construction workers will more than likely use similar language patterns due to the homogeneous nature of the group while a group of ESL bankers would not as they come from many different countries.

When a person belongs to more than one social network they will almost always unconsciously change the way they communicate based on the context. For example, anybody who has moved away from home communicates differently where they live then when they communicate with family and friends back home. This is true even when moving from one place to another in the same province or state in your country.


The language that people employ is affected by the dynamics of the social network. We naturally will adjust our communication to accommodate who we are talking too.

Types of Oral Language

Within communication and language teaching there are actually many different forms or types of oral language. Understanding this is beneficial if a teacher is trying to support students to develop their listening skills. This post will provide examples of several oral language forms.


A monologue is the use of language without any feedback verbally from others. There are two types of monologue which are planned and unplanned. Planned monologues include such examples as speeches, sermons, and verbatim reading.

When a monologue is planned there is little repetition of the ideas and themes of the subject. This makes it very difficult for ESL students to follow and comprehend the information. ESL students need to hear the content several times to better understand what is being discussed.

Unplanned monologues are more improvisational in nature. Examples can include classroom lectures and one-sided conversations. There is usually more repetition in unplanned monologues which is beneficial. However, the stop and start of unplanned monologues can be confusing at times as well.


A dialogue is the use of oral language involving two or more people. Within dialogues, there are two main sub-categories which are interpersonal and transactional. Interpersonal dialogues encourage the development of personal relationships. Such dialogues that involve asking people how are they or talking over dinner may fall in this category.

Transactional dialogue is dialogue for sharing factual information. An example might be  if someone you do not know asks you “where is the bathroom.” Such a question is not for developing relationships but rather for seeking information.

Both interpersonal and transactional dialogues can be either familiar or unfamiliar. Familiarity has to do with how well the people speaking know each other. The more familiar the people talking are the more assumptions and hidden meanings they bring to the discussion. For example, people who work at the same company in the same department use all types of acronyms to communicate with each other that outsiders do not understand.

When two people are unfamiliar with each other, effort must be made to provide information explicitly to avoid confusion. This carries over when a native speaker speaks in a familiar manner to ESL students. The style of communication is inappropriate because of the lack of familiarity of the ESL students with the language.


The boundary between monologue and dialogue is much clear than the boundaries between the other categories mentioned such as planned/unplanned, interpersonal/transactional, and familiar/unfamiliar. In general, the ideas presented here represent a continuum and not either or propositions.

Student and Teacher Talk in the ESL Classroom

Student and Teacher talk refers to the variety of ways in which a language teacher communicates with their students in the classroom. Generally, teacher talk can be divided into indirect and direct influences that shape the interaction of the students with the teacher and each other. Student talk is more complex to explain but has some common traits. This post will explain the two types of influence that are under teacher talk as well as common characteristics of student talk.

Indirect Influences

Indirect influences is teacher talk that is focused on feelings, asking questions, and using student ideas. The focus on feelings is accepting and acknowledging how students feel. This can also involve praising the students for their work by explaining what they have done well.

Other forms of indirect influences includes using student ideas. The ideas can be summarized by the teacher or they can be repeated verbatim. Either way allows the students to contribute to the class discussion.

Lastly, another indirect influence is asking questions. This is a common way to stimulate discussion. The questions asked must be ones in which the teacher actually expects an answer.

Generally, indirect influences are often soft and passive in nature. This is in direct contrast to direct influences

Direct Influences 

Direct influences are more proactive and sometimes aggressive in nature.  Examples include give directions and or information. In each case, the teacher is clearly in control and trying to lead the class.

Other types of direct influences includes criticism. Criticism can be of student behavior or of the response of a student. This is clearly sending a message to the student and perhaps the class about what are acceptable actions in discussions.

Student Talk

When students talk it is usually to give a specific or open-ended response. A specific response is one in which there is only one answer. An open-ended response can have a multitude of answers.

Students can also respond with silence. This can happen as a result of the inability to express oneself or not understanding the question. Confusion happens when students are all speaking at the same time.

Student may also respond using their native language. This is normally avoided in TESOL but there are times where native language responses are needed for clarification.


Communication in the classroom can show itself in many different. The insights provided hear give examples of the various forms of communication that can happen in a language classroom.

Reflective Thinking in Small Groups

Working in groups requires making decisions together. For many people, this is a frustrating experience. However, there are strategies available that can help guide a group through the decision-making experience.

