Number one for English language teachers

soft speech

Posted in: Vocabulary | Vocabulary

Wed, 13 May 2009 9:15 pm

Unsuitable or offensive? Report this discussion

Sort: Newest first | Oldest first




Posts: 41

Thu, 28 May 2009 11:05 am

I think it just means speaking quietly, whispering.
By extension I suppose that it can also refer to occasions when you would speak quietly - telling a secret - to child - to a lover etc.

Unsuitable or offensive? Report this reply

Perry Walsh

Posts: 23

Wed, 30 Dec 2009 6:35 am

I understand soft speech to be a less direct manner of communication. If we think of negotiating for instance, say asking an employer for time off. We could say, I want some time off, or we could soften the request by saying, AAAh excuse me, are you free to speak now, .... I was wondering if I could....
Our choice of words, phrases can make our requests seem more polite, albeit somewhat less direct, and some would argue more likely to be successful.
There would be many contexts in which a more euphemistic word or phrase would connote a softer, more genteel, more appropriate register.
I guess, the opposite of soft speech would be heheh hard, therefore, more abrupt, direct, and for some less polite.
But it all depends on the people talking, their culutural norms, setting, and overall context.
I would look at soft speech in relation to other possible utterancces or written words to convey something.
In other words, take several words, and place them on a continuum from softer to stronger, or weaker to stronger and then analyse the resultant nuances in meaning.
Interestingly, some languages like German and Polish ( i hope i am right) are more direct in their language choices. For example, in inviting someone to sit down, ( i have heard) will simply say "Sit down". Whereas, in English we would tend to use the whimperative, for instance, "Would you like to take a seat?".
In making requests too, ( i was taught) that if you say to someone from Germany say at a dinner table, Can you pass the salt, they might take offence or think it odd, and think well of course i can pass the salt, i am not stupid. Whereas, could, can etc would soften the request for say, English speakers.
One of my old lecturers from World Englishes related the story of how when he went to dinner at a Polish person's place they invited him to have a drink, buy simply saying, 'drink'.
I guess too softer speech would appear in romantic genres (why not), and poetry, and so on, especially where mood is being created.
My old lecturer also told the class of the time he was in Hong Kong. A junior policeman who wanted to request time off from his grumpy superior officer was slow to make his request. This softer if you like inductive style of making a request, and i guess less direct approach made the western officer even more grumpy. The Chinese request pattern seemed dishonest to the Western officer, who lamented, yes out with it man, what do you want, i am busy. Well, I was aaah, (hesitations), my mother is sick and ... and the request came last.
So, i guess the use of soft language, extends beyond words, sentences, and extends to the order of discourse, and cultural considerations.
As my lecturer from world englishes and talking across cultures explained, "what is normal in one culture may not be normal in another culture" .
And as i the examples above suggest, softer language, although intended to be more polite, and less direct, may be perceived differently.
Modals, are often used to soften language use, too. For example, which is more polite, May/Might/Could/Can - I come in.
And in everyday salutations we often hear, please, thankyou/thanks a lot and even small talk to break the ice to soften social encounters.
And i guess we could consider body language, intonation, word and sentence stress, and others as means of softening language.
I guess too, even the use of passive voice over active voice would be another example, of softening language.
No doubt there are countless other ways to "soften speech" but hopefully this will begin the discussion.
Cheers Perry

Unsuitable or offensive? Report this reply

Rate this topic

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

You must be signed in to rate.

Post a Reply

You must sign in to rate this topic or make a post

sign in register

Not logged in? Sign in now!

You must be logged in to participate in the onestopenglish Forum and rate and comment on resources.

Sign in now

Most recent posts

  • From TachaIELTS, Mon, 18 Sep 2017 6:57 pm in Buy original and registered ielts and toefl certificates in Montenegro,+237670878487

    ( get ielts certificate without exam in pakistan, get ielts 9 bands in australia, ielts for australia 

  • From Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim, Fri, 23 Mar 2012 9:58 am in in the end/at the end

    In addition to what David said, see also the difference between: in the beginning /at the beginning. Since the core meaning of preposition (at) is puntual i.e a point in time or space it takes aim. Taking aim with the help of (at) is common with verbs that express aggression compare:

  • From heatherand, Wed, 15 Feb 2012 10:03 pm in inhuman/ inhumane

    Hi habarimike;  just to let you know that "spelt" is incorrect it should be "spelled".  "Spelt" is a species of wheat.

  • From habarimike, Tue, 13 Dec 2011 1:46 pm in what are these words?

    caused....or ?  I'm sure there are oother alternatives too

  • From Jo, Mon, 21 Nov 2011 12:35 pm in aboard

    can any one pls clear my doubt

  • From Frank, Sun, 25 Apr 2010 6:48 am in especial or special?

    Especial is much more formal than special and sounds rather old-fashioned. I don't think that I would use especial much, if at all.

  • From Wanderer, Tue, 2 Mar 2010 1:32 pm in pasties

    I don't know how the words are used in the context of the podcast, but pasties are a snack like crisps or peanuts - though they are somewhat more filling.

  • From Perry Walsh, Wed, 30 Dec 2009 6:35 am in soft speech

    I understand soft speech to be a less direct manner of communication. If we think of negotiating for instance, say asking an employer for time off. We could say, I want some time off, or we could soften the request by saying, AAAh excuse me, are you free to speak now, .... I was wondering if I could....

  • From Wanderer, Sun, 13 Dec 2009 1:29 pm in touristy

    Hi Lynette,

  • From Wanderer, Thu, 22 Oct 2009 3:03 pm in TOOTHSOME

    Hi Joanna,

Powered by Webstructure.NET

Access denied popup