Časopis Slovo a slovesnost
en cz

On the repertory of the communicative functions and their materialization in primarily spoken vs. written texts

Milada Hirschová



K repertoáru komunikačních funkcí a jejich realizací v primárně mluvených/psaných textech

I. Preliminary remarks:

1. Both spoken and written texts are assumed to be the purpose–differentiated manifestations of the language system. From the viewpoint of the communication both can accomplish the same repertory of communicative functions (CF), i. e. CFs operating and being expressed simultaneously at the constructional, illocutionary and strategic levels of any text (cf. Hirschová, 1991a, 1991b, 1992). Belles–lettres are not taken into account in this paper.

1.1. The notion of written text should be extended to cover computer–created, processed and saved texts.

1.2. Differentiation of primarily spoken vs. primarily written texts is difficult especially from the viewpoint of their origin: easy accessibility of printed, recorded and computer–saved texts results in the common re–use of them, both in producing ”written” (in any above mentioned sense) and spoken texts, so their mutual influence and combinatorial possibilities are practically endless; moreover, many texts could be analyzed as for their vertical strata compoundness (different from intertextuality).


2. Considering the assumptions presented above we differentiate spoken vs. written texts according to the producer’s intention: the texts designed for speaking and listening (SL–texts) vs. texts designed for visual perception (VP–texts). We are aware of the classification problems arising from this approach: e. g., scientific lecture will be considered SL–text though its primary form is usually ”written”, on the contrary journalistic interview belongs to VP–texts though it originates from the conversation. (General typology of texts cannot be based on this criterion.)


II. SL and VP–texts in the interpersonal communication

3. The paper presents basic results of the SL and VP–text comparative analysis, orientated to devices indicating communicative functions in both types of texts. (As the basic description of the functional strata at SL–texts has been presented earlier (see references in paragraph 1.) this paper deals with the VP–texts prevalently.) The starting point was the functional analysis of spontaneous non–prestigeous dialogue. The VP–texts cannot be used in strictly private communication (their producers take into account at least the eventual accessibility of the texts for non–addressees, VP–text can be fixed and reproduced), therefore it is principially difficult to find a VP–equivalent of a spontaneous private dialogue (samples of E–mail communication were not at our disposal). Private correspondence seems to be an evident counterpart so it was chosen to be compared with a family and friendly conversation. (Cf. Hirschová, 1992.)

3.1. As for the SL–texts, it has been mentioned before that the process of their functional interpretation goes both at the part of the speaker (producer) and at the part of the addressee in the course of the communicative event permanently and it works as a feedback. The initial assumptions (presuppositions) of both speakers are being verified, adjusted and changed according to the results of this permanent interpretation and re–interpretation. The adjustment and changes of each speaker’s strategy are in a close relation to the communicative intention (aim) of the speaker. There exist three basic variants of this process: 1. The chosen strategy (usually direct, taking into account all convenient postulates of succesfull communication) meets with no principial obstacles [182]at the part of the addressee and the producer’s aim can be achieved. 2. Producers strategy, either originally direct or indirect, must be modified because of the addressee’s reactions. Wide scale of modifications must be taken into consideration, the most important feature of those modifications is that they represent necessary condition for the succesful achievement of the producer’s aim. 3. The addressee’s response shows that the producer’s original strategy has not been successful (misunderstanding, non–approval, neglecting of producer’s request, refusal of cooperation, etc.), so it must be either changed principially (new strategy is adopted) or given up to avoid the ”illocutionary collaps” (making following communication impossible). Cf. following passage of a dialogue


(A: – woman, age 38, mother of B, B: – boy, age 14):


No ale esli teda já strpim aby moje dítě bylo takový čuně!


(I won’t have my child be a dirty slob!)


No a co naděláš dyž už… (Well, what can you do when…)


Peťo ovládej se. (Pete, control yourself.)




Seš hroznej klacek. (You are an awful lout.)


Ale řekni mamo co naděláš co mně mužeš řict.


(But mum, what can you do, what can you say.)


Můžu tě lísknout. (I can slap you.)


