Discourse and Presentation

The Discourse and Presentation Standards focus on fostering students’ understanding and working knowledge to prepare and present knowledge and ideas effectively through findings and supporting evidence appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. These standards promote strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data, develop appropriate linguistic register for both presenting and to analyze other presenters’ point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric. They also include preparation for and participation in a range of conversations and collaborations with different audiences.

For instruction each year to help ensure students gain adequate mastery of a range of skills and applications, students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-level standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades.

Comprehension and Collaboration

Students will be able to:

  • Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and signing.
  • Evaluate a signer’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

  • Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that viewers can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
  • Adapt sign to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal ASL when indicated or appropriate.


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Discourse refers to the use of language beyond single sentences. Discourse is an important study for the English language because it allows individuals to express their ideas and thoughts effectively, understand and interpret the perspectives and opinions of others, and build relationships through effective communication. Discourse analysis is also critical for language teachers and researchers to better understand language use and development.

What is the definition of discourse?

Discourse is the verbal or written exchange of ideas. Any unit of connected speech or writing that is longer than a sentence and that has a coherent meaning and a clear purpose is referred to as discourse.

An example of discourse is when you discuss something with your friends in person or over a chat platform. Discourse can also be when someone expresses their ideas on a particular subject in a formal and orderly way, either verbally or in writing.

Most of what we know of discourse today is thanks to the French philosopher, writer and literary critic Michel Foucault, who developed and popularised the concept of discourse. You can read about his use of the term in The Archeology of Knowledge and Discourse on Language (1969).

Discourse Image of woman with laptop StudySmarter

What is the function of discourse?

Discourse has significant importance in human behaviour and the development of human societies . It can refer to any kind of communication.

Spoken discourse is how we interact with each other, as we express and discuss our thoughts and feelings. Think about it - isn't conversation a huge part of our daily lives? Conversations can enrich us, especially when they are polite and civil.

Civil discourse is a conversation in which all parties are able to equally share their views without being dominated. Individuals engaged in civil discourse aim to enhance understanding and the social good through frank and honest dialogue. Engaging in such conversations helps us live peacefully in society.

What is more, written discourse (which can consist of novels, poems, diaries, plays, film scripts etc.) provides records of decades-long shared information. How many times have you read a book that gave you an insight into what people did in the past? And how many times have you watched a film which made you feel less alone because it showed you that someone out there feels the same way you do?

'Discourse analysis' is the study of spoken or written language in context and explains how language defines our world and our social relations.

What is Critical Discourse Analysis?

Critical discourse analysis is an interdisciplinary method i n the study of discourse that is used to examine language as a social practice. The method is aimed at the form, structure, content and reception of discourse, in both spoken and written forms. Critical discourse analysis explores social relations, social problems, and the ' role of discourse on the production and reproduction of power abuse or domination in communications'.

Teun A. van Dijk offers this definition of CDA in ' Multidisciplinary Critical Discourse Analysis : A plea for diversity .' (2001).

CDA explores the relationship between language and power . Because language both shapes and is shaped by society, CDA offers an explanation of why and how discourse works.

The social context in which discourse occurs influences how participants speak or write.

If you write an email to apply for a job, you would most likely use more formal language , as this is socially acceptable in that situation.

At the same time, the way in which people speak ultimately influences the social context.

If you are meeting your new boss and you have prepared for a formal conversation, but all of your other colleagues are chatting with your boss in a more casual manner, you would do the same as everyone else, in this way changing what is expected.

By examining these social influences, critical discourse analysis explores social structures and issues even further. Critical discourse analysis is problem or issue -oriented: it must successfully study relevant social problems in language and communication, such as racism, sexism, and other social inequalities in conversation . The method allows us to look into the sociopolitical context - power structures and the abuse of power in society.

Critical discourse analysis is often used in the study of rhetoric in political discourse, media, education and other forms of speech that deal with the articulation of power.

Linguist Norman Fairclough 's (1989, 1995) model for CDA consists of three processes for analysis, tied to three interrelated dimensions of discourse:

Tip: These three dimensions require different types of analysis, such as text analysis (description), processing analysis (interpretation), and social analysis (explanation). Think about when your teacher asks you to analyse a newspaper and determine its author's bias. Is the author's bias related to their social background or their culture?

Simply put, critical discourse analysis studies the underlying ideologies in communication. A multidisciplinary study explores relations of power, dominance, and inequality, and the ways these are reproduced or resisted by social groups via spoken or written communication.

Language is used to establish and reinforce societal power, which individuals or social groups can achieve through discourse (also known as 'rhetorical modes').

What are the four types of discourse?

The four types of discourse are d escription, narration, exposition and argumentation .

Description is the first type of discourse. Description helps the audience visualise the item or subject by relying on the five senses. Its purpose is to depict and explain the topic by the way things look, sound, taste, feel, and smell. Description helps readers visualise characters, settings, and actions with nouns and adjectives. Description also establishes mood and atmosphere (think pathetic fallacy in William Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606).

Examples of the descriptive mode of discourse include the descriptive parts of essays and novels . Description is also frequently used in advertisements .

Let's look at this example from the advert for One Bottle by One Movement:

'Beautiful, functional, versatile and sustainable.

At 17 oz / 500ml it's the only bottle you'll ever need, using double-wall stainless steel which will keep your drinks cold for 24 hours or piping hot for 12. It's tough, light and dishwasher safe.'

The advert uses descriptive language to list the qualities of the bottle. The description can affect us; it may even persuade us to buy the bottle by making us visualise exactly what the bottle looks and feels like.

Narration is the second type of discourse. The aim of narration is to tell a story . A narrator usually gives an account of an event, which usually has a plot. Examples of the narrative mode of discourse are novels, short stories, and plays .

Consider this example from Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet (1597):

'Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents' strife.' ¹

Shakespeare uses a narrative to set the scene and tell the audience what will occur during the course of the play. Although this introduction to the play gives the ending away, it doesn't spoil the experience for the audience. On the contrary, because the narration emphasises emotion, it creates a strong sense of urgency and sparks interest. Hearing or reading this as an audience, we are eager to find out why and how the 'pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life'.

Exposition is the third type of discourse. Exposition is used to convey background information to the audience in a relatively neutral way . In most cases, it doesn't use emotion and it doesn't aim to persuade.

Examples of discourse exposure are definitions and comparative analysis .

What is more, exposure serves as an umbrella term for modes such as:

Exemplification (illustration) : The speaker or writer uses examples to illustrate their point.

Michael Jackson is one of the most famous artists in the world. His 1982 album 'Thriller' is actually the best-selling album of all time - it has sold more than 120 million copies worldwide.

Cause / Effect : The speaker or writer traces reasons (causes) and outcomes (effects).

I forgot to set my alarm this morning and I was late for work.

