Oral Language – Concept, elements, characteristics and examples

We explain what oral language is, its elements, characteristics and examples. Also, how it differs from written language.

oral language
Oral language is unique to our species and is one of its key evolutionary traits.

What is oral language?

When speaking of oral language, oral language or oral communication, we generally refer to the act of transmission of verbal information that occurs through speech, and that is characteristic of human beings. It generally differs from language or written language.

Human beings are born with all the necessary physical and mental equipment to communicate. When doing it orally, we use our speech and respiratory system (larynx, pharynx, nostrils and oral cavity).

Thus, by exhaling sound waves in the air that, modulated and articulated by opening the mouth and the intervention of the tongue, we obtain different sounds as a result. These sounds are encoded in a language (or language, in linguistic terms) and when recognized by a receiver, they allow him to retrieve the message and formulate a similar response.

Oral language is typical of our species and is one of its key evolutionary features, since it allowed complex social interaction and therefore great margins of community cooperation.

Its fundamental unit is the word, a linear combination of sounds that has a beginning and an end in time, and whose components require a specific order to be understood, according to the rules of each language, that is, each communication code.

Oral language characteristics

Broadly speaking, oral language is characterized by the following:

  • It is proper and natural to the human being, since it only requires the speech and respiratory apparatus, with which it is born. In addition, you learn to use them through repetition and practice.
  • It uses sound waves in the air as a channel, which the vocal cords generate when vibrating and the ear picks up and recognizes. These sounds make up a code or language, structured socially, culturally and historically.
  • It is usually face-to-face, immediate and ephemeral, since it occurs in a specific place and context, and once said what has been said, the sounds disappear forever. Hence, the words “blown away by the wind.” However, today technology allows non-face-to-face (telephone) or even non-immediate (voice messages) oral communication.
  • It can be formal, or colloquial and very pragmatic, but in both cases it is accompanied by gestures, body dispositions and other extralinguistic elements that facilitate the understanding of the message.
  • It is individual, because everyone has their own unique way of speaking, but also collective, since this way of speaking is largely determined by the group to which we belong.

Differences between oral language and written language

Oral language and written language differ in many things, despite being our main ways of communicating verbally, that is, both consist of the use of words belonging to a code (language) shared between sender and receiver.

We know, for example, that speech existed before writingIn other words, the human being first learned to communicate orally and then, due to the pressures of his existence, he was forced to invent different types of durable record that could contain information beyond the moment and the immediate.

In summary, the differences between oral language and written language are:

It is natural: the human being is born already empowered for speech.It is artificial: we must learn to write, since it is a human technology.
It is face-to-face and direct: it requires that the sender and receiver share the same space (except with the help of technology).It is not face-to-face: the sender and receiver may be at a great distance or even at different times.
It is ephemeral: it is lost in time and cannot be recovered.It is durable: a written message can spend centuries waiting for its recipient.
It is bi-directional: it allows the sender and receiver to quickly and easily exchange their roles.It is unidirectional: sender and receiver rarely exchange their roles.
It is improvised: we generally say at the very moment we speak what we think.It is planned: before writing, we usually think about what we want to say and how, to achieve the desired effect.
It allows correction, clarification and explanation, since the sender is present at the time of receipt of your message.It does not allow correction, clarification or explanation, and that is why once the message is written, we do not know how it can be interpreted by the receiver, since the sender will not be there by his side when he reads it to explain what he meant.

Elements of oral language

oral language examples
Today technology allows oral language not necessarily to be face-to-face.

Oral communication requires two types of elements: linguistic (specific to the language) and extralinguistic or contextual.

Linguistic elements:

  • Transmitter, who initiates the communicative process coding and generating the message through his speech apparatus.
  • Receiver, who listens to the broadcast message and decodes it to understand it. You can then exchange your role with the issuer.
  • Channel, the physical method of transporting the message from sender to receiver. In the case of speech, it is usually the sound waves in the air.
  • Message, what is said, the set of information encoded by the issuer.
  • Code, the language in which oral communication takes place.

Extralinguistic elements:

  • Context, the place, time and the objective and subjective conditions in which oral communication occurs. In certain contexts there may be barriers that prevent communication, while in others not.
  • Pragmatic elementsThose that accompany the sender and facilitate the transmission of the message, but are not part of verbal communication, that is, of the words and of what is said. For example: body posture, gestures, facial expression.
  • Communication skills, that is, the disposition and physical capacity of each interlocutor to communicate. Deaf people cannot hear, for example, but they may have the ability to read lips.

Examples of oral language

Examples of oral language are:

  • The jokes that we tell each other to entertain ourselves.
  • Negotiate the price of an item that we want to buy in the market.
  • Talking to a stranger on the street to ask you an address.
  • Have a discussion of couple in person.
  • Give a conference to an interested audience.
  • Answer a phone call.