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Definition of Speech

(noun) The vocalization of sound to communicate meaning through language.

Speech Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: speech

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /spEEch/
  • British English – /spEEch/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /spitʃ/
  • British English – /spiːtʃ/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: speeches
  • Also called:
    • oral communication
    • speech communication 
    • spoken communication 
    • spoken language 
    • voice communication

Related Quotations

  • Class boundaries are also maintained by language, speech patterns, and pronunciation. Members of the upper class speak more directly and in a more assured manner than do members of the working and lower classes. Their confident demeanor, in turn, enables upper- and upper-middle-class speakers to project images of credibility, honesty, and competence that are important in all social arenas—especially the workplace” (Thompson and Hickey 2012:221).
  • “Throughout Western society there seems to be one informal or backstage language of behavior, and another language of behavior for occasions when a performance is being presented. The backstage language consists of reciprocal first-naming, co-operative decision-making, profanity, open sexual remarks, elaborate griping, smoking, rough informal dress, ‘sloppy’ sitting and standing posture, use of dialect or sub-standard speech, mumbling and shouting, playful aggressivity and ‘kidding’, inconsiderateness for the other in minor but potentially symbolic acts, minor physical self-involvements, such as humming, whistling, chewing, nibbling, belching and flatulence. The frontstage of behavior language can be taken as the absence (and in some sense the opposite) of this. In general, then, backstage conduct is one which allows minor acts which might easily be taken as symbolic of intimacy and disrespect for others present and the region, while front region conduct is one which disallows such potentially offensive behavior” (Goffman 1956:78).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Goffman, Erving. 1956. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Edinburgh, Scotland: University of Edinburgh Social Science Research Centre.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Cite the Definition of Speech

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “speech.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved February 27, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/speech/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

speech. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/speech/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “speech.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed February 27, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/speech/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“speech.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/speech/>.