Comparison / Contrast : The speaker or writer examines the similarities and differences between two or more items.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is shorter than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows .

Definition : The speaker or writer explains a term, often using examples to emphasise their point.

Rock is a type of popular music originating in the late 1960s and 70s and characterized by a heavy beat and simple melodies. One of the most famous rock songs is 'Smoke on the Water' by the English band Deep Purple.

Problem / Solution : The speaker or writer draws attention to a particular issue (or issues) and offers ways in which it can be resolved (solutions).

Climate change is possibly the biggest issue humanity has ever faced. It is a largely man-made problem that can be solved by the creative use of technology.

Argumentation is the fourth type of discourse. The aim of argumentation is to persuade and convince the audience of an idea or a statement. To achieve this, argumentation relies heavily on evidence and logic .

Lectures, essays and public speeches are all examples of the argumentative mode of discourse.

Take a look at this example - an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech ' I Have a Dream' (1963):

'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. (...). This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. ' ²

In his speech, Martin Luther King Jr. successfully argued that African Americans should be treated equally to white Americans. He rationalised and validated his claim. By quoting the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), King argued that the country could not live up to the promises of its founders unless all its citizens lived in it freely and possessed the same rights.

What are the three categories of literary discourse?

There are three categories of literary discourse - poetic, expressive, and transactional .

Poetic discourse

Poetic discourse is a type of literary communication in which special intensity is given to a text through distinctive diction (such as rhyme), rhythm , style, and imagination. It incorporates different poetic devices to emphasise the poet's expression of feelings, thoughts, ideas or description of events and places. Poetic discourse is most common in poetry but it is also frequently used by writers of prose .

Let's look at this example from the tragedy Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare:

'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, letter candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.' ³

In this soliloquy, Macbeth mourns the death of his wife, Lady Macbeth, and ponders the futility of an unfulfilled life. The use of literary devices and poetic techniques, such as repetition, metaphor and imagery, evokes strong emotions.

Expressive discourse

Expressive discourse refers to literary writing that is creative but not fictional. This writing aims to generate ideas and to reflect the author's emotions, usually without presenting any facts or arguments.

Expressive discourse includes diaries, letters, memoirs, and blog posts.

Consider this example from The Diary of Anaïs Nin (1934-1939):

'I was never one with the world, yet I was to be destroyed with it. I always lived seeing beyond it. I was not in harmony with its explosions and collapse. I had, as an artist, another rhythm , another death, another renewal. That was it. I was not at one with the world, I was seeking to create one by other rules…. The struggle against destruction which I lived out in my intimate relationships had to be transposed and become of use to the whole world .' 4

In her diaries, Nin reflects on her feelings of being a woman and an artist in the 20th century. She wrote this passage in preparation for leaving France at the start of World War Two. W e can read her sense of the disconnection between her intense inner world and the violence of the outer world. This example is a trademark of expressive discourse, as it delves into personal ideas and explores inner thoughts and feelings.

Transactional discourse

Transactional discourse is an instructional approach that is used to encourage action . It presents a non-ambiguous plan that is clear to the reader and is usually written in an active voice . Transactional discourse is common in advertising, instruction manuals, guidelines, privacy policies, and business correspondence.

This excerpt from the novel The Midnight Library (2020) by Matt Haig is an example of transactional discourse:

'An instruction manual for a washing machine is an example of transactional discourse: 1. Put washing detergent in the drawer2. Push the power button to switch on the power3. Select the suitable automatic programme4. Select the suitable delay wash programme5. Close the top lid6. Finish washing' 5

This is a clear plan - a list of instructions. Haig uses transactional discourse as part of his work of fiction in order to add realism to the relative part of the story.

Discourse - key takeaways

¹ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet , 1597

² Martin Luther King Jr., 'I Have a Dream', 1963

³ William Shakespeare, Macbeth , 1606

4 Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin , Vol. 2, 1934-1939

5 Matt Haig, The Midnight Library, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions about Discourse

--> what does discourse mean.

Discourse means the verbal or written exchange of ideas. Discourse is any unit of connected speech or writing that is longer than a sentence and that has a coherent meaning and a clear purpose.

--> What is Critical Discourse Analysis?

Critical Discourse Analysis is an interdisciplinary method in the study of discourse that is used to examine language as a social practice. Critical discourse analysis explores wider societal relations, social problems, and the 'role of discourse on the production and reproduction of power abuse or domination in communications.'

--> What are the four types of discourse?

The four types of discourse are Description, Narration, Exposition and Argumentation. These types of discourse are also known as modes. 

--> What are the three categories of literary discourse?

The three categories of literary discourse are Poetic, Expressive and Transactional.

--> Why is civil discourse important in a democratic society?

Civil discourse is communication in which all parties are able to equally share their views. Individuals engaged in this kind of discourse intend to enhance understanding through frank and honest dialogue. Civil discourse is important in a democratic society because democracy is built on the idea that everyone in society has the right to share their views and to be heard.

Final Discourse Quiz

Discourse quiz - teste dein wissen.

What literary work is this poetic discourse from?

`` Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

Signifying nothing. ''

Show answer

The tragedy Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare.

Show question

 If a text is used to compel a reader to action, which category of literary discourse would this be?

Which category of literary discourse does this excerpt fall into?

“I marvel how Nature could ever find space

For so many strange contrasts in one human face:

There's thought and no thought, and there's paleness and bloom

And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom. " (6)

Which type of discourse doesn't aim to persuade?

 If a text is used to generate ideas and to express the author's thoughts, which category of literary discourse would this be?

Which type of discourse relies on the five senses?

If a text doesn't refer to facts, which category of literary discourse would this be?

Which type of discourse can you spot in these sentencese?

Once upon a time there was a beautiful house by a lake. The house belonged to magical swans who lived there in perfect harmony.

Which type of discourse is an umbrella term for other modes, such as definition?

Which modes of discourse can you recognize in this excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech?

'' When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.  ''

A. reasoning

B. Exposure

C. Narration

A. Argumentation and C. Narration

If a text is used to express themes and feelings, which category of literary discourse would this be?

'' In the meantime, things are getting more and more wonderful here.  I think, Kitty, that true love may be developing in the Annex. All those jokes about marrying Peter if we stayed here long enough weren't so silly after all. Not that I'm thinking of marrying him, mind you. I don't even know what he'll be like when he grows up. Or if we'll even love each other enough to get married. '' (7)

Which type of discourse is mostly chronological?

Which types of discourse can you spot in these sentences?

Our story begins with a tall, silver-haired old lady. Every Tuesday she would feed the huge, golden lions in the zoo.

A. Exposition

B. Narration

C. Description

B. Narration and C. Description

Which type of discourse relies on evidence?

Finish the definition with the correct phrase.

