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Features of everyday conversation

Simple phrasal structure
Phrasal structure is simple and there is a frequent use of pronouns rather than nouns.
When a noun is used, the structure is simple: It's A (determiner) BIG (adjective) HOUSE (noun).

Phrases are shorter

Clause combination
Clauses tend to be strung together in a non-hierarchical way, by means of coordinating conjunctions like AND, OR, BUT and simple subordinating conjunctions, such as BECAUSE, COS and SO.
Clausal blend are frequent and they occur when a structure is completed in a totally different way from that they began.

Syntactic position of the items
Positioning is more flexible compared to writing (there is more spontaneity). FOr examples, adjuncts may occur also in non-standard position: I followed with great interest I must say...


Pauses, filled or unfilled, occur frequently.
Unfilled pauses are brief moments of silence and frequently mark a shift in topic.
Filled pauses are occupied by VOCALIZATIONS like er, erm, uh, um or by LEXICAL FORMS such as like, well, you know... Besides marking a shift in topic, filled pause may also signal that speakers wish to maintain their turn or are selecting appropriate words.

Repeating and recasting (used because of time pressure)
Speakers often repeat words or phrases, especially at the beginning of utterances (that's not a repetition).
Recasting, or backtracking, is also frequent, in order to better qualify what has been said (you say something in a different way, maybe more detailed).

Discourse markers
Discourse markers such as ANYWAY, RIGHT, OKAY, WELL, SO and NOW are used to mark boundaries between topics and stages in a conversation.
Discourse markers such as YOU KNOW or YOU SEE are used to check the understanding and to keep the listener involved in the conversation.
I MEAN is a common discourse markers used to add something to what has been said.

The term deixis refers to the orientational features of language, in term of person, space and time. Examples of deixis are personal pronouns, adverbs and demonstrative pronouns. The use of this and that is interesting and the use is emotional. They have a meaning in the context you used them.

The term ellipsis means that something is left out, or elided.
There are three types of ellipsis:
TEXTUAL, He applied and (he) got the job
STRUCTURAL, The car (that) he was driving
SITUATIONAL, where some items are elided because they belong to the immediate environment. We can elided personal subjects, determiners, initial prepositions and initial auxiliary verbs.
In common fixed expressions initial elements are often elided: good thing, not worth.

Response tokens
The term RESPONSE TOKEN refers to adjectives (fine, good, great, excellent) and adverbs (certainly, indeed, really) which provide positive feedback and may mark boundaries in the conversation. They often co-occur with other markers, such as thanks, checks, confirmations and greetings ( in adjacency pairs).

Fronting is the process thanks to which the standard word order of an element is changed, and it is placed at the beginning of a clause (especially objects and complements, sometimes to give more attention)

Headers are a subcategory of fronting and they are called left-dislocation. A header is typically a noun or a noun phrase followed by one or more pronouns referring to it. In narratives and jokes they are used as title: The time we were living in Hong Kong.

Tails are sometimes called right-dislocation and they are typically a noun phrase which clarifies or repeats the referent of a pronoun in the preceding clause:
Are they both at the university, your brother's kids?

Question tags
In informal speech, question tags may be used in requests. They are typically found at the end of the clause but they can interrupt the clause in informal speech. At times, FIXED TAGS like right, okay, yeah, don't you think? are used.
You couldn't carry this for me, could you?
Don't tell anybody about this, yeah?

Echo questions
Echo questions have a declarative word order + wh-word. They may also consist in a determiner + what.
That looks like a dinosaur. Like a what?
You have to go to Phoenix? Have to go where?
Two-step questions
One question may preface another question, which is perceived as too personal or too direct.
I wondered if I might ask you something.
Would you....?

Vague language
Vague language consists of VAGUE NOUNS (thing, stuff, thingy, what-do-you-call-it), VAGUE MARKERS (or so, or something, or anything) and VAGUE QUANTITIES (number +odd, number + ish, around, approximately, expressions such as bags of, a touch of, thousands, millions...)
di Melissa Gattoni
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