School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Databank of Spoken English

Each folder in the databank contains a sound clip, a transcript of the clip and set of suggested discussion points based around common features of spoken English illustrated in the sound clip. There are links to summaries of relevant journal articles in the Linguistics Research Digest. Folder 10 features an older man from outer London; the others feature young speakers of Multicultural London English, often in informal conversation with a friend and a fieldworker. Click the folder descriptions below to be taken to the appropriate content.

Folder 1. Alex at the airport

Folder 2. Angela: Street trouble                      

Folder 3. Courtney and Aimee: How Courtney met her boyfriend

Folder 4. Dafne and Nandita: Food Stories

Folder 5. Derya and Kareen: Competing stories

Folder 6. Howard and Junior. Dog story

Folder 7: Laura: Problem at college

Folder 8: Lydia and Louise: Competing for the floor

Folder 9. Madeleine: Dressing up

Folder 10. Stan: Life in the army

Folder 11. Tina: Walking home from cadets

Folder 12. Zack: The bike incident

Below is a table summarising which discussion points can be found in which folder. To view a bigger version, right click (or ctrl+click on a Mac) on the image and select "open image in new tab".

Language materials discussion points summary

Folder 1: Alex - At the airport

Alex, male, 16, White British Black Caribbean mixed; Zack, male, 16, White British
Alex is recorded here talking to his friend Zack. Both boys live in inner London and speak Multicultural London English. Immediately before this extract Alex and Zack had been talking between themselves about going on holiday and ways of bringing banned goods back into the country. In this extract it is Alex who is now holding the floor. Although the interviewer is present, Alexis mainly telling Zack about an incident at the airport in Amsterdam when his friend had hidden drugs in a deodorant spray can. Alex is a lively storyteller and he involves the listeners in the story using a range of different linguistic strategies such as address terms, the conversational historical present tense, kissing teeth, intensifiers and different rhetorical strategies, making the story a kind of performance.

Folder 2: Angela - Street trouble

Angela, female, 16, White British Afro Caribbean mixed
Angela is from inner London. In this extract she talks about some trouble she got into a couple of years ago - first an argument with a woman on a bus, and then with a man in the street. In addition to general features typical of spoken English, Angela uses some slang vocabulary typical of Multicultural London English.

Folder 3: Courtney and Aimee - How Aimee met her boyfriend

Courtney, female, 17, Jamaican; Aimee, female, 19, Jamaican
Courtney and Aimee are two girls whose families are from Jamaica. Courtney is 17 and Aimee is 19. Both live in inner London. In this short extract Courtney tells a short narrative about how she met her current boyfriend. Both girls think it is a funny story. Although short, the extract illustrates several typical aspects of narrative structure. It also shows how friends collaborate in making sure that the listener understands the point of the story. Courtney uses two features (preposition absence and a bare infinitive after TRY) that are recent developments in spoken English.

Linguistics Research Digest links:

"Help!" and infinitive markers


Folder 4: Dafne and Nandita - Food stories

Dafne, female, 8, Nigerian; Nandita, female, 8, Bangladeshi

In this extract two 8 year old girls are talking to the interviewer about food. They are both keen to talk and in their enthusiasm they overlap, but overall they support each other and from line 58 they each take a turn to tell a specific story about food. Although they are only 8 years old, the girls use several features here that are typical of young people’s spoken English, such as general extenders and the discourse markers like and yeah.



Linguistics Research Digest Links:

Folder 5: Derya and Kareen - Food Stories

Derya, female, 8, Turkish; Kareen, female, 8, Indian
Dafne and Kareen agree to share telling the interviewer the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, but neither of them is very happy about the way their friend tells the story, and the extract contains many overlaps and interruptions. Nevertheless there are many features typical of storytelling. Derya acquired English as her second language and there are indications here that she is still learning some grammatical structures. 

Linguistics Research Digest Links:

Folder 6: Howard and Junior - Dog story

Howard, male, 8, White British; Junior, male, 8, Afro Caribbean
Junior and Howard collaborate here to tell a story about being chased by a dog. The style is very livelyand the boys are enjoying telling the interviewer what happened. The boys' uses of the discourse marker yeah are especially interesting. The extract contains the new London quotative this is +speaker.