Critical discourse analysis examines language as….

A social practice

Who developed and popularised the concept of discourse?

Michael Foucault

Critical Discourse Analysis explores the relationship between language and _______.

What does CDA stand for?

Critical discourse analysis

Norman Fairclough's model for critical discourse analysis consists of how many processes?

Which of the following is not a type of discourse?

Name the four types of discourse.

Description, narration, exposition, argumentation.

There are three kinds of literary discourse. What are they?

Poetic, expressive, transactional

Discourse only appears in literature.

True or false?

Critical discourse analysis is _______ -oriented.

of the users don't pass the Discourse quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

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Études de stylistique anglaise

Home Numéros 4 Discourse Presentation and Speech...

Discourse Presentation and Speech (and Writing, but not Thought) Summary

This paper outlines the detailed nature of a relatively neglected phenomenon in discourse presentation and considers its consequences for discourse presentation theory. Careful consideration of the phenomenon of clearly intended speech and writing summary, as well as other phenomena where discourse is clearly presented but not reported , helps us to preserve in a focused way the canonical notion of varying degrees of faithfulness in the reporting of speech and writing originating in anterior contexts, something which is necessary, in my view, to explain the prototypical effects of the different categories on the discourse presentation scales in contexts (e.g. fictional speech) where speech is clearly being presented but not reported. I make a distinction between what I call ‘proposition-domain summary’ (where individual propositions are summarized) and ‘discourse-domain summary’ (the summary of larger stretches of discourse), and suggest that, whereas proposition-domain summary is usually associated with what has usually been called the Narrator’s/reporter’s Representation of a Speech Act (NRSA) on the speech presentation scale and its equivalent (NRWA) on the writing presentation scale, discourse-domain summary can in principle be presented using any of the categories on the speech and writing presentation scales. Consequently, I want to propose scales of speech and writing discourse-domain summary to match the traditional speech and writing presentation (i.e. ‘proposition presentation’) scales. I also suggest that the notion of summary does not sensibly apply to thought presentation and consider the theoretical consequences of this. Along the way, I will (i) propose a minor, but hopefully helpful (because I think it is more accurate and clearer), change in the naming of the discourse presentation categories and their associated acronyms, (ii) discuss some interesting ambiguous cases, (iii) consider how we become aware in reading the presenting text that discourse is being summarized and (iv) correct some errors in Short (1988) and chapter 10 of Leech and Short (2007 [1981]).

Cet article examine les modalités d’un phénomène relativement peu étudié dans le domaine du discours rapporté, à savoir le sommaire de propos rapportés (oraux et écrits, mais pas intérieurs), et il mesure son impact sur la théorie du discours rapporté. Par une attention minutieuse portée au sommaire de propos oraux et écrits, ainsi que d’autres cas où les propos sont de toute évidence présentés mais pas rapportés , on peut retravailler la notion canonique des degrés de fidélité dans le discours rapporté, ce qui est nécessaire, me semble-t-il, pour expliquer les effets prototypiques des différentes catégories sur l’échelle de présentation des propos rapportés dans des contextes (en l’occurrence fictionnels) où les propos sont indiscutablement présentés mais pas rapportés. Je distingue entre ce que j’appelle « sommaire de propositions » (dans lequel sont résumées des propositions individuelles) et « sommaire de discours » (le résumé de portions plus longues de discours) ; j’avance que, alors que le sommaire de propositions est généralement associé à ce que l’on a coutume d’appeler la « représentation d’un acte de parole » par le narrateur – qu’il s’agisse de propos écrits ou oraux –, le sommaire de discours peut en principe utiliser n’importe laquelle des catégories de l’échelle du discours rapporté. Par conséquent, je voudrais proposer une échelle des modalités du discours représenté pour compléter l’échelle des modalités du discours rapporté existante. Je formule également l’hypothèse que la notion de sommaire s’applique mal à la représentation de pensées, et je m’interroge sur les conséquences de ce phénomène. Cette réflexion me permet (1) de présenter un changement mineur, mais que j’espère utile, dans la désignation des catégories de présentation du discours, (2) de commenter quelques cas qui sont intéressants par leur ambiguïté, (3) de considérer les indices qui nous montrent que des propos sont résumés et (4) de corriger quelques erreurs de Short (1988) et du chapitre 10 de Leech et Short (2007 [1981]).

Index terms

Mots-clés : , keywords: , editor's notes.

This article was previously published in Language and Literature , Feb. 2012 vol. 21 n°1 (18-32).

1. Introduction

1 Sternberg (1982a, 1982b), Short (1988), Tannen (1989: 110-19) and Fludernik (1993: 409-14) have pointed out that Direct Speech (DS) can be used to present propositions which cannot possibly be accurate reports, either because, for example, too much time has elapsed for memory of an original to be accurate (this often happens in spoken ‘reports’ of speech, as Tannen points out) or because what is being reported as speech never actually occurred, e.g. in hypotheticals like ‘Get lost’ in ‘I would have said “Get lost” but I was too embarrassed by what he said’ (see Short, Semino and Wynne 2002) or what Fludernik (1993: 11) calls ‘condensed speech acts, in which a brief discourse schematically represents an entire speech event’, a notion which is not unlike, but not identical with, the concept of speech summary which I suggested in Short (1988) and will develop here.

2 Fludernik, following Sternberg, argues via what is termed the ‘direct discourse fallacy’ that the assumption of faithfulness in discourse report has to be abandoned. I have, with others, already argued against this view in Short, Semino and Wynne (2002). There, we argued (a) that it is only when reporting is involved that issues of faithfulness (which effectively means lexical and grammatical faithfulness), 2 and so also the stronger notion of verbatim report (see Clark and Gerrig, 1990), apply and (b) that careful consideration of the context and co-text is needed to be sure that reporting is actually taking place, rather than being merely presentation (as in fictional or hypothetical speech) or re presentation (for example to bring out a contrasting ideological ‘take’ on the original speech). Hence we suggested that for clarity, and to avoid confusion, we need:

3 For discussions of discourse in fiction, I prefer, as indicated in Semino and Short (2004) to use t (...) (a) to distinguish terminologically among (i) discourse presentation (which refers only to the presenting discourse, the posterior discourse in situations of report and representation), (ii) discourse report (which assumes, for direct discourse presentation, a match between the lexis, deixis and grammar in the anterior and posterior discourses) and (iii) discourse representation (which assumes a mismatch between the lexis, deixis and grammar of the anterior and posterior discourses) 3 and
(b) to distinguish systematically among (i) speech, (ii) writing and (iii) thought presentation, only using the term ‘discourse presentation’ and its category-specific equivalents (e.g. ‘free indirect discourse’) when talking very generally or when there is ambiguity or uncertainty as to whether one or another form of discourse is being presented.