One method that may help small groups to make decisions is the reflective-thinking approach. This approach was developed by John Dewey and has been in use almost 100 years.

This post will explain the reflective-thinking approach. This approach has five steps…

  1. Define the problem
  2. Analyze the problem
  3. Develop criteria for solving the problem
  4. Develop potential solutions
  5. Select the most appropriate solution

Define the Problem

A group needs to know what problem they are trying to solve. One of the best ways to define the problem is to phrase it as a question. For example, if the problem is students struggling in English class, one way to word this problem as a question would be…

What should we do to help students with their English class?

There are several traits of a clearly worded problem. One, it is clear and specific. In the example above it is clear the English performance is a problem. Two, the phrasing of the question should be open-ended which allows for many different answers. Three, the question should only ask one question. This increase the answer-ability of the question and allows the group to focus.

Analyze the Problem

Before developing solutions, it is imperative that the group analyze the problem. This involves assessing the severity of the problem and the causes of the problem. Determining severity helps to understand who is affected and how any while determining causes can naturally lead to solutions in the next step of this process.

Returning to our English example, it may be that only 5th graders are struggling with English and that most of the 5th graders are ESL students. Therefore, the severity of the problem is 5th graders and the cause is their non-native background. This step also contributes to a deeper focus on the problem.

Develop Criteria for Solving the Problem

Before actually solving the problem, it is important to determine what characteristics and traits the solution should have. This is called criteria development. A criteria is a standard for what the solution to the problem should achieve.

Returning to the English problem, below is a criteria for solving this problem

  1. The solution should be minimal
  2. The solution  should be implemented immediately
  3. The solution should specifically target improving reading comprehension
  4. The solution should involve minimal training of the 5th grade teachers

The criteria helps with focus. It prevents people from generating ideas that are way off track.

Develop Solutions

In this step, the group develops as many solutions as widely and creative as possible. The ideas are recorded. Even though a criteria has been developed, it is not consulted at this stage but is used in the final step.

Select the Solution

All solutions that were developed are now judged by the criteria that was developed previously. Each idea is compared to the group criteria. Each solution that meets the criteria is set aside to discuss further.

Once all acceptable solutions have been chosen it is now necessary to pick the one most acceptable to the group. The first desire should be for consensus, which means everyone accepts the solution. If consensus is not possible, the next option is to vote. Voting benefits the majority while often irritating the minority. This is one reason why voting is the second option.


The reflective-thinking method is an excellent way to efficiently solve problems in a group. This method provides a group with an ability to focus and not get lost when making decisions.


Reasoning is the process of developing conclusion through the examination of evidence. This post will explain several forms of reasoning as listed below.

  • Inductive
  • Deductive
  • Causal
  • Analogical
  • Abductive

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning involves looking at several specific instances or facts and developing a conclusion. Below is an example

  • Fact 1: Dad died from smoking
  • Fact 2: Grandpa died from smoking
  • Fact 3: Uncle is dying from smoking
  • Conclusion: Smoking kills

In the example above, there are several instances of the affect of smoking on people. From these examples, the conclusion reach was smoking is deadly.

The danger of this form of  reasoning is jumping to conclusions based on a small sample size. Just because three people died or are dying of smoking does not mean that smoking is deadly in general. This is not enough evidence to support this conclusion

Deductive Reasoning 

Deductive reasoning involves the development of a general principle testing a specific example against the principle and moving to a  conclusion. Below is an example.

  • Principle: Everybody is mortal
  • Specific example: Thomas is a man
  • Conclusion: Therefore, Thomas is mortal

This method of reasoning is highly effective in persuasion. However, the principle must be sound in order to impact the audience.

Causal Reasoning

Causal reasoning attempts to establish  a relationship between a cause and effect. An example would be as follows.

You slip and break your leg. After breaking your leg you notice that there was a banana on the ground. You therefore reason that you slipped on the banana and broke your leg

The danger of causal reasoning is it is sometimes difficult to prove cause and effect conclusively. In addition, complex events cannot often be explained by a single cause.

Analogical Reasoning

Analogical reasoning involves the comparison of two similar cases making the argument that what is true for the first is true for the second. Below is an example.

  • Fact 1: Thomas is good at playing the trumpet
  • Fact 2: Thomas is good at playing the French Horn
  • Conclusion: Thomas is probably good at playing the trombone

The example above assumes that Thomas can play the trombone because he can play other brass instruments well. It is critical that the comparison made is truly parallel in order to persuade an audience.