Hm a to si myslíš že to pomuže dyž mě jednou…


(Now, do you think it’ll help when you…)


Peťo ty seš hroznej klacek fakt! (Pete, you’re an awful lout, that’s what you are!)


At the part of A negative evaluation of B’s behavior (rebuke), strict attempt to change it, verbal warning and threat fail. The speaker’s aim (change of B’s behavior and attitudes) cannot be achieved because the chosen strategy has not taken into account the addressee’s resistence to this kind of influence following from preceding experience and the last utterance expresses her resignation. Variant 3 proves the incorrectness of the producer’s initial presuppositions. Sometimes the results of the ongoing interpretation make the producer change his aim. Anticipating of those interpretative processes and the rating of their results seem to be the substantial mental activities constituting the complex of phenomena denoted as communicative strategy.

3.2. At the VP–texts, the time gap between the production and perception of a text is the essential factor forming this group of texts. Since a turn (unit) of the communicative exchange can be considered complete only when the producer of the primary text receives any response from the addressee of his/her text and responds to it (the A – B – A scheme), the analysis of the traditional VP–texts must be aware of their specific time dimension from which the low promptness of those exchanges follows. As for the reception of VP–texts, the possibility of multiple re–interpretation of such a text at the part of the addressee is crucial. In the ideal case the producer anticipates most of the potential meanings of his own text trying to exclude the undesirable ones, especially if they may interfere with the very purpose of his text or if they may concern non–involved persons. Therefore the VP–texts are usually more explicit and less situation–dependent (as for the interpretation) than the SL–ones. Idiolectic elements and presentation of inner information (often in the form of allusions) intelligible only for the particular addressee/addressees emphasize this explicitness. Apparent ambiguity, vagueness and uncertainty are rather rare or they are used as the instruments of the producer’s strategy, see paragraph 7.


4. The regular absence of the addressee during the production of a VP–text can be exploited by the producer to acquire a strategic advantage: VP–text allows to present [183]one’s opinions and attitudes without limits and restrictions arising in the presence of the addressee (in a personal contact). The addressee’s interpretation and response can be presupposed and anticipated but they can also be intentionally neglected. The VP–text affords an important opportunity for the producer’s self–expression, it affords him to play the pseudo–dominant role in a topical communicative exchange. Evidently it is a communicative skill which is necessary for the producer to accomplish those (often very complex) communicative aims succesfully.


5. Our concept of the three functional levels originates in the analysis of SL–texts. The largest amount of our material were the records of dialogues within the family and among intimate friends which we consider the most typical and outstanding samples of non–prestigeous spontaneous communication. (The description of these records see Hirschová, 1991, 1992a, b.) Among other purposes, the application of this approach to VP–texts was to verify the concept and define it with more precision. The analyzed VP–texts corpus consists of thirty lettres of two persons written during approximately two years. The writers are not relatives, they differ from each other in age, profession and partly in cultural background (A.: age 46, historian of literature, university teacher), B.: age 65, musicologist, retired). At first their letter exchange was purely professional (request of A to B for hardly accessible information) and conventionally polite. In the course of time it developed into friendly contact of equivalent communicative partners with the changing specification of their communicative roles (except for the generally valid assumptions following from the age and professional authority owing to which the position of B is held for superior).


6. Common features of the function indicating devices at all functional levels of SL and VP–texts were not numerous. As for the materialization of the meanings connected with particular functional levels, most of the common features were found on the constructional and illocutionary levels. (Strategic functions see in paragraph 7.) We basically assume that an exchange of letters can be compared to a ”dialogue” sui generis, so we suppose that the elementary means indicating the process of construction of a dialogue are principially identical both in the SL and in the VP–texts. Deictic words and verbs of a special meaning (and nouns derived from them) – answer, link, respond/response to, etc. appear in both groups of texts. As for the illocutionary functions, verbal mood and the illocutionary verbs and nouns derived from them (though the explicit performative formulas are rare) are the most frequent devices shared by both groups of texts. The repertory of forms is remarkably rich in our VP–texts corpus – depending on the habitual politeness expected in letters periphrastic formulas are numerous. Some of the examples:


(1) Nevím ale, jak vám poradit, snad byste jim mohl říci… (Anyway, I don’t know how could I advise you, maybe you can try to tell them …) (B)


The illocutionary function of this passage is advice and/or recommendation indicated indirectly by the description of one of the ”happiness conditions” of this directive – the speaker/producer believes that the addressee is able to accomplish the propositional content of the utterance.


