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Speech Codes Theory

Gerry Philipsen

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Language and Social Interaction

Key-Topics language, symbolism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Speech codes are historically situated and socially constructed systems of symbols, meanings, premises, and rules about communicative conduct. The “speech” in “speech codes” is a shorthand term, a figure of speech, standing here for all the possible means of communicative conduct that can be encountered in a given time and place. The “code” in “speech codes” refers to a system of symbols, meanings, premises, and rules pertaining to those means. These senses of “speech” and of “code,” when placed together in the term “speech code,” establish a definition of a speech code as a historically situated and socially constructed system of resources that people use to talk about their own and others’ communicative conduct. A speech code is a construct that an observer-analyst formulates explicitly in order to interpret and explain communicative conduct in a particular speech community. The observer-analyst notices that participants in the discursive life of a speech community use particular resources – acts, practices, patterns of activity, symbols, meanings, premises, and rules – to enact, name, interpret, and judge communicative conduct. And the analyst uses what was noticed to construct a hypothesis as to the existence and nature of a system of resources that these participants use to do that enactment, naming, interpretation, and evaluation. That hypothesis is the observer-analyst's ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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