Listening and comprehension
Importance of listening
Since speeches are delivered orally, it is important to listen carefully to what the speaker says in order to understand the Central Idea. There are three models (perspectives) for listening comprehension
- Semantic perspective
- Pragmatic perspective
- Oral speech perspective
Semantic perspective deal with short term retention of raw chunks of speech, identification of speech content and function, constructing propositions, grouping these propositions into coherent messages, long term retention of reconstructed propositional meanings.
Steps in the semantic perspective to listening comprehension
- The listener takes in raw speech and holds an image of it in short term memory
- An attempt is made to organize what was head into constituents (segments), identifying their content and function
- As constituents are identified, they are used to construct propositions, grouping the propositions together to form a coherent message
- Once the listener has identified and reconstructed the propositional meanings, these are held in long term memory, and the form in which the message was originally received is deleted (Clark and Clark, 1977)
The pragmatic perspective is based on the belief that there is an illocutionary force/meaning behind much of what we say.
Illocution = the message behind what we say.
Steps in the pragmatic perspective to listening comprehension
- Determining the type of speech event the listener is involved in (conversation, debate, lecture, discussion, etc)
- Recalling relevant script (what we know about a particular situation, and the goals, participants, and procedures which are commonly associated with them) for the particular speech event
- Inferring the speaker's goals using the relevant script, reference to the situation, and the sequential position of the utterance
- Determining the propositional meaning of the utterance
- Determining the illocutionary meaning/force of the utterance (the message)
- Retaining and responding to the received information, and the form in which the message was originally received is deleted
Oral speech perspective
The oral speech perspective deals with the various forms of the spoken medium the listener must deal with in order to comprehend speech. The act of speaking imposes a particular form on utterances, and this considerably affects how messages are understood. Factors which result from this are called medium factors.
- Clausal basis of speech
The unit of organization in written communication is the sentence. In spoken communication, the unit of organization is the clause. Spoken information is generally delivered one clause at a time. Clauses appear to be a major constituent in both planning and delivery of speech. Coordinating conjunctions like "and" and "ums" are frequently used as coordinating or linking elements between clausal chunks of speech.
- Reduced forms (assimilation of words, sounds)
In articulating clauses, speakers are guided by their need to express meanings efficiently. This means that words that play a less crucial role in the message may be slurred or dropped, and other words given more prominence.
- Ungrammatical forms
Speech is often grammatically incorrect but the meaning is still understood. Due to the effort speakers put into planning and organizing the content of their utterances in ongoing time, grammaticality is often less relevant than the coherence of ideas. Coherence is more important than grammar. For example "Tony apples" is grammatically incorrect, but it conveys the message that Tony likes apples.
- Pausing and speech errors
Pauses indicate speaker is planning and selecting. Pauses may be either "silent" or "filled." Filled pauses contain items like uh, oh, hmm, ah, well, say, sort of, just, kind of, I mean, you know, I think, I guess—all indicate speaker is searching for word, or an approximation of it, to connect two clausal chunks of speech.
- Rate of delivery
The impression of fast or slow delivery generally results from the amount of intraclausal pausing that speakers use. Frequent pauses create the impression of slow speech. Elimination of pauses creates the impression of rapid speech.
- Rhythm and stress
English is a rhythmic language. The stress placed on each word by the speaker is important for the listener's attempt to make meaning of the utterance. Listeners must be able to interpret words in stressed, mildly stressed, and unstressed forms, not merely in their ideal forms as listed in a dictionary.
- Cohesive devices
As in written communication there are mechanisms for marking grammatical ties within and between sentences. But in spoken communication, these markers may function differently than they do in written form. For example, in written form the meanings of the underlined markers are not clear but in spoken form they serve to tie together the clausal units of speech and help convey a meaning: "Well you know, there was this guy, and here we were talking about, you know, girls, and all that sort of thing . . . and here's what he says . . . "
- Information content
Since conversation involves both a speaker and a listener, meanings are constructed cooperatively. A speaker does not say everything he or she wants to say in a single burst. Information is added a little at a time, often by repeating what has been said before and then adding to it. Written discourse is planned, tightly organized, and generally the product of a single person. Spoken discourse is not preplanned, but is produced in ongoing time through mutual cooperation. Consequently, it presents meaning in a very different way from written discourse. Topics are developed gradually, and the conventions for topic development and topic shift are distinctive to the spoken register. Listeners must use clues like "talking about that, "reminds you of," "by the way," "as far as that goes" to identify directions in topic development.
Conversation is interactive. The listener's presence is indicated by gestures, movement, gaze, and facial expressions. Both speaker and listener send a variety of verbal and nonverbal signals back and forth indicating attention, interest, understanding, or the lack of it.