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As explained in Chapter 2, context is the situation or circumstances of either the responder or composer. This affects the way in which listeners respond to spoken texts as well as the way that composers construct their spoken texts. In this chapter we will look at how purpose, audience, ideology and positioning affect the way that readers respond to, and composers construct, spoken texts.


The audience refers to the group of people who will be listening to the spoken text. When a composer constructs a spoken text he/she is writing for a particular audience. This will have an impact on how the text is composed. Imagine, for example, that you are leaving a voice message on a mobile phone (this is a spoken text). Do you think that the message you leave will be different if your intended audience was your best friend? Your mother? The manager where you hope to get a job? Refer to the 'Audience lesson' animation for more detailed examples.


Every spoken text that we come across has a purpose. The purpose is the reason for the text being composed. This could be a conversation with the purpose of meeting a friend at the beach on the weekend. The purpose of some texts could be to make teenagers laugh. The purpose of many radio documentaries is to inform and sometimes to persuade. The purpose of radio advertisements is certainly to persuade. The purpose of a speech can be varied but is often used to inform or persuade. In each case, the purpose of a text will influence the way in which it is composed and will generally have the purposes of entertaining, instructing, persuading or warning and so on. Refer to the 'Purpose lesson' animation for an example.

Purpose, audience and context

Purpose, audience and context are very closely linked. This is because the purpose of a text often involves communicating with a particular audience. A text with the purpose of making teenagers laugh should have an audience of teenagers who want to laugh. In order for this to happen, the composer will need to have a solid understanding of the context (what teenagers' circumstances are - particularly their interests and what they find humorous). Refer to the 'Purpose, audience and context' animation for more analysis.


Ideology is a set of values and attitudes. We derive our values and attitudes from our everyday experiences and what we are taught. They are what help us to decide what is right and wrong. Our ideology is very much influenced by our context. Many spoken texts (in particular speeches and drama) that you will study and analyse, will present a particular ideology. These ideologies are quite often influenced by context. A composer of a spoken text whose values and attitudes are very much against racism and prejudice, for example, may present a spoken text that aims to communicate those values to the audience.


It is important that a composer puts their audience into a position to understand his/her ideology. In the 'I Have a Dream' speech delivered by Martin Luther King in 1963, for example, it is vital to the success of the speech that the listener has an understanding of the prejudice and racism in the particular historical context so that they can understand the damage that it has done. King positions the audience to understand the importance of freedom and racial equality in the USA. Refer to the animation 'Ideology and positioning lesson' for an example.

In this chapter

You should be building up a picture of how context, audience, purpose, ideology and positioning are interrelated and impact on shaping meaning in texts.

As a responder, you need to be aware of the context of the composer and how that contributes to the construction of spoken texts. You should be aware of how your own context influences your interpretation of a spoken text. You need to be able to understand who a text has been constructed for and explain why this is. You need to understand the ideology of composers. You need to understand how composers position their audience to initiate particular types of responses.

As a composer, you should always be aware of who your audience is, what you are trying to communicate (purpose) and what the best way to communicate is. By listening to spoken texts and looking for the above information you will come to a better understanding of how meaning is shaped in text and this, in turn, will be extremely valuable in constructing more effective compositions.


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