Speech Features

Utterance: a segment of speech, or a turn.  We don’t talk about ‘sentences’ in speech, since we often speak in units which are not grammatically sentences.

Pauses & micropauses: pauses are measured in seconds; a micropauses is less than a second.  Be careful about saying these show hesitancy – with no pauses, we’d never understand each other (or breathe!)

Fillers: words used to fill a gap.  Non-verbal fillers or voice-filled pauses are noises (like er) used to fill a gap.  They don’t have semantic meaning, but can sometimes tell us something about the speaker’s attitude or status.

Hedges: words used to soften (or play down) what’s being said (e.g. Kinda)

Discourse markers: words or phrases used to signal a shift in topic (e.g. anyway)

Adjacency pair: a pair of utterances spoken by different people which have a natural relationship (e.g. question/answer, greeting/greeting)

Three-part exchange: a pattern of ABA speech between two people with a natural relationship (e.g. question/answer/feedback)

Interruption: an utterance at the same time as someone else is speaking, with the intention of stealing the turn or changing the topic,  A competitive move

Overlap: an utterance at the same time as someone else is speaking but without breaking their speech (e.g. mistiming the start of a turn or providing support)

Support/backchannel: utterances which encourage the speaker to keep talking by indicating listening or interest (e.g. Really)

Monitoring device: word or phrase used to elicit feedback or to check people are listening (e.g. y’know)

Tag/tail: extra word/phrase at the end of a turn, sometimes repeating information already established (e.g. I really like her, Sophie – where “her” = Sophie)

Tag question: extra question tagged after a declarative statement where the verb is the same or a dummy auxiliary (e.g. He likes that, doesn’t he – note the polarity swaps as well, so a positive statement has a negative tag and vice versa)


Don’t forget to use terms from other frameworks too – grammatical terms will gain you marks in speech analysis as well.


Lexis is the framework at the level of vocabulary.  

Note also that the word ‘lexis’ is like ‘vocabulary’ – it is not plural, nor can it be made plural (it’s a non-count noun, like traffic or money). We can talk about examples of lexis, but not ‘the lexis “green/dog/fascinating”‘. If you think of it as a substitute for ‘vocabulary’ rather than ‘word’, you won’t make that mistake.

When we look at lexis, we’re largely considering the complexity, formality or origin of the words used.  

Key lexical terms:

  • Monosyllabic/disyllabic/polysyllabic lexis (single-, duo- or multi-syllablled words)
  • Low/high register (higher = posher/more formal)
  • Low/high frequency (higher = more commonly used)
  • Slang; colloquialism; taboo; jargon; cliché
  • French-latinate, , latinate, Anglo-Saxon (describing origins – you often won’t know, so don’t worry too much about this!)

Examples of good ways to write about lexis:

  • Meanings and representations/analysis there may be a link between mode and lexis, e.g. “The speakers use lexis typical of the spoken mode, such as the hedge ‘kinda’ and the filler ‘like’.”
  • Child language it’s worth looking at the types of words in the data, or talking about the kind of lexis children tend to start with, i.e. familiar objects like ‘bottle’, ‘teddy’ or ‘banana’.
  • Variation lexical choices are often part of a dialect, e.g. the Nuneaton ‘batch’ compared with the Leicester ‘cob’.
  • Change recent neologisms can be described in terms of their make-up, e.g. blends like ‘tescopoly’, acronyms like ‘wag’
  • Lang-Lit: Paris – it’s worth commenting on lexis, particularly if you can link it to mode/context, e.g. “Bryson’s use of a higher register in noun phrases such as ‘a long immobile queue’ and ‘a vicious rebuke’ contrast with the more mixed register found in Steves’ podcast ranging from monosyllabic imperatives like ‘take the first left you can’ when directing the listener to the more specialist adjective phrase ‘noble but crude’ when describing the exhibits.”


Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.