Abductive Reasoning

Abductive reasoning involves looking at incomplete information and trying to make sense of this through reasonable guesses. Perhaps the most common experiences people have with abductive reasoning is going to the hospital or mechanic. In both situations, the doctor and mechanic listen to the symptoms and try to make a diagnosis as to exactly what the problem is.

Of course, the doctor and mechanic can be completely wrong which leads to other problems. However, unlike the other forms of reasoning, abductive reasoning is useful for filling in gaps in information that is unavailable.


Reasoning comes in many forms. The examples provided here provide people with different ways these forms of reasoning can be used.


Diglossia literally means “two tongues.” This definition gives the impression that diglossia and bilingualism are the same thing. However, diglossia is a distinct form of bilingualism in that the use of the two languages are determined by the function.

A diglossia consists of a high and low language. The high language is used for specific purpose such as business transactions, ceremonies, and religious rites. The low language is used for everyday conversation. You would never hear a person use the low language for normal conversation.

The context in which the high and low languages are used are called domains. There are many different domains such as family, work, school, church, etc. Each of these domains calls for either the high or low language. For example, the high language may be used when speaking of politics while the low language may be used for speaking about sports.

There are several examples of diglossia in the world. In America, African Americans often have their own distinct form of English which functions as a low language. Regular or standard English would be the high language in this situation. At home, African American English is spoken and in public a switch to standard English is often made.

There is often an interaction between diglossia and bilingualism in language. In general, there are four ways in which diglossia and bilingualism can interact in a community.

  1. The community has diglossia and bilingualism
  2. The community has diglossia but not bilingualism
  3. The community has bilingualism but disglossia
  4. The community does not have disglossia or bilingualism

Below are examples of each

Diglossia and Bilingualism 

An example of this is an African American community where the people can speak standard English (high language), African American English (low language) while also being fluent in another language like Spanish (second language).

Diglossia but not Bilingualism

Same as above, the African American community knows standard Enlgish as well as African American English but the community does not speak Spanish or any other language.

Bilingualism but no Diglossia

The African American community speaks standard English and also speaks another language, such as Spanish, but does not use African American English.

Neither Diglossia or Bilingualism

The African American community only speaks standard English and does not speak African American English or any other language such as Spanish.


Communities vary in there perception of their high and low languages. Some look down on the low language while using it while others are proud of the low language while feeling forced to learn the high. The points is that with diglossia, the use of a second language is connected to a particular social setting.

Understanding Fallacies

Fallacies are errors in reasoning. They happen in speech and in writing. The danger of fallacies is that they can deceive people into accept false ideas and claims that can lead to serious consequences. In this post we will look at several types of fallacies with examples.

Hasty Generalization

A hasty generalization happens when an individual makes a broad claim on a few instances. Below is an example

Throughout American history, military leaders who become president are terrible leaders. Consider the examples of Ulysses Grant and James Buchanan..

The problem with the reasoning in this fallacy is that it is not always true. There are many examples of military leaders who became excellent presidents. Examples include George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower.

False Cause 

A false cause fallacy is claiming that A caused B when there is no real connection. Below is an example.

When ice cream sales increase there is also an increase in homicide rates. Therefore, if we want to reduce homicides we need to reduce ice cream sales.

On the surface, such an argument makes sense. However, correlation is not causation. There are other factors that lead to homicide in addition to ice cream sales.

Invalid Analogy

An analogy is the comparison of two concepts or things for the purpose of explanation. An invalid analogy is the inappropriate comparison of two concepts. Below is an example.

  In America, the school-year is from September to May. Since this schedule works in America it will surely work in Thailand

This analogy is comparing the American and Thailand with the idea that they can both have the same academic calendar. The problem is that both countries are radical different in terms of facilities. Most American classrooms are temperature control while many in Thailand are not. Since there is a lack of air conditioning in many Thai schools the calendar has been adjusted so that teaching does not take place during the hottest time of the year.


A bandwagon fallacy is based on the premise that since so many people are doing A it serves as evidence that everyone should do it. Children are often victims of this fallacy when they try to justify why they did something. Below is an example.

 The action of the administration is appropriate. The reason being because is that 70% of the faculty support the decision of coed dormitories.

The fact that the majority support something is not the only indication of whether it is right or wrong. Other factors such as religious beliefs and even culture may need to be considered as well.


Fallacies can serve as a major tool for confusing people on different topics and ideas. The examples in this post only serve to show some of the few ways that fallacies manifest themselves. It is important for consumer of information to be able to identify fallacies when they are apparent.

