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Variation across Speech and Writing
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Book description

Similarities and differences between speech and writing have been the subject of innumerable studies, but until now there has been no attempt to provide a unified linguistic analysis of the whole range of spoken and written registers in English. In this widely acclaimed empirical study, Douglas Biber uses computational techniques to analyse the linguistic characteristics of twenty three spoken and written genres, enabling identification of the basic, underlying dimensions of variation in English. In Variation Across Speech and Writing, six dimensions of variation are identified through a factor analysis, on the basis of linguistic co-occurence patterns. The resulting model of variation provides for the description of the distinctive linguistic characteristics of any spoken or written text andd emonstrates the ways in which the polarization of speech and writing has been misleading, and thus enables reconciliation of the contradictory conclusions reached in previous research.


‘Biber’s book is an important, highly innovative and stimulating work which marks a new departure in the study of language variation. Its multifeature/multifunctional approach succeeds where earlier studies have failed … I regard Biber’s book as a major achievement that is likely to become a classic in its field. It should be read by everyone interested in language variation.’

B. Altenberg Source: Studia Linguistica

‘ … Biber’s study is far more than impressive number-crunching. As his detailed and explicit rationale make clear, this is a theoretically motivated research design … Variation across speech and writing contributes fundamentally to research on oral and written language relationships as well as to that on discourse variables in general.’

Roberta Vann Source: Studies in Second Language Acquisition

‘By far the most extensive quantitative investigation of spoken-written language differences has been the recent stunning research of Biber …’

Wallace L. Chafe and Deborah Tannen Source: Annual Review of Anthropology

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