3 It is important for us to be very clear about exactly what we are talking about if we are to characterize accurately the meanings and effects of the various forms of discourse presentation. Moreover, thought presentation, unlike speech and writing presentation is not the presentation of a form of ostensible inter- personal communication; and a proper understanding of the presentation of communication also needs to take account of the fact that the assumptions we have about (i) speech and (ii) writing, although similar in many ways, can also be different from one another. Indeed, I suspect that it is because of descriptive imprecision from traditional times to the present over speech/ writing that much of the recent confusion concerning the concept of faithfulness has arisen.

4 ‘Speech’ has always been the default term in discourse presentation, as the oratio directa vs oratio obliqua distinction in Latin rhetoric, in spite of the fact that the recording of spoken language has only been possible over the last hundred years or so, shows. Essentially, most discourse presentation which has been described has, for thousands of years, been found in written (and often fictional) texts. Not surprisingly, then, our canonical assumptions concerning faithfulness actually relate to writing (e.g. written scholarly debates), not speech and it is in writing that the assumptions concerning lexical and grammatical faithfulness to an original in DS presentations are strongest (see Short, Semino and Wynne 2002). As students and scholars, we can be accused of unreasonable manipulation if we misquote from other written texts and on most occasions writers, even tabloid journalists, try not to commit the sin of misquotation (which counts in Gricean terms as a violation of the maxim of quality). 4 And as teachers, we punish our students severely if they violate this maxim in the other direction too. Plagiarism, the pretence that the words of others, and the propositions they present, are those of the current writer is as unpardonable a sin as that of misrepresenting what others have said.

5 All this suggests that the concept of faithfulness needs to be preserved in the real world, otherwise the attitudes I have just referred to cannot be adequately explained. And our responses to fictional discourse presentation are clearly based on the schemata we have developed from our experience of real- world discourse presentation, in line with Ryan’s (1991) Minimum Distance Principle. Of course the notion of faithfulness in fiction is a chimera, as just about everything is invented by the author. In 1 st  - and 2 nd  -person fictional narration there was no actual anterior speech situation for the narrator to ‘report’, even though we pretend to ourselves when reading that there was; and in 3 rd -person narration it is arguable that the idea of anterior vs posterior discourse situations does not sensibly apply at all - it usually seems that what is said is being said for the first time ‘in front of our eyes’. Note also that being faithful to an original in real-world direct speech (DS) does not normally involve correspondences in intonation and pronunciation between the anterior and posterior situations, presumably because they are irrelevant in written presentations and would require talented oral mimicry in spoken presentations.

6 This also shows the salience of writing presentation in the formation of our discourse presentation schemata. Direct speech in novels, for example, has the lively, dramatic qualities that it has, compared with the less dramatic indirect speech (IS) form, precisely because it is associated schematically with a claim to present accurately the lexis, deixis and grammar of the (putative) original, whereas IS does not.

7 Speech and writing summaries, like the presentation of hypothetical speech, do not constitute presentational report and so cannot be used as counter examples to the faithfulness account. Moreover, I suspect that speech summary is much more extensive than we have noticed so far 5 and that many of the examples of inaccurate DS/DW presentation used to date to argue against the notion of faithfulness in discourse report can be seen to be summary, and so not really counter examples at all.

2. My current position on the discourse presentation scales

8 In section 3 below I will discuss a series of examples of speech summary, but as a prelude to that discussion, I need to outline briefly, for those who are not familiar with it, my current view of the speech, writing and thought presentation scales. My current position, is slightly different from Semino and Short (2004) and the same as that presented in Short (2007), except that I now think it clearer to use the term ‘Presentation’ (and so the acronym ‘P’) rather than ‘Representation’ (and so the acronym ‘R’) for the various category labels, as this term focuses entirely on the presenting situation and so helps us to avoid the trap of confusing presentation with representation and report. In the past I, like others, have unfortunately run these notions together. For example, in chapter 10 of Short (1996), following on from chapter 10 of Leech and Short (1981), I use the terms ‘speech presentation’ and ‘thought presentation’ for chapter and section headings but then use ‘representation’ (which suggests a change from an anterior situation to the posterior, presenting situation) for the Narrator’s Representation of a Speech Act (NRSA) category and its thought presentation equivalent (NRTA).

9 For clarity I will first introduce some speech presentation examples (using, as is traditional, roughly equivalent manipulations of an initial DS string) and associated category labels (including the term ‘presentation’ [P] for the reasons outlined above) and then I will outline the faithfulness scales as I currently see them. Note that our assumptions about the effects of the various presentational categories rest on rearranging a DS string to create the other categories and their resultant effects. This helps to explain why we tend to use such proposition-domain manipulations when introducing discourse presentation to students (I distinguish proposition-domain summary from discourse-domain summary in 3 below).

10 These five speech presentation categories, and their equivalents for writing presentation, are each associated canonically with differing sets of proposition- domain faithfulness assumptions, as shown below (where the categories are presented in the reverse order from that above so that I can outline the faithfulness claims in ascending quantitative order from one claim, in NPV, to four claims, in DS):

11 I suggest that the canonical faithfulness assumptions stemming from writing presentation effectively ‘wash over’ straightforwardly onto speech presentation. The faithfulness claims increase, one at a time, as we move down the list, one category at a time, from NPV/NPW to DS/DW, except for FIS/FIW (free-indirect discourse is famously a semantic halfway house between the direct and indirect forms). Indeed, the indeterminacy with respect to faithfulness claim 4 (in novelistic terms, raising the issue of whose words are being used, narrator or character) explains why the free indirect category is perceived by readers and hearers in the way that it is. The NPSA category (and NPWA) is often associated with summary, precisely because the most it can contain is a speech act value plus an indication of the topic of speech. For NPSA/NPWA, unlike DS/DW, FIS/FIW and IS/IW, there is no separate propositional form for the presented string. Discussions of faithfulness in discourse report usually centre on the direct categories, as this is where the largest number of faithfulness claims are made, and rarely consider in any detail the two categories with the least faithfulness claims, precisely because propositional faithfulness is not at issue with these presentational forms. When we move from NPSA/NPWA to NPV/NPW in report, where all we are told is that speech or writing occurred, the faithfulness claim is so weak that the term ‘faithfulness’ no longer relates to the form or content of the reported discourse at all and so the relationship to the fuller proposition-domain forms is non- existent and even the term ‘proposition-domain summary’ is inapplicable.

