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Let's say there is a conversation being analysed, and the people in the conversation are being divided into two groups: The people who speak and the people who hear.

If the people who speak are called "speakers", will the people who hear be called "hearers"?

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Idiot: Please, tell me and @teylyn, and @z7sg, if you were asking for everyday language or specialised terminology. If you mean the first one, then it means I'm wrong and I'll remove my downvote on teylyn. So, edit your question, please. Thanks. –  Alenanno May 31 '11 at 11:05
    
I'm not really sure, its used in analysis. –  Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:09
    
Yes, if this is a question about linguistics, please make that clear so it can be closed. –  z7sg Ѫ May 31 '11 at 11:22
    
It's used in my everyday conversation, but I'm not really sure if the word I'm using at the moment is correct. –  Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:25
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I think the word you are after is listener in everyday terminology.

The speaker speaks to an audience. In the audience, you may find some very attentive listeners. Everybody in the room will hear the talk, so it might be argued that hearer is a possibility.

It depends on the interest of the audience member, though.

Hearing is something you cannot control. Your ears will pick up the sound and send it to your brain. So everyone who hears the sounds will be a hearer.

Listening, though, is something that you can control. You can decide to tune out and not pay attention, or you can decide to lap up every sound or word. If you are interested and follow the talk, you will probably describe yourself as a listener.

This also manifests in the set term avid listener. I'm not sure if such a construct exists for hearing.

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You can also listen without hearing anything, if there's no noise. So maybe hearer (although not generally used in ordinary English) is more appropriate for some technical terminology. –  Peter Shor May 31 '11 at 12:08
    
@Third Idiot, in that same sense that teylyn describes you would have, natural division into, two groups: the people who speak and the people who listen –  Unreason May 31 '11 at 12:16
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Edited Answer, see below.

Every time I've studied conversations patterns and rules of speaking, the other person has always been called either hearer or addressee. Here I'll quote an example from my notes:

"Speakers and hearers constantly adjust their internal registry of deictics to keep up with the conversation."

or

"Directives = Speech acts in which the words are aimed at making the hearer do something;"

I'm not really sure about listener, but honestly I can't recall using it.


EDIT:

Since I've been downvoted, I'll link a further reference which proves me right. The book, Speech acts: an essay in the philosophy of language, is written by John R. Searle, a rather known name in the Linguistics field and to whoever studied Linguistics in an academic setting.

Speech Acts are utterances that don't simply convey information, but can also "perform actions" such as "I hereby declare you company and wife." (This one, for example, is a Declaration according to Searle's classification of Speech Acts.

If you search words in that book, there are 34 entries for "hearer" and 0 entries for "listener".

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@Aleanno, I must confess I've hardly ever heard the term "hearer" and when I come across it, it sounds simply wrong, never mind your notes. The NGRAM at ngrams.googlelabs.com/…; shows a clear dominance of "listener". –  teylyn May 31 '11 at 10:37
    
@teylyn: I'm a Linguistics student, and hearer is used. Go to the Searle wikipedia's page, in case you don't know, he's a famous linguist. Now scroll to "Classifying illocutionary speech acts" and look at the DIRECTIVES. This shows that the NGRAM is not that reliable and your down-vote is wrong. –  Alenanno May 31 '11 at 10:42
    
@teylyn: read my edit. –  Alenanno May 31 '11 at 10:49
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@Aleanno, I think there is a difference between a highly specilised text using techical terms/jargon and everyday language. It may well be that in the scientific context of linguistics, the term "hearer" is acceptable, but in common language, and that is what I believe Third Idiot is after, listener is much more appropriate and common. It's interesting to see that you let my answer stand at first, and only downvoted it when you thought I had downvoted yours. That's called petty revenge, right? –  teylyn May 31 '11 at 10:53
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I'm not going to downvote or anything but it looks like a linguistics answers to a question about English. A lay person does not understand hearer in this way, nor do they know what a 'Speech Act' is. –  z7sg Ѫ May 31 '11 at 10:56
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