Linguistics Research Digest links:
New MLE quotative this is + speaker


Folder 7: Laura - Problem at college

Laura, female, 19, White British
Laura is from inner London. She is talking here to her friend and the interviewer about a deaf girl at college who had complained that LAURA had been shouting in class. As a result Laura was almost expelled from her course. The point of the story revolves around what the girl said and what Laura said and, though to a lesser extent, what the teacher said, so the extract is rich in examples of reported speech, some of which Laura presents in a very dramatic way.

Linguistics Research Digest Links:
Was/were levelling 
New MLE quotative this is + speaker

Folder 8: Lydia and Louise - Competing for the floor

Lydia, female, 8, White British; Louise, female, 8, White British
Lydia and Louise are friends from inner London. Here they are telling the  interviewer about a playground that they like. Louise is a dominating speaker  and Lydia finds it difficult to take the floor. It could be interesting to  compare this extract with Howard and Junior's Dog Story where, unlike Lydia and  Louise, the two boys collaborate in telling their story to the interviewer. It  could also be interesting to see how Louise uses features that typically  involve the listeners in the discourse and that may therefore allow her to keep  the floor. 

Folder 9: Madeleine - Dressing up

Madeleine, female, 8, White British/AfroCaribbean mixed race
Madeleine is from inner London. She was recorded with her friend Ben by the interviewer, Arfaan. In this extract it is Madeleine who takes the floor. For an 8 year old, she is an accomplished storyteller, making her story lively and involving her listeners by, amongst other things, her use of intensifiers, direct reported speech and rhetorical strategies.

Folder 10: Stan - Life in the army

Stan, male, 77, White British
Stan lives in Havering, Essex. In this extract he reminisces about his army days. It could be interesting to consider which features of Stan's speech mark him out as a member of an older generation: for example, would a young person use the colloquial words and expressions chap (lines 6, 75), a good half hour (line 25), a blind bit of notice (line 31), blimey (line 44) or a great big fat corporal (line 18)?  Stan's hedges, discourse markers and quotative expressions are also more typical of an older speaker.
Much of the impact of the story comes from what Stan said to his superior officers and what they said to him, so there is a lot of reported direct speech and reported thought in his story.
His use of er and erm is in line with research findings on gender differences in the use of these forms. 

Folder 10: Stan - Life in the Army - Sound Clip
Folder 10: Stan - Life in the Army - Transcript [PDF 57KB]
Folder 10: Stan - Life in the Army - Discussion points [PDF 95KB]

Linguistics Research Digest links: 
Gender differences in "uh" and "um"
The function of fillers

Folder 11: Tina - Walking home from cadets

Tina, female, 18, White British Indian mixed race
In this recording, Tina tells a story about how she avoided being mugged when she was walking home with two friends. Like many of the stories people tell in everyday life, much of the detail lies in what people said and thought, including herself, so the extract is rich in quotative expressions. When the quotative is BE LIKE it is not always clear whether it is introducing what someone said or what they were thinking. This is a typical characteristic of this expression.

Folder 11: Tina - Walking home from cadets - Sound Clip
Folder 11: Tina - Walking home from cadets - Transcript [PDF 49KB]
Folder 11: Tina - Walking home from cadets - Discussion Points [PDF 82KB]

Linguistics Research Digest links:

Folder 12: Zack - The bike incident

Zack, male, 16, white British
This is an extract from a recording of two male friends, Alex and Zack. Both boys are 16 years old and live in inner London. They were talking to the interviewer about their experiences of school. Here Zack explains to the interviewer why he had been thrown out of his secondary school. He tells a short story about an argument he had with a teacher when he was leaving school at the end of the day. Both boys are skilled storytellers (see Alex's story about the airport). Zack's story contains several features typical of the structure of narratives of personal


Folder 12: Zack - Bike Incident - Sound Clip
Folder 12: Zack - Bike Incident - Transcript [PDF 46KB]
Folder 12: Zack - Bike Incident - Discussion Points [PDF 89KB]

Linguistics Research Digest links:
Irregular past tense verbs
Was/were levelling