12 As I have said above, speech presentation and writing presentation, which both involve the presentation of ostensible communication, seem to act in rather similar ways, with the canonical assumptions being even stronger for writing presentation than for speech presentation. However, thought presentation is not the presentation of a communication between people but the presentation of someone’s inner world. So, in the set of discourse presentation scales in Figure 1 below, I separate the thought presentation scale from the other two scales, as in Semino and Short (2004). Square brackets are used to separate off elements which are linked to the discourse presentation scales but are not technically part of the scales themselves. [N] = sentences of the narration of states, events and actions; [NPS]/[NPW]/[NPT] (Narrator’s Presentation of Speech/Writing/Thought = reporting clauses and other, non-clausal, reporting signals):

Figure 1. The discourse presentation scales

7 DW includes FDW for reasons parallel to those noted in note 3 above.

13 Because thought presentation is not the presentation of ostensible communication, the thought presentation scale is constructed on the basis of a less than perfect analogy with the other scales. Some category effects seem to be roughly equivalent, for example the dramatic effects of DT (and some FIT), compared with IT, seem similar to those on the speech and writing presentation scales. But others are not. I argued in chapter 10 of Leech and Short (2007 [1981]) that the differences in effect between FIS (distance from the speaker, irony etc) and FIT (closeness to the speaker, sympathy etc) are a consequence of the fact that the norm for speech presentation (because it is ostensible communication) is DS whereas the norm for thought presentation must be more indirect; consequently the free indirect category represents a move in a different direction from the norm on the thought presentation scale, compared with those for speech and writing presentation scales. The bigger difference between thought presentation and the other forms of discourse presentation is also seen in the need for an extra category of Internal Narration (IN). And, perhaps most importantly for this paper, it is not at all clear that NPTA has a proposition-domain summarizing effect, as NPSA and NPWA usually do, because summary does not seem sensibly to apply to a form of discourse presentation which does not involve ostensible communication and so an ‘original proposition’ is not available to the presenter to be summarized.

3. Speech and writing summary

14 Typically, when stylisticians discuss the NPSA (and NPWA) category they characterize its effect as summarizing in type, for the reasons I have suggested in 2 above. When we establish the various discourse presentation categories, we typically do so, as I did above, by manipulating a proposition in a DS string into the forms associated with the other presentation categories. In other words, the kind of summary that is involved in NPSA and NPWA is effectively proposition-domain summary . However, there is another form of summary, related to whole discourses or parts of them, which I want to call discourse-domain summary . When I was a grammar school pupil many years ago, I was trained to write summaries of texts, to varying lengths (100 words, 500 words, and so on). This was, in effect, I assume, training for possible administrative roles in later life; when secretaries in institutions take the minutes in meetings, what they create, and then present in their ‘published’ minutes of meetings, are discourse-domain writing presentation summaries of anterior speech, sometimes of individual turns in the meeting and sometimes of sequences of turns, summarized together.

15 Once we see that speech and writing can be summarized a proposition at a time or a larger stretch at a time, we can see that there might be ambiguities between whether what is being presented in the NPSA/NPWA form is the summary of a proposition or of some larger piece of discourse. This has led me to realize that I made a mistake in section 10.1.3 of Leech and Short (1981) with two invented examples, [12] and [13], which I used to illustrate what I was then calling the Narrative Report of Speech acts (NRSA; now Narrators’ Presentation of Speech Acts [NPSA]):

10 These invented examples were changed to be more accurate in the second edition of Style in Fiction . He promised to return. He promised to visit her again. 10

11 I would like to thank Geoffrey Leech for pointing this out to me.

16 In fact, both of these examples are formally IS, as the presented string is clearly a clause (albeit a short, non-finite one). 11 I suspect that I was assuming without realizing it that the summary was of more than one proposition in each case, and so mistakenly assumed that, because they were summaries, they were examples of proposition-domain NRSA (now NPSA) summary, as NPSA is the obvious proposition-summary category on the speech presentation scale.

17 Below, I discuss a series of examples of discourse-domain speech summary. I do not have a full catalogue of summary examples yet (in particular, I am still looking for writing presentation examples), but essentially I want to suggest as a consequence of the analyses below that:

(a) in addition to the more ‘standard’, one-proposition-at-a-time, presentation (including proposition-domain summary for NPSA and NPWA), speech presentation and writing presentation can also be used to present summaries of longer stretches of speech and writing (discourse-domain summary), including whole discourses/texts;
(b) as all of the categories on the presentation scales appear in principle to be usable for presenting discourse-domain summary, we effectively need two discourse-domain summary presentation scales (speech and writing) in addition to the three proposition- domain discourse presentation scales (speech, writing and thought), as set out in Short and Semino (2004), with the minor modifications I have suggested in section 2 above;
(c) there is no equivalent discourse-domain thought presentation summary scale as the notion of thought summary does not make much sense – summary can only reasonably occur when an original is available to be summarized, something which is arguably impossible even when we present our own thoughts, let alone those of others;
(d) the establishment of the discourse-domain speech and writing summary presentation scales helps us more easily to identify and describe accurately a range of interesting presentation ambiguities.

3.1. Indirect Speech (IS) discourse-domain summary

18 As I have suggested that the above invented examples from Leech and Short (1981) can be seen as IS discourse-domain summary, I will begin with a clear textual example of this category. Here, and from now on, where relevant I will bolden the stretch of text I am focusing on:

At other times the daughter, heart-stoppingly voluptuous in her tight Californian pants, would lead me by the hand through the ruined garden, to the last clump of still-rooted myrtles, then crouch, bare-kneed, and pull me down beside her, and demand to know my ideological convictions. (Laurie Lee 1969 As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning , 35)

19 This example from an autobiography (which is another example of IS involving a non-finite clause) looks more like the presentation of a summary of what was said rather than of a single proposition, mainly because of the clash between the single-proposition structure and abstract lexis on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the schematic assumptions we have for emotionally- charged interactions. It is implausible that the young woman would have uttered just one, rather abstract, single-proposition sentence like ‘What are your ideological convictions?’ or ‘What are your political views?’. Even though the text is not fictional, in this case, because we do not have access to the original very private conversation referred to, a decision as to whether the presentation is of a discourse-domain summary or not can only be based on what is in the presenting text and the relevant schematic assumptions the reader brings to the text. In real life, it is sometimes possible in principle at least, to check a posterior discourse presentation against a recorded original, although in practice that often turns out not to be possible. The same is true of the following DS examples.

3.2. Direct Speech (DS) discourse-domain summary

20 When, in Short (1988) I discussed newspaper headlines like:

UGH! GET RID OF MY SQUINT ( The Sun , 21 June 1984)
You’ve given me a squint, said Maggie ( Daily Express , 21 June 1984)

21 I pointed out that it was unlikely that Margaret Thatcher, the UK Prime Minister at the time, ever said what she was presented as saying in these DS headlines, and that, indeed, there was no contextual evidence in the ensuing articles for her having used the words presented. The implausibility here relates mainly to character and role. Mrs Thatcher typically spoke rather formally in public in any case, but when she was Prime Minister she also had a duty to keep her language formal to reflect her position. Effectively, then, as with the Laurie Lee example, our assessments of whether we have proposition-domain presentation or discourse-domain summary presentation will be based on textual clues in the presenting text and schematic assumptions related to situation, speaker role and so on.