(2) Trochu bych s Vámi polemizoval v otázce pravopisu 18. století, myslím, že křivdíte panu Leopoldovi. (I would rather argue against your opinion on the 18th century orthography, I am afraid you don’t do a justice to Mr. Leopold.) (A)


Here the simultaneous overlapping of the constructional and illocutionary function is outstanding – the verb polemizovat/argue (against) refers to addressee’s preceding text [184]and indicates writer’s opinion, contrary to the addressee’s opinion so it links the two texts and indicates the representative function at the same time. The illocutionary function of the second utterance is representative too, although its actual meaning (and the actual meaning of the passage as a whole) can be grasped only if we take into account the complex of shared information relevant for this particular letter – ”owing to some irregularities in the orthography of the 18th century the orthography of Leopold Mozart’s letters is not as incorrect as you conclude”.


(3) Svěříte-li mi úpravu té písně, budu se těšit na xerox a udělám to rád. (If you decide to entrust the arrangement of the song to me I will be looking forward to a xerox and I’ll do it with pleasure.) (B)


Again the overlapping of referring to a preceding text (úprava písně arrangement of the song) and the illocutionary function is visible. The positive answer is combined with a promise indicated indirectly by expressing of the habitually and conventionally expected speaker’s psychological state at helping someone (I’ll do it with pleasure).


(4) Budu Vám vděčný za případnou zásilku kazety s nahrávkou. (I shall be grateful if you would eventually send me the cassette with the (mentioned) record.) (A)


Here the constructional function follows only from the semantic contiguity – the cassette with the record must have been mentioned in a preceding text (letter) otherwise the sentence is senseless; the illocutionary function (expressive – ”thank you in advance”) is indicated indirectly by expressing of the speaker’s presupposed psychological state (gratitude).

6.1. On the constructional level, the most important diversity of (our) SL and VP–texts consists in the fact that we must differentiate the construction of each particular letter (here often parallel with the composition) which mostly is being realized inside a constructional (compositional) frame and the construction of this specific kind of dialogue. (An individual letter emerges monologic text.) In the constructional frame, at least the form of the beginning and of the end is obligatory or expected as a constitutive feature of the text–type ”letter” and the producer more or less inventively complies with the requirements of the pattern using standardized formulas and idioms. Other standardized formulas refer from one letter to another, i. e. they construct a dialogue of letters (striking examples of these devices appear in business correspondence). In SL–dialogic text the entries of individual speakers are seldom as extensive as to display the features and devices indicating the inner construction.


7. The analyzed SL and VP–texts were considerably dissimilar on their strategic levels. While the strategy of a SL–text is being (or ought to be) permanently verified and adapted according to the producer’s aim and the addressee’s response (feedback), the VP–texts afford the producer to adopt a strategy in many respects independent of the addressee. Moreover, the strategic functions are often apparently indicated in SL–texts, the intonation and breaking of conversational maxims being the most frequent devices. (Explicit indication of a strategic CF is improbable.) The VP–texts, on the contrary, can use more refined devices, both from the sphere of language and from the sphere of text–creation. Even meta–language and meta–text elements accompanied by non–verbal signs (drawings, distinguished types of characters, music) can be met. Our VP–text corpus was rich in word contrast, emphasized ambiguity, allusions, quotations and quasi–quotations. Cf. following passages:


(5) Rozhlasem obchází v Brně strašidlo folku a dostalo se až na samý zdroj. (The Brno Radio is haunted by the spectre of folk, it has reached the source itself.) (B)

[185](6) Doufám, že ty připomínečky neberete ve zlém, hrozně bych byl nerad, kdybyste na mne proto zanevřel jako kolega X. Y. – snad už dnes profesor? – který kdysi navázal se mnou přátelstvo dopisovací, ale dopustiv se já jakési recenze (mám za to!), on na mne zcela zanevřel. (I hope that you won’t take my little reminders amiss, I would be very unhappy if you came to dislike me as colleague X. Y. – he may already be a professor now – who once entered into penfriendship with me, but when I committed a review (at least that’s what I think), he came to hate me.) (B)

