The analysis of the text reveals a lexical density of 50% (Appendix a) and a distribution of lexical words that have more in common with written registers than with spoken (Appendix b). As illustrated in Biber et al (2002, p.23), this count of verbs at 14% and nouns at 26% is very similar to the levels of these lexical items in the fiction register and the high level of adjectives at 11% has more in common with the academic register.
Closer analysis of a selection of these lexical items from the extract (Appendix j) using the concordance to research frequency rates in the conversation, fiction and academic corpora, revealed some atypical, for the register of spoken English, lexical choices such as ‘incomprehensible’ (Line 95) and ‘demographic’ (Line 105) both of which returned zero hits in the speech corpus. Biber et al (2002, p.267) observes that ‘speakers typically use noun phrases with no modification’ so one could say that the extract has grammatical complexity at clause level more typically associated with written texts such as noun phrases with adjectival pre-modification as in ‘silver-haired Scouse groundhog’ (Line 120), participle pre-modification, as in ‘relaxing night’ (Line 65) and noun pre-modification as in ‘height requirement’ (Line 79).
In contrast, analysis of commonly occurring coordinators (Appendix c) showed a high frequency of usage, as compared to the occurrences of subordination (Appendix d), most notably of the coordinator ‘and’, which would indicate a strong inclination towards a style of linking clauses that has more in common with a conversational structure as observed by Carter (2004, p.33), where ‘clauses are chained together in a sequence with one clause unit added to another in a linear and incremental way’ e.g. ‘And (sic) I came in at number 41, and I was very pleased to be placed’ (Line 23/24).
In addition, during the analysis of lexical items of the text for the lexical density calculation, it was observed that there was a high frequency of the copula verb ‘be’ (Appendix f). Although analysis of process types (Appendix e) falls under the remit of the experiential metafunction and the main focus of this project is on the register variable of mode, it is reported on because it seemed relevant to the idiom of the artist in general and is an indicator that Lee tends towards the use of language as reflection which in isolation would place the text towards the reconstruction and written end of the mode continuum referred to by Coffin (2005).
According to Biber et al, within Academic prose ‘more of the main verbs are forms of the copula be.’ and that ‘these are used to state the existence of conditions and to give evaluations’ (2002, p.106). Examination of the text appeared to show that Lee often utilizes this stating/reflecting function of the copula ‘be’ in the narrative for comedic effect, for example:
‘And (sic) a squashed Albert Finney is arguably worse than a crumpled Morrisey” (Line 37/38)
‘it’s not even a dream of Tom O’Connor’s. In fact, in many ways it’s his worst nightmare.’ (Line 117/118)
The above observations indicate a style that, due to its grammatical complexity, speaks to the ‘writtenness’ of the text but that introduces elements of ‘spokenness’ by linking these complex clauses together in a conversational way, perhaps an example of what Lee referred to in his aforementioned lecture of ‘sneaking smart stuff past people by stealth’ (Lee, 2013).
Further analysis focusing on features more typically associated with spoken text was also revealing, such as the use of heads and tails in the text (Appendix g). Heads, as in ‘Bernard Manning, who was in the top forty, he died’ (Line 45/46) which help listeners orient to a topic, listeners in this case being the audience rather than interlocuters in a conversation, and tails, as in ‘He is an amazing figure, Stuart Maconie’ (Line 12) as reinforcement of what has just been said. (Carter, 2004)
The analysis also showed a variety of inserts used for different purposes (Appendix h). Such as ‘yeah?’ as a response getter where there is no real opportunity for a response, although notably in the following example he seems to give the expected response himself: ‘And (sic) that’s a giant, innit, a giant. Yeah? It’s a giant.’ (Line 89/90). Lee also uses the discourse marker ‘you know’ frequently both as a response getter but also, it seems, to encourage solidarity and closeness by implying an assumed shared knowledge and opinion, as in ‘you know those terrible channel 4 programmes’ (Line 7). From these aspects of the analysis a pattern appears to emerge of Lee using discourse markers to support the illusion that his performance is a spontaneous two-way dialogue, in which the audience are participating more than they actually are.
