Dell Hymes’s SPEAKING Model
Sociolinguist Dell Hymes developed the following model to promote the analysis of discourse as a series of speech events and speech acts within a cultural context. It uses the first letters of terms for speech components; the categories are so productive and powerful in analysis that you can use this model to analyze many different kinds of discourse. Mr. McGowan patricularly enjoys applying this model to storytelling.
The SPEAKING Model
Setting and Scene
“Setting refers to the time and place of a speech act and, in general, to the physical circumstances” (Hymes 55).The living room in the grandparents’ home might be a setting for a family story.
Scene is the “psychological setting” or “cultural definition” of a scene, including characteristics such as range of formality and sense of play or seriousness (Hymes 55-56). The family story may be told at a reunion celebrating the grandparents’ anniversary. At times, the family would be festive and playful; at other times, serious and commemorative.
Speaker and audience. Linguists will make distinctions within these categories; for example, the audience can be distinguished as addressees and other hearers (Hymes 54 & 56). At the family reunion, an aunt might tell a story to the young female relatives, but males, although not addressed, might also hear the narrative.
Purposes, goals, and outcomes (Hymes 56-57). The aunt may tell a story about the grandmother to entertain the audience, teach the young women, and honor the grandmother.
Form and order of the event. The aunt’s story might begin as a response to a toast to the grandmother. The story’s plot and development would have a sequence structured by the aunt. Possibly there would be a collaborative interruption during the telling. Finally, the group might applaud the tale and move onto another subject or activity.
Cues that establish the “tone, manner, or spirit” of the speech act (Hymes 57). The aunt might imitate the grandmother’s voice and gestures in a playful way, or she might address the group in a serious voice emphasing the sincerity and respect of the praise the story expresses.
Forms and styles of speech (Hymes 58-60). The aunt might speak in a casual register with many dialect features or might use a more formal register and careful grammatical “standard” forms.
Social rules governing the event and the participants’ actions and reaction. In a playful story by the aunt, the norms might allow many audience interruptions and collaboration, or possibly those interruptions might be limited to participation by older females. A serious, formal story by the aunt might call for attention to her and no interruptions as norms.
The kind of speech act or event; for our course, the kind of story. The aunt might tell a character anecdote about the grandmother for entertainment, but an exemplum as moral instruction. Different disciplines develop terms for kinds of speech acts, and speech communities sometimes have their own terms for types.
These terms can be applied to many kinds of discourse. Sometimes in a written discussion you might emphasize only two or three of the letters of the mnemonic. It provides a structure for you to perceive components.
Hymes, Dell. Foundations of Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1974.