For several decades now, English grammar has been synonym to the grammar of written English, that is, spoken English has been completely neglected to the benefit of writing. The introduction of new technologies in linguistic research and the compilation of linguistic corpora have facilitated the access to spoken English. In answer to this, SPERTUS intends to focus entirely on the description of modern oral English grammar. This project is also concerned with the description of spoken English according to text-type or gender and with the study of English speech from the perspective of teaching and learning.
This project is organized in three main stages. In the first of them, we will pay attention to those features which are exclusive to spoken English vs. written English. We will also be studying those phenomena of spoken English which show a higher or lower frequency with respect to writing. Among other, we could mention the following: 1) the use of adverbs and intensifiers; 2) backchannels; 3) discourse markers; 4) hedges; 5) question tags and tails; and 6) morphosyntactic forms that are exclusive to English speech. In a second stage, a new complementary object will be added: the variation of spoken English according to the context of use. This project is intended to investigate in depth the defining features of some oral texts, particularly those in the field of academic communication, as well as other situations of use (ordinary conversations between two or more speakers, oral presentations, parliamentary debates, etc). At this stage, we will also be considering the non-verbal component of spoken language. Finally, the third stage concentrates on a contrastive perspective and on learning. We believe, on the basis of our own experience as English teachers and on the account of numerous references to this issue by different scholars, that there is a relative failure in the teaching and learning of spoken English in our country. This project also sets out to describe and analyze the specific difficulties English learners and non-native users find in their oral communication as a first step leading to the adoption of corrective measures. The information collected from the analysis conducted in the first and second parts of the project will serve as a background to identify areas in which the use of spoken language by students and non-natives differs from the native norm. For the fulfilment of these objectives we will analyze the data extracted from general corpora, such as ICE, BNC, COBUILD, and the Longman Spoken and Written English Corpus, which contain written and spoken data. We will also be using specific corpora of oral English, such as MICASE (Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English), SWITCHBOARD and CONCADE (Cambridge-Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English). For the third part, we will be examining the Spanish component of the ICLE (International Corpus of Learner English) and SULEC (Santiago University Learner of English Corpus). At times, it will be necessary to supplement this information with collections of oral data from particular contexts.