Connected Speech

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Connected speech is spoken language that's used in a continuous sequence, as in normal conversations. Also called connected discourse.

There is often a significant difference between the way words are pronounced in isolation and the way they are pronounced in the context of connected speech.

Examples and Observations

  • "Connected speech is more than just a string of individual target segments joined together in series, since each segment is liable to influence the segments that surround it. The precise form that these influences take is determined by the particular language in question, and so the phonology of connected speech is part of the phonology of the language that the child has to master . . .."
    (Sara Howard, Bill Wells, and John Local, "Connected Speech." The Handbook of Clinical Linguistics, ed. by Martin J. Ball, Michael R. Perkins, Nicole Muller, and Sara Howard. Blackwell, 2008)
  • Stress Patterns in Connected Speech
    "It would be wrong to imagine that the stress pattern is always fixed and unchanging in English words. Stress position may vary for one of two reasons: either as a result of the stress on other words occurring next to the word in question, or because not all speakers agree on the placement of stress in some words. The former case is an aspect of connected speech . . .: the main effect is that the stress on a final-stressed compound tends to move to a preceding syllable and change to secondary stress if the following word begins with a strongly stressed syllable. Thus . . ."
    bad-'tempered but a bad-tempered 'teacher
    half-'timbered but a half-timbered 'house
    heavy-'handed but a heavy-handed 'sentence"
    (Peter Roach, English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Course, 4th ed. Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Word Recognition in Connected Speech
    "Attempting to count the number of words in even a few seconds of a conversation or radio broadcast in an unfamiliar language will quickly demonstrate how difficult that task is because words run together in an utterance of any language. Ifwordswereprintedwithoutspacesbetweenthemtheywouldbeprettytoughtoread. As you recognize, sorting out the individual words would not be easy. Actually, the task is even more difficult than the run-together words in the printed sentence might suggest because the letters in the sentence above are discrete and separated from one another, but the individual sound segments in spoken words blend together into a continuous stream."
    (Edward Finegan, Language: Its Structure and Use, 6th ed. Wadsworth, 2012)
  • Deletion of Sounds in Connected Speech
    "In fast, connected speech some sounds may be deleted by the speaker. For example, the sound /t/ may be deleted between the words 'want to,' making the pronunciation of 'want to' sound like "wənnə.' (Note: the symbol ə represents a very short, weak sound.) . . .
    eg. ' . . . I don't wənnə spend too much today.'"
    (Susan Boyer, Understanding Spoken English: A Focus on Everyday Language in Context, Book 1. Boyer Educational Resources, 2003)
  • Connected-Speech Processes
    "There are some important points to remember about connected speech processes [CSP]:
    - They occur at the edges of words, since this is where words 'meet' in sentences.
    - Importantly, connected speech processes are optional. . . .
    - We can think of them affecting sounds at the phonemic level rather than the allophonic level. When /t/ or /d/ or /h/ is elided, for example, we do not find that a different allophone occurs; we simply find that the phoneme is lost altogether.
    - Because CSPs affect phonemes, they may lead to confusions about meaning . . .."
    (Rachael-Anne Knight, Phonetics: A Coursebook. Cambridge University Press, 2012)
  • Connected Speech in the Film The Friends of Eddie Coyle
    [Listen to this exchange on YouTube.]

    Eddie Coyle: Count your . . . knuckles.

    Jackie Brown: All of 'em?

    Eddie Coyle: Count as many as you want. As many as you got, I got four more. You know how I got those? I bought some stuff from a man. I knew his name. The stuff was traced. The guy I bought it for, he's at MCI Walpole for 15 to 25. Still in there. But he had some friends. I got an extra set of knuckles. They put your hand in a drawer then somebody kicks the drawer shut. Hurt like a bastard.

    Jackie Brown: Jesus.

    Eddie Coyle: What makes it hurt worse, what makes it hurt more is knowing what's going to happen to you, you know? There you are, they just come up to you and say, "Look. You made somebody mad. You made a big mistake and now there's somebody doing time for it. There's nothing personal in it, you understand, but it just has to be done. Now get your hand out there." You think about not doing it, you know. When I was a kid in Sunday school, this nun, she used to say, "Stick your hand out." I stick my hand out. Whap! She'd knock me across the knuckles with a steel-edged ruler. So one day I says, when she told me, "Stick your hand out," I says, "No." She whapped me right across the face with the ruler. Same thing. They put your hand in a drawer, somebody kicks the drawer shut. Ever hear bones breaking? Just like a man snapping a shingle. Hurts like a bastard.
    (Robert Mitchum and Steven Keats in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, 1973)