Dell Hymes Speaking Model For Advanced English Conversation

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In this lesson, you'll learn about the Dell Hymes Speaking model for advanced English Conversation practice. Learn about the S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G framework in the ethnography of communication, which will help improve your communicative competence in English.

What’s up Advanced English learners, Mary Daphne here. If we’re meeting for the first time, welcome! This is the place to be to improve your fluency, confidence, and clarity in English communication.

Speaking of communication, sometimes it’s challenging to know how to speak in different social settings. For example, what to say and how to say it. Specifically, how formal or informal we should speak. The way we communicate depends on many different factors and is always context-dependent. 

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you the Dell Hymes SPEAKING framework to help you decide how to speak in any English communication situation.

Dell Hymes created the SPEAKING framework to show how the way we use language, meaning the way we communicate is largely dependent on the context in which we use the language. So to speak correctly, we need to know vocabulary and grammar but also cultural context. The SPEAKING model gives us the 8 components we need to understand to effectively communicate.

Ok, onto the SPEAKING model. Each of the letters stands for one characteristic of effective communication.

S is for Scene and Setting

Think about what location you are communicating in. Are you at work in which case your communication will be more formal. Are you with close friends at a coffee shop, in which case you’d be more casual in your communication. When we’re in more cozy settings, we might share stories and personal details. When we’re in public settings, we might be more reserved with what we say.

P is for Participants

Participants include you and the people that you are communicating with. It could be a group of people in a conference room, an audience you are addressing but it can also be people you’re telling a story to or a colleague you’re doing a zoom call with. So, it’s people you are addressing but also others who might hear what you are saying.

E is for Ends

Ends means the goal, purpose or outcome of the communication or conversation. Why are you talking? What is the point of having this conversation? Are you trying to convince someone of something and change their mind? Are you trying to get hired by a company? Are you trying to apologize to someone? Or are you telling a joke?

A is for Act Sequence

Act sequence is the order that the communication occurs. For example, when giving a speech, you’ll have a hook, opening, main points, and conclusion. If you’re running a meeting, you’ll have an opening sequence, then address different points from various departments, some interruptions from team members and closing remarks. When telling a story you have the story structure but also some collaborative interruption and questions from the listeners during the storytelling. Every communication situation unfolds differently because they all have their own act sequence. 

K is for Key

Key refers to the way something is being communicated. For example, it’s the nonverbal communication, gestures, tonality, and emotions that are evoked in this communication. Dell Hymes calls it the "tone, manner, or spirit" of the speech act (Hymes,1974). For example, you might address someone in a more serious manner if you are apologizing or you might be animated and enthusiastic when pitching a product to a potential customer. 

I is for Instrumentalities

This means the style you communicate and what language forms you use. By this we mean the level of formality you use in the conversation. There are 5 different types of registers according to Martin Joos. The frozen/static register, the formal register, the consultative register, the casual register, and the intimate register.

N is for Norms

Norms are the social rules that govern the communication event. That means there are socially acceptable ways of acting and reacting in different situations. If someone is making a joke, we can laugh. If someone is trying to apologize, the mood is more serious. You get the idea. 

G is for Genre

Genre is the type of speech act or communication event. For example, you might tell someone a story to teach them an important lesson, or you might file a complaint, or you might make a promise to someone. 

So there you have the Dell Hymes SPEAKING model. It’s a great tool to understand how to approach any social situation and how to communicate. Think about the message, its purpose, who you are speaking to and where you are. This will help you tailor your message to your audience and communicate more effectively. 

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I want to hear from you. What other strategies allow us to communicate more effectively? What has been working for you? Share that with me in the comments below. 

Thank you for joining me! Don't forget to smash that like button, turn on notifications so that you don’t miss a lesson, and subscribe to Advanced English for more lessons like this one. I will see you in the next one. Bye for now!



Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 53–62.

Joos, M. (1967). The five clocks. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.