Finding a Topic and Purpose in Writing/Speaking

Although not exactly the same writing and public speaking having many things in common. This is especially true during preparation for a paper or presentation. The goal here is not really to compare and contrast writing and public speaking but to point out tools that can be used in both disciplines. In this post, we will cover the following

  • Choosing a topic of a paper/presentation
  • Determining the purpose paper/presentation

Choosing a Topic

The topic is whatever you are going to write or speak about. In reality, there are two types of topics

  1. Topics you already know a lot about
  2. Topics you know very little about

Which of these two choices you pick depends on the audience of your paper/presentation.

Brainstorming is one way of picking a topic. This involves several different techniques such as make webs, clusters or even performing an internet search.The way you pick a topic is not as important as finding something to develop for your audience.

Determining the Purpose

There are two levels at which the purpose is determined, the general and the specific purpose. The general purpose of a paper/presentation is the overall goal of the paper/presentation. There are many different purposes but two common ones are…

  • to inform
  • to persuade

Informing involves teaching the audience about something. For example, you might write a paper on cellphone apps. In this approach, you are teaching the audience about apps.

To persuade means to try and convince people or change their opinion about something. For example, you might have the purpose of showing readers what the best apps for English are. this involves not only presenting information but trying to convince people about what the best English apps are.

Once a general purpose has been determined it is important to develop a specific purpose. The specific purpose is a sentence in which you state what you are going to do in the paper or presentation. In writing, this is also often called the thesis statement.

For example, I might write or develop a speech in which my general purpose is to inform. My specific purpose is to inform the audience about different types of English apps. As you can see, the specific purpose includes the general purpose of to inform or to persuade. Below is a break down of the example in this paragraph

Topic: English Apps

General purpose: To inform

Specific purpose: To inform the audience about different English Apps

There are some tips to developing purpose statements. One, they are never expressed as a question because a purpose statement answers questions. Two, avoid figurative or technical language because they need to be as clear as possible. Lastly, a purpose statement should only be one sentence and deal with one idea as this helps with clarity.


The topic and purpose of a paper/presentation are critical for you to know and develop in advance. This sets the stage for clear communication with whoever you are engaging with your content.

Speech Communication Process

Communicating is at times an intimidating experience for people. This is especially true if they are asked to speak in public. Public Speaking or communicating, in general, is comprised of several elements. These elements include

  • Speaker
  • Message
  • Channel
  • Listener
  • Feedback
  • Interference
  • Situation

Speaker & Message

The speaker is the one who is attempting to share a message. A successful speaker needs to be convincing as well as possess authoritative knowledge of their topic. In addition, a speaker should have some enthusiasm for what they are sharing. We have been in the presence of a boring expert. A person who had knowledge but lack the energy to deliver the content in a way that was engaging.

The speaker also possesses the message or what they are sharing. The success of the message depends on the organizational skills of the speaker. The main points need to be clear and understandable. Ideas and supporting details need to be crafted in a way for maximum impact. Often, a message will make a lot of sense to the speaker but not to anyone else.

Channel & Listener

The channel is the medium through which the message comes. Examples of channels include radio, phone, internet, tv, and verbal. As such, public speaking is more than just in person but through other channels as well.

The listener is the person who is receiving the message through a channel. To communicate effectively, a speaker must be able to empathize, or see the world from the viewpoint of the audience. Everyone has a different perspective and the channel of being able to relate to the audience is a major burden for a speaker.

Feedback & Interference

Feedback is the messages the listener sends to the speaker. This most often happens in face-to-face settings and involves body language. Members in the audience might lean forward showing interesting or fold their arms to show they disagree. The speaker needs to monitor this and make necessary adjustments in their presentation in order to fully engage or convince the audience depending on their goal.

Interference is anything that slows down the effectiveness of communication when speaking. For example, there might be construction happening outside that makes it hard to hear. Or, someone is feeling sick while you are presenting. The first example is external interference which means comes from outside the audience while the second is an example of internal interference as it is coming from within the audience.


The situation is the context in which the communication takes place. How we speak at a party is different from a funeral and vice versa. A speaker must keep in mind the situation when preparing. The appropriateness of jokes and criticism depends on the situation that one is required to share.


Communication is much more complicated than many people thought. The seven components mentioned here are among the most common and agreed upon by scholars. When speaking people need to aware of the impact of the message as well as the way it is communicated in various context.