• In poetry we find that context is crucial to meaning and its effect. If we take Robert Browining's use of disyllabic rhyme as used in The Pied Piper of Hamelin', we find the following sequence:
You hope because you're old and obese
To find in the furry civic robe ease.
• In this context the word 'obese' promotes a humorous and lighthearted effect. However, if our doctor warned us that we were overweight [obese] and stood a great risk of heart attack, it would not be such a laughing matter.
• If it is at all helpful, the idea of context can be illustrated by use of an analogy with colour.
• A flash of crimson on a white background looks very vivid, and it can even make the white look slightly pink.
• However, crimson on a black background loses its radiance and almosti disappears.
The notion of speech. Speech and writing are two different systems. They are closely related, but not the same. Speech is normally a continuous stream of sound. It is not broken up into separate parts like writing. People do not speak in sentences or paragraphs, they make up the content of what they are saying quite spontaneously, without any planning or long deliberation. Conversations are often accompanied by other sign systems which aid understanding. These might be physical gestures, facial expressions, even bodily posture. Meaning in speech is also commonly conveyed by tone and other non-verbal means such as irony. Speech quite commonly includes false starts, repetition, hesitation, "fillers" with no lexical or grammatical meaning, such as "um" and "er' and even nonsense words which replace terms which can not be recalled, such as "thingy" and "doodah".
Speech may often be quite inexplicit - because the participants in a conversation can rely on the context for understanding. Speech can not be revised or edited in the same way as writing. Most people unconsciously or deliberately employ a wide range of speech varieties or functional styles in their everyday conversation. Linguists regard speech as primary and writing as secondary. Language changes take place far more rapidly in speech than in writing.
The notion of writing. Writing is the use of visual symbols which act as a code for communication between individuals or groups. Writing is a language variety and should be regarded as entirely separate from speech. The code of written language consists of letter-forms (the alphabet) used to form a visual approximation of spoken words. The spelling of most words in English is now fixed. The relationship between spelling and pronunciation is consistent in Russian and Ukrainian but not consistent in English. Words are formed in accordance with the conventions of spelling, then combined according to the rules of syntax to form meaningful statements.
Mistakes in spelling and grammar might be tolerated in casual writing, such as personal correspondence, but they are generally frowned on in all types of public and formal writing. Writing cannot include any non-verbal gestures or the communication features which accompany spoken language - such as facial expression, physical gestures, or tone of voice. The written word has to rely on choice of vocabulary, punctuation and printed emphasis (italics, capital letters) to produce such effects.
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