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It is important to remember that whenever we approach a spoken text, we are communicating with another person. In any given text there is a responder(audience or listener) and a composer (speaker). One way of remembering this is to think of each text as a dialogue.

Think to yourself, in a conversation with another person (which is a spoken text), what factors affect the way that you talk to them? Will the way you talk change if you are talking to your best friend, your mother, your teacher? How will the way you talk change if you are asking for a favour or demanding something from someone else? Is the way you talk affected by your upbringing or culture and do different people place a stronger emphasis on different things according to their interests and beliefs?

If you can answer some, or all, of these questions then you already understand the concept (idea) of context. Now it is a matter of recognising when matters of context arise when you are listening to or composing a spoken text.

Context

The first step is to understand what the idea (concept) of context means. The context, put simply, is the situation in which an individual or text is located. These situations refer to anything that may influence the content (what the text is about) of a spoken text or the way in which the spoken text is presented. Read on to understand this idea more completely.

Personal Context

Think about your own personal context or personal circumstances. The factors that influence the way you perceive (look at) the world can include

  • family
  • ethnicity (cultural background)
  • gender (male/female)
  • neighbourhood
  • friends
  • school and teachers

Personal context can also include interests and hobbies from sport and music to model-building and stamp collecting, educational background and even things you like or dislike. All these factors influence how you relate to the world and what you think is important. They are responsible for defining you as a unique person as they shape your beliefs and your values. Refer to the personal context animation.

Now, considering that you are a unique individual, how is somebody else different from you? This will affect the way in which we, as individuals, analyse a text. Refer to the animation Personal Context Lesson for a description of how personal context affects meaning in a spoken text.

Composer's context

Just as you have a personal context which affects the way that you respond to a text, composers also have personal context. Refer to the animation Composer's context Lesson for an explanation of the effect of the composer's context.

In this chapter

In this chapter we have examined the effects that context has on how spoken texts are composed and how responders interpret texts.

Personal context is where a responder brings to a text their own interests and ideas. These will influence the way in which a responder interprets a spoken text.

A composer's context is the effect of context on the way a text is written. This will influence the words and subject matter that a composer uses.

Make careful note that these changes occur in the delivery and understanding of the same spoken text, rather than through the content. The point is simple. How you speak affects the meaning of what you say.


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