22 I went on in Short (1988) to consider whether the above examples might be speech summary, but concluded that the DS form weakened that interpretative possibility (even though I noted that IS could sometimes be used to present summaries of stretches discourse longer than one proposition) and came to the conclusion (followed up on, in more detail, in the proposals in Short, Semino and Wynne 2002) that faithfulness constraints varied depending on factors like genre (for example news reports in popular newspapers might be less faithful than those in serious papers) and textual position (for example that headlines might be allowed more faithfulness leeway than the main body of news reports). In other words, although I raised the possibility of speech presentation being used for discourse-domain summarizing purposes I did not really follow the idea through, something which I am beginning to do in this paper. If these examples are indeed DS discourse-domain speech summary, as I now believe, then the standard speech presentation faithfulness considerations do not apply, the only faithfulness constraint being that the wordings, whatever their style, represent a reasonable summary of what was said overall. Of course the standard proposition-domain presentation interpretation is still possible, leading to a possible reading ambiguity. Whether readers respond to the above headlines and equivalents as discourse-domain summaries or the presentation of particular propositions is an empirical issue, of course, which could be tested in future research.

3.3. Narrator’s Presentation of Speech Act (NPSA) discourse-domain summary

23 It is clear in the next, fiction, example that an NPSA discourse-domain summary interpretation of a part of the conversation makes most sense:

. . . one of these questions related to our manner of living, and the place where , because I had heard he had a great plantation in Virginia, and that he had talked of going to live there, and that he had talked of going to live there,
and I told him I did not care to be transported. (Daniel Defoe 1906, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders , 41)

24 There is only one clause (no ‘reporting clause + reported clause structure’), the speech act (question) is specified and the presented string indicates that two topics were asked about, suggesting that more than one clause (and maybe even more than one turn) was uttered.

3.4. Free Indirect Speech (FIS) discourse-domain summary

25 In the extract below, a group of characters are discussing preparations for an expedition they intend to undertake:

And thus it was agreed. They would depart in the spring, to avoid the malarial menace of the later seasons. Each would require a portable bedstead, an air mattress and a pillow; they would take some Oxley's essence of ginger, some good opium, quinine and powders; a portable inkstand, a match-box and supply of German tinder; umbrellas against the sun and flannel belts to ward off cramps of the stomach during the night. (Julian Barnes 1989, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters , p. 149)

26 Arguably all of this extract is discourse-domain speech summary. The first sentence is NPSA. For a group of people all to agree, there must normally be more than one utterance of agreement, so the NPSA must be the summary of a number of contributions. The NPSA summary introduces a stretch of FIS, which again appears to be discourse-domain summary, this time of an extended stretch of interaction. The first of the two FIS sentences has a plural subject, again suggesting more than one speaker and so more than one conversational turn. This in turn suggests that the subsequent sentence, which is in effect a long list of the items that the group would need to take, is also a summary of an extended interaction among the participants about what they would need, probably with different individuals suggesting different items.

3.5. Narrator’s Presentation of Voice (NPV) discourse-domain summary

12 I am grateful to Chang Shuchen for pointing out this example to me. Breathless, half-choking, she told the dreadful story. (Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Garden Party) 12

27 I have classified this example as NPV, not NPSA, discourse-domain summary because the telling of a story (in this case Laura’s description of her encounter with the family of a working-class man who has just been killed in an accident) is unlikely to involve just one proposition and we cannot know what specific speech acts were used in the telling of the story. It would be even more clearly discourse-domain summary if Mansfield had added the topic of the story (e.g. ‘. . . she told the dreadful story of the dead man’). The above sentence could conceivably be NPSA summary if we assume that all of the sentences uttered were statements. This provides support for the theoretical likelihood that there can be inter-category ambiguities on the discourse-domain speech and writing summary scales as well as on the ‘standard’ discourse presentation scales.

28 In Leech and Short (2007 [1981]: 10.1.3) I suggested that ‘Mr D’Arcy came from the pantry, fully swathed and buttoned, and in a repentant voice told them the history of his cold. Everyone gave him advice . . .’ was what I am now referring to as NPSA. A more accurate account, given the above, is that ‘Mr D’Arcy . . . told them the history of his cold’ is ambiguous between NPSA proposition-domain summary presentation and NPV discourse-domain summary presentation, and that ‘Everyone gave him advice’ is NPSA discourse-domain summary presentation.

4. Speech and writing discourse-domain summary presentation scales

29 Given that I have now provided examples of speech presentation discourse-domain summary using each of the standard speech presentation categories, and that it is likely that examples can be found of each of the categories throughout writing summary too, I would like to propose a discourse-domain speech summary presentation scale and a discourse-domain writing summary presentation scale, to match the standard proposition-domain speech and writing presentation scales (where the subscript ‘s’ below indicates a discourse-domain summary interpretation):

Figure 2. Discourse-domain summary speech and writing presentation scales

30 The introduction of a set of discourse-domain summary presentation scales would allow us to be more accurate in our interpretative and analytical claims for the stretches of presented discourse under discussion. They would also enable us to describe more exactly the ambiguities and uncertainties that can occur between proposition-domain presentation and discourse-domain summary presentation. The NPSA/NPSAs and NPWA/NPWAs category pairs are quite likely to be ambiguous with one another, as the NPSA and NPWA presentational categories are prototypically associated with summary on both the proposition-domain and the discourse-domain scales.

5. Proposition presentation functioning as discourse-domain summary presentation

31 We have already seen in 3.4 that it is possible to have ambiguities both between (a) proposition-domain presentation categories which are adjacent on the cline and (b) proposition-domain presentation and discourse-domain summary presentation, at least in cases where the speech is presented relatively minimally. This, in turn, raises the possibility of similar sorts of ambiguities in relation to adjacent categories.