The analysis of hesitators ‘um’ and ‘er’ (Appendix i) shows that the number of occurrences in the special purpose corpus is similar to the level of occurrences in the speech corpus. There are also other multiple examples of dysfluencies in the text that are more typical of on-line unplanned dialogue. Some of the dysfluency may be where Lee needs time to remember the script but on most occasions it appears to serve a different purpose.
Hesitators and repetitions in the text, rather than acting to ‘relieve real-time planning pressure’ (Coffin, p.181) often seem to act as devices to relieve the audience of real time listening pressure by slowing down the pace of the delivery, as in ‘always been er a dream of hers, yeah, to go, to go on a cruise,’ (Line 114/115) and at other points to alert the audience to the upcoming delivery of a witty line as in “But it wasn’t, it wasn’t the case, even with, er, a letter writing campaign er to the family;” (Lines 47-49).
There are also examples of repetition allowing emphasis and elaboration, as in ‘I was pleased, I was pleased and surprised’ (Lines 51/52) which appear to play a cohesive role rather than being a dysfluency marker.
In regards to the study of mode, it is said that it is obvious whether a text is interactive or non-interactive because the former involves turn-taking, questions and answers, interruptions, overlaps and hesitators and indicators of sympathetic support where the latter does not (White, 2005).
However, this stand-up comedy routine is not interactive, apart from the occasional heckle from an audience member. Yet the analysis of the transcripts has shown that it includes many features that would, to the untrained eye, or ear, leave the impression that it was and the following excerpt demonstrates further Lee’s use of dysfluent features that are common in conversation:
‘That’s a sea based illness isn’t it? My wife wrote it, it’s not one of mine and...No, she did, my wife wrote it, it’s not the kind of joke I would write, it’s too…It’s got a good kind of rhythm, hasn’t it, conventional sort of rhythm to it,’
In the above quote, the performer interrupts himself, reformulates, uses question tags and contractions (isn’t it?, hasn’t it), hedging/vague language (kind of, sort of) and makes a personal reference (my wife) which together have the effect of making the text feel interactive and conversational and implies little communicative distance between Lee and the audience.
In contrast the following quote from the same text has quite a different quality and brings forward the features of ‘writtenness’ discussed at the beginning of this section:
‘he’s rather like an omniscient alien super-being, a giant baby that lives in space, bald, wearing only a toga, able to view the entire span of all human culture and existence, and yet tragically, by the creed of his alien race Stuart Maconie is forbidden from ever intervening in human affairs.’
This section of the routine is grammatically complex showing use of simile and unusual lexis (like an omniscient), fronted long passive construction (by the creed of his alien race(…) is forbidden), relatively high lexical density (56%), a dependent adverbial –ing clause (wearing only a toga), condensing through elipses (<who is>able to view), and a concessionary linking adverbial phrase (and yet tragically).
The comparison of the above two quotes alongside each other serves to exemplify Lee’s idiom and demonstrate that while many markers of ‘spokenness’ are present, conversely the performer also often delivers grammatically and lexically sophisticated, dysfluency free prose with esoteric references (in this case to ‘The Watchers’, characters from Marvel Comics) which could come across as quite pompous and alienating even though tempered marginally by the modal expression ‘rather’.
This juxtaposition of registers provides Lee’s performance with an intrinsic prosody of sorts, resulting in a distinctive style where grammar and lexis are artfully employed to vary the pace of the performance which facilitates the continued engagement of the audience as the artist reflects on his thoughts and views, and comments on a variety of topics, often in a provocative manner and often to satirical effect.
Lee’s singular choice of adjectives to modify noun phrases, are expertly utilized to expand similes, draw comparisons, express hyperbole and share his opinions while demonstrating an informed linguistic choice that relies on coordination over subordination and exploits conversational features to present sophisticated and often grammatically complex prose in a ‘listener-sensitive way’ (Carter, p.33), within a genre which ‘aims to entertain rather than merely inform’ (Coffin, 2005. p166),
In summary, the research seems to have confirmed the hypothesis that the text contains features typically associated with both spoken and written registers and has highlighted that these features appear to be artfully woven together so that the audience, despite the lexical density that equates to fiction in some respects and academic prose in others, are able to enjoy a diverting evening without feeling that they are attending a lecture or listening to someone reading them a book.