Speaking: Features Introduction

Speaking in Academic Contexts

Features of academic spoken English


Academic speaking is similar in many ways to academic writing: it is linear, it is explicit, it has one central point and it is presented in standard language. Academic spoken style is also similar in may ways in that it is formal, explicit, hedged, and responsible. However, it is less complex and objective than written language.


In general this means that when you are speaking you should avoid colloquial words and expressions.

Speaking: Features Formality


It is the responsibility of the speaker in English to make it clear to the listener how various parts of the talk are related. These connections can be made explicit by the use of different signalling words.


When speaking in an academic contexts, facts and figures are given precisely.


In any kind of academic speaking you do, it is necessary to make decisions about your stance on a particular subject, or the strength of the claims you are making. Different subjects prefer to do this in different ways.

A technique common in certain kinds of speaking is known by linguists as a ‘hedge’.


In academic speaking you are responsible for demonstrating an understanding of the source text. You must be responsible for, and must be able to provide evidence and justification for, any claims you make.


Academic speaking uses vocabulary accurately. Most subjects have words with narrow specific meanings. Linguistics distinguishes clearly between “phonetics” and “phonemics”; general English does not.


Spoken language is less complex than written language. Spoken language has shorter words, it is lexically less dense and it has a less varied vocabulary. It uses more verb-based phrases than noun-based phrases. Spoken texts are longer and the language has less grammatical complexity, including fewer subordinate clauses and more active verbs.

Speaking: Features Complexity


Spoken language in general has more words that refer to the speaker. This means that although the main emphasis should be on the information that you want to give and the arguments you want to make, it is not unusual to refer to yourself or your audience.

Speaking: Features Objectivity


Formal academic spoken language is well planned. It usually takes place after research and evaluation, according to a specific purpose and plan.

See: Speaking: Presentation Introduction Process


Formal academic speaking is well organised. It flows easily from one section to the next in a logical fashion. A good place to start is the genre of your text. Once you have decided on the genre, the structure is easily determined.

See: Speaking: Presentation Structure

“There’s a comfortable glow in the shop, and cool, satisfying smoke is billowing out of the windows.”
Print Friendly, PDF & Email