32 What I have also come across, however, are some examples of presentations which effectively constitute (i) proposition-domain presentation and (ii) discourse- domain summary presentation at the same time . Consider the example below (I have numbered the sentences for ease of reference), which comes at the beginning of the garden party referred to in the title of the story, with Laura welcoming the guests as they arrive:

13 Also supplied to me by Chang Shuchen. ‘Darling Laura, how well you look!’ (1) ‘What a becoming hat, child!’ (2) ‘Laura, you look quite Spanish. (3) I’ve never seen you look so striking.’ (4) And Laura, glowing, answered softly, ‘Have you had tea? (5) Won’t you have an ice? (6) The passion-fruit ices really are rather special.’ (7) (Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Garden Party’) 13

14 The story is a fiction, of course.

33 (1), (2) and (3)–(4), because they are each contained within separate sets of inverted commas look like conversational openers produced by different people commenting on Laura’s appearance, They would thus seem to be DS proposition-domain presentations of the individual utterances of three different characters arriving at the party, with no matching individual response turns from Laura being provided. The DS of sentences (5)–(7), on the other hand, as they cohere together pragmatically and are all contained within one set of inverted commas, are apparently 14 all excerpted from one of Laura’s responses to one of the visitors. Hence each DS example in (1)-(4), seen on its own, is traditional proposition-domain speech presentation. But they are clearly also representative parts of three separate interactions and, together, the three sentences of Laura’s presented speech also count, by inference, as the enaction the sort of response Laura would have made to all of her guests, including the three who produce sentences (1)-(4). So, overall we have what amounts to a quotative summary , which quotes representative parts of at least three conversational openings and one (part of) a representative reply, with the rest of the discourse omitted. In other words, the DS proposition-domain speech presentation is being used at the same time as (DS) discourse-domain summary presentation.

34 This discussion in turn brings me to another example I now realize I did not get quite right in Style in Fiction :

Mr Shepherd hastened to assure him, that Admiral Croft was a very hale, hearty, well- looking man, a little weather-beaten to be sure, but not much; and quite the gentleman in all his notions and behaviour; ― not likely to make the smallest difficulty about terms; ― only wanted a comfortable home, and to get into it as soon as possible; ― knew he must pay for his convenience; ― knew what rent a ready-furnished house of that consequence might fetch; ― should not have been surprised if Sir Walter had asked more; ― had enquired about the manor; ― would be glad of the deputation, certainly, but made no great point of it; ― said he sometimes took out a gun, but never killed; ― quite the gentleman. (Jane Austen, Persuasion Ch. 3, quoted in Leech and Short 2007 1981): 10.1.4)

35 I described this extract, correctly, I think, as FIS. But in the light of the DS example from the Katherine Mansfield sentence above, I think it is more accurately described as FIS quotative summary, as the dashes and elliptical syntax clearly suggest that we are being presented with excerpted snippets of a longer speech (and maybe even of a series of Mr Shepherd’s turns, with the contributions of Sir Walter and others omitted). The introduction of the kind of careful proposition-domain presentation and discourse-domain summary presentation analysis I have been arguing for in this paper thus helps us to characterize better the detailed effects of such examples. A similar Jane Austen example (which is also arguably ambiguous between FIS and FDS) is discussed in Pallarés-García (2008: 63), who refers to it as ‘an interesting mixture of quotation and summary’. 15

36 These examples are similar to what Fludernik (1993: 411) calls contraction, for which she provides a DS example, derived from Page (1988 [1973]: 32) and indeed my notion of summary shares some similarity with what she calls ‘condensed speech acts, again giving DS examples to illustrate what she means.

6. Concluding remarks

37 This paper clearly builds on the work of others (e.g. Sternberg, Page, Tannen, Clark and Gerrig, and Fludernik) as well as my own, including some of my own earlier imprecisions. Analytical false steps are, of course, an inevitable, and indeed welcome, consequence of stylisticians’ attempts to be empirical and analytically and interpretatively precise. I would be pleased, of course, for others to help fill in the blanks I have referred to above and correct any mistakes, inaccuracies or gaps. Similarly, I am very interested in hearing from others about different kinds of discourse presentation ambiguities and uncertainties they have discovered. I would also like to suggest that empirical work is conducted on whether or not real readers arrived, while reading, at the kinds of discourse-domain summary interpretations I have suggested.

38 Finally, I would suggest that discourse presentation analysts need also to spend some concentrated time on investigating the pragmatic processes involved in inferring whether a presentation is what I have called proposition- domain presentation or discourse-domain summary presentation (or both at the same time). As I have suggested in some of the discussion of individual examples above, the co-text may contain information to suggest that a discourse-domain summary is involved, the presentation itself may have relevant summary-suggestion features and we clearly use schematic knowledge of various kinds to infer that the presentation of what Ryan calls the Textual Actual World is summarized. How we perceive and respond to discourse presentation ambiguities and vaguenesses, both within and across the presentation scales, also merits inferential pragmatic investigation. Indeed, given that, to date, the definition of the discourse presentation categories has been dominated by structural considerations (e.g. syntax, lexis), it is arguable that the elephant in the room in discourse presentation theory and analysis is the relative weighting of formal, contextual and pragmatic factors when deciding upon categorizations, discourse-presentation types (e.g. proposition- domain presentation and discourse-domain summary presentation) and the effects associated with them.


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2 When reporting is cross-language, even these requirements have to relaxed, of course, although one would expect as close lexical and grammatical correspondence as possible between the source and target language.

3 For discussions of discourse in fiction, I prefer, as indicated in Semino and Short (2004) to use the term ‘presentation’. Much grammatical discussion of direct and indirect speech etc uses ‘report’ because the relation between the anterior and posterior speech situations is assumed to be unproblematic (indeed, grammarians have traditionally invented their own examples) and discussions in Critical Discourse Analysis usually focus on situations where (usually illicit) manipulation of the original has taken place, and so such analysts usually use the term ‘representation’.

4 Ikeo (2009) discusses interesting cases of DW in literary reviews, where what is quoted is accurate but the truncated ways in which the quotations are selected and contextualised create significant misrepresentations of the original texts.

5 This is testable empirically, something which would throw useful light on the ‘faithfulness debate’. What makes me suspect that summary may be quite common is that when Elena Semino, Martin Wynne and I were annotating the Lancaster SW&TP corpus described in Semino and Short (2004) and elsewhere, we quite often inserted a note in our annotations to the effect that summary was involved, even though we were not looking for the phenomenon at the time.

6 This DS category is wider than that traditionally used, and includes what is usually known as Free Direct Speech (FDS), which I now consider as a minor variant within the DS category, rather than a separate category on its own, as, when we move from DS to FDS there is no extra faithfulness claim, as there is when we move rightwards from other category to another on the speech presentation scale. See Short (1988) and Semino and Short (2004: 49).

8 IN = Internal Narration, covers the narrator’s descriptions of internal cognitive states which are not thought presentation, e.g. ‘Anger well up inside him’.

9 Whether or not we need a DT/FDT distinction on the thought presentation scale needs careful empirical consideration, in my view. As the notion of faithfulness claims does not really make sense with respect to thought presentation it could be that there is a clear distinction in effect between DT and FDT. I suspect not, but it is an open question.

