We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is an Utterance?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An utterance can be defined simply as a section of spoken speech, separated by pauses or silence. The specific definition of the term is hard to pin down, because some people believe it to relate to an entire spoken "turn" in a conversation, while others believe the definition to be more episodic, almost the equivalent of sentences for spoken English. Regardless of the preferred definition, an utterance can be generally defined as a chunk of spoken language.

Spoken language and written language are different in many ways. The main reason for this is that spoken language is usually generated on the spot by the speaker, which means that there are frequent pauses while the speaker thinks of how to continue. These pauses are often filled with filler words such as "like" or "err..." or silence. Conversely, written language only has grammatical pauses, such as a period or comma, to dictate when a pause should be taken. As a result of this difference, in written language, a sentence can easily be defined as the words between the capital letter and the period, but in speech, the definition is much more difficult.

The difficulty in defining sentences in spoken language has lead to the need for the term utterance. This term is only really necessary in linguistics and in the study of language, and is generally used to refer to any section of speech which is being studied. Sentences cannot be used as they are in written language because the rules of sentences are not always observed. For example, if someone responded to a question by saying "not really," this could hardly be defined as a full sentence. Likewise, a long, rambling description may not lend itself to breaking up into grammatical sentences, so referring to the section as an utterance makes this process easier.

The main argument that takes place regarding the specific definition of the term utterance is whether it refers to the whole spoken "turn" or the words between two pauses. This is more of a semantic argument than one required to use the term correctly, so either definition is suitable for a functional use of the word. A spoken turn can be defined as one person's turn to speak in a conversation; this could be anything from a single word to a ten minute speech. Alternatively, an utterance can be classed as a section of speech between two pauses; this is a more spoken-sentence definition of the term. If the latter definition is accepted, one turn of speech could contain several utterances.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Contentum — On Apr 12, 2014

@Grinderry - Just goes to show you how complex the English language really is. I can only wonder what words and phrases we use in this era that will be considered historical and profound by the future generations if any at all.

By Grinderry — On Apr 12, 2014

I had always thought an utterance was the equivalent to muttering, thereby giving us the word utterance. But this makes more sense to me.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.