(7) Komunisti, nacisti, katolíci, všichni měli mučedníci, zazpíval by Suchý. (Communists, nazis, catholics, all of them had their martyrs, Suchý would sing in his song.) (A)

(8) Ale nebožtík Y. neměl ani desetinu skalpů různých kolllokvií jako jeho přesnásledovníci. (But the late Y. had hardly a tenth of the scalps of various colloquia as his followers had.) (B)

(9) Jinak je svízel s jeho identifikací, jak jsme si už o tom psali… (Then there is a trouble with his identification as we have written about it…) (A)

(10) O Kouzelné flétně taky hezky píše Ignaz Franz Castelli ve svých pamětech, ale to jistě znáte. (About the Magic Flute is also written, in a nice way, by Ignaz Franz Castelli in his memoirs, but I am sure you know them.) (B)

(11) Chybiček dost, ale myslím už je pozdě honit Fibicha. (Plenty of mistakes but I’m afraid it’s no good saying ”if only”.) (B)

(The translation is not able to demonstrate all the features of the original, especially intentional grammar and orthographic incorrectness, e. g., the three ”l” in the word kolllokvií the function of which is mostly comic or ironic.)


The examples were selected to display the presumably most outstanding characteristic of personal correspondence: it is far from a mere way of communication (exchange of information). Since it becomes an exception in contemporary interpersonal communication it gets features giving rise to emerging literary genre. In the first place it is a way of self–expression and it cannot be considered a counterpart of spontaneous speech.




Daneš, F.: Statický a dynamický pohled na text a diskurs (promluvu). In: Funkční lingvistika a dialektika. Linguistica XVII/2. Praha 1988, s. 283–297.

Derrida, J.: Limited Inc a b c … In: Limited Inc.. Evanston 1988, p. 29–110.

Hirschová, M.: Některé rysy interpersonální komunikace v rodině. In: Studia Bohemica V. Praha 1989, s. 145–162.

Hirschová, M.: Interpersonální komunikace ve stabilizovaných malých skupinách. SaS, 52, 1991a, s. 89–103.

Hirschová, M.: Pojem komunikační funkce a jeho specifikace. In: Všeobecné a špecifické otázky jazykovej komunikácie. Banská Bystrica 1991b, s. 44–51.

Hirschová, M.: Neurčitost v oblasti komunikačních funkcí. SaS, 53, 1992, s. 33–40.

Müllerová, O.: Gesprochener und geschriebener Text vom Gesichtspunkt der Produktion. In: Funkční lingvistika a dialektika. Linguistica XVII. Praha 1989, s. 13–27.

Nebeská, I.: Může být relevance postačujícím principem komunikace? SaS, 52, 1991, s. 104–108.


[186]R É S U M É

K repertoáru komunikačních funkcí a jejich realizací v primárně mluvených/psaných textech

Článek vychází z výsledků analýzy komunikačních funkcí na materiálu nepřipravených mluvených projevů ve srovnání s texty primárně psanými (osobní korespondencí). V rekapitulaci zjištěných společných rysů těchto dvou skupin textů se uvádějí jen obecné vyjadřovací prostředky především konstrukčních a ilokučních komunikačních funkcí. Probírají se diference na jednotlivých simultánně realizovaných funkčních rovinách, podrobněji jsou ukázány charakteristické rysy signalizace strategických KF v psaných textech. Rozdíly jsou početnější (korespondence jako prostředek sebevyjádření a pole textové kreativity) a ukazují, že v oblasti psaných textů patrně nelze hledat odpovídající protějšek neprestižní spontánní komunikace.

Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Palackého

Slovo a slovesnost, ročník 54 (1993), číslo 3, s. 181-186

Předchozí Sáva Heřman: Graphemics and/or its orthography as a distinctive feature of any literate social group

Následující Miloslava Knappová, Jitka Malenínská: Kodifizierungs-, Standardisierungs- und Rechtsaspekte von Eigennamen (der schriftlichen Form)