10 These invented examples were changed to be more accurate in the second edition of Style in Fiction .

12 I am grateful to Chang Shuchen for pointing out this example to me.

13 Also supplied to me by Chang Shuchen.

15 I would like to thank Elena Pallarés-García for pointing out this example and sharing her dissertation with me.

Bibliographical reference

Mick Short , “ Discourse Presentation and Speech (and Writing, but not Thought) Summary ” ,  Études de stylistique anglaise , 4 | 2013, 27-42.

Electronic reference

Mick Short , “ Discourse Presentation and Speech (and Writing, but not Thought) Summary ” ,  Études de stylistique anglaise [Online], 4 | 2013, Online since 19 February 2019 , connection on 15 March 2023 . URL : http://journals.openedition.org/esa/1413; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/esa.1413

About the author

Mick Short is Emeritus professor in the Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language at Lancaster University (U.K.). He co-authored Style in Fiction (with Geoffrey Leech) Longman 1981, and is the editor of Reading, Analysing and Teaching Literature (Longman, 1989). He was also the founder of the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA) and the founding editor of its international journal Language and Literature .

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Oral Discourse and Extemporaneous Delivery

The spoken word differs from the written. Audiences for public speeches do not have the benefit of being able to go back and re-read sentences. They cannot look at a page and see section headings or new paragraph indentations. Public audiences have a more limited capacity to comprehend complicated ideas and to take in long sentences and difficult or dense language. Public speakers have to compensate for these limits by using the principles of repetition of content, clarity of structure, and simplicity of language.

Repetition is a fundamental part of most good public speeches. An old public speaking adage goes something like: “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” By the end of a speech, an audience should have absolutely no question about what the central idea or main claim is. 

To make sure that happens, state that idea clearly in the introduction of your speech, tie the information and arguments of the body to it in explicit ways, and restate the idea again in your conclusion. Audiences are more likely to miss or forget important information if you do not repeat and restate it.

Clarity of structure means that ideas are logically grouped into categories the audience can easily understand. In addition, just as paragraph indents and underlining alert readers to new or important ideas, transitions and signposts help listeners recognize new 'paragraphs' and key points of the speech.

Brief pauses can signal to listeners that the speaker is about to say something important or is moving onto the next main point. Phrases like "most important," "I am claiming that," "the crucial point is this," call your listeners' attention to what follows them and act as verbal underlining.

Simplicity in language is crucial to conveying information effectively. Oral discourse differs from written in its use of language. Oral discourse is often best when it uses the first person, “I” and “we.” Such language gives the speech a sense of immediacy and helps the speaker to connect with the audience.

In addition, good speeches will often use less formal language--contractions, sentence fragments, selected slang expressions. Finally, oral language needs to be less dense and jargon-laden then some kinds of written language, especially academic language. When written papers are read out loud, they almost never make effective speeches.

While there are several effective modes of delivery, extemporaneous speaking is the most adaptable and time efficient. Learning it is also an excellent way of sharpening critical thinking. Extemporaneous speeches are developed through outlining ideas, not writing them out word-for-word. They are practiced ahead of time, rehearsed and re-rehearsed (extemporaneous speeches are not impromptu), using a keyword outline of single words and short, 3-5 word phrases.

The speech is not memorized but instead is concentrating on the main ideas; each time a speaker practices and delivers the speech, wording comes out a little differently. Extemporaneous delivery gives the speech freshness, for it doesn't sound canned and over-rehearsed. Additionally, this flexible form of delivery allows a speaker to make adjustments to their speech in response to non-verbal signals from the audience--signs of confusion, displeasure, curiosity, or excitement.

Extemporaneous delivery allows speakers to make eye contact with the audience—one of the best ways to connect with them and keep them involved in the speech. Eye contact is an important way to establish a speaker's credibility and make a speech compelling; when a speaker relies too much on notes, they are potentially losing their audience and running the risk of looking unprepared.

Verbal and nonverbal communication is important in public speaking, helping to make a speech clear and compelling to an audience. Developing good vocal delivery means focusing first and foremost on being heard clearly: a speaker must speak loudly enough to be heard by everyone, articulate words sharply so they can be understood, and speak slowly enough so that the audience can easily take in the ideas.

In addition, avoid monotone delivery and be engaged enough with the speech to communicate interest. Effective bodily delivery begins with this simple maxim: do not distract the audience with extraneous movement. Nervous pacing, standing cross-armed or hands-in-pockets for long stretches, turning from the audience and talking into a visual aid, gestures unrelated to the verbal message--all of these distract from the content of the speech and should be avoided.

A formal address or discourse delivered to audience ? a. panel discussion b.speech c.essay d. news reports e. informative talk f. magazine​

The answer is B. speech

New questions in English


  1. Audience Applauding Speaker After Conference Presentation Stock Photo

    a presentation of discourse to an audience

  2. Audience presentation

    a presentation of discourse to an audience

  3. Audience powerpoint

    a presentation of discourse to an audience

  4. Audience

    a presentation of discourse to an audience

  5. Audience powerpoint

    a presentation of discourse to an audience

  6. Discourse community presentation

    a presentation of discourse to an audience


  1. Narrative Discourse

  2. Intro to Discourse

  3. Academic Discourse

  4. Ethics and Plagiarism

  5. What is Discourse?

  6. Discourse in Context


  1. Discourse and Presentation

    The Discourse and Presentation Standards focus on fostering students' understanding and working knowledge to prepare and present knowledge and ideas

  2. Oral & Written Discourse: Definitions & Characteristics

    Discourse is a term used to explain the transfer of information from one person to another. It implies the use of words and sentences in context

  3. Formal discourse to an audience Crossword Clue Answers

    6 letter answer(s) to formal discourse to an audience · (language) communication by word of mouth; "his speech was garbled"; "he uttered harsh

  4. Discourse: Definition, Analysis & Meaning

    Discourse is the verbal or written exchange of ideas. Any unit of connected speech or writing that is longer than a sentence and that has a coherent meaning and

  5. Discourse Presentation and Speech (and Writing, but not Thought

    This paper outlines the detailed nature of a relatively neglected phenomenon in discourse presentation and considers its consequences for discourse

  6. Discourse in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Rhetorical discourse contains a central, organizing voice—the person doing the speaking or narrating—attempting to motivate the audience to come to a conclusion

  7. Audience Analysis

    Overview Audience analysis involves identifying the audience and adapting a speech to their interests, level of understanding, attitudes, and beliefs.

  8. Oral Discourse and Extemporaneous Delivery

    Public audiences have a more limited capacity to comprehend complicated ideas and to take in long sentences and difficult or dense language. Public speakers

  9. How to Appeal to Your Audience?

    Aristotle's elements of discourse are also known as the rhetoric triangle. These elements help you create an impactful message and get ready for

  10. a formal address or discourse delivered to audience ?a. panel

    A formal address or discourse delivered to audience ?a. panel discussion b.speech c.essay d. news reports e. informative talk f. magazine​.