Thursday, September 24, 2020

Using the Lexis podcast to inspire Language Investigations

Here's a thread I did on Twitter about how you might want to use the Lexis podcast to help with your NEA Language Investigations.

It's that time of year again when students are starting to work on NEA language investigations. We've covered some areas on @LexisPodcast that I think would be good for investigations, so here are a few ideas.

You’ll need to think carefully about how to formulate your own aims and research questions (IMO that’s more important than a title), where your data is going to come from and how you are going to analyse it, but these topics might appeal…

Back in episode 2, we looked at the language of & about protests. There’s been a summer of protest – BLM, ‘statue defenders’, anti-maskers, Extinction Rebellion, antifa facing down fascist militias – so plenty of data to explore.

You could look at the reporting of protests in the media, the language of the protesters themselves (Lisa looked at BLM placards and slogans in that episode), the representation of different sides, including the police.

In episodes 1 and 2, we talked about accents & accentism. More widely, there have been debates among teachers and educators about standard & non-standard English in schools. Why not look at the ways in which certain accents & dialects are represented?

That could be through news stories about varieties of English or by analysing the language used in accent reduction advertisements, YouTube channels or comments online. We interviewed Rob Drummond, Devyani Sharma and Ian Cushing about these topics.

Language policing and censorship have been issues we’ve come back to a few times. Whether it’s racially offensive terms or people choosing their own pronouns (and the backlash against that), language debates are always in the news.

The ways in which these are reported & commented on can make really good investigations. You could employ critical discourse approaches to explore how different arguments are put forward & how language itself is represented.

But also, you could look at how language changes over time. By selecting some texts from different time periods (social media messages, media texts, letters) you could explore the changing frequency of taboo terms and their alternatives.

Tony Thorne was our interviewee in episode 9 and we had a great chat with him about the language of the pandemic. You might have had enough of this by now – I know most of us have – but there’s masses of data out there to analyse…

How the pandemic has been represented over its lifespan, how key politicians and scientists have spoken about it to the public, how different social and ethnic groups have been scapegoated. I could go on, but I’ll just get angry & depressed.

But there’s so much you could look at around the framing of the whole issue, the slogans used, the reporting of the language even. Tony had some excellent stuff to say about covid vocabulary and it wasn’t as depressing as you might think!

In episode 7 we talked to Philip Seargeant about emojis. How are these used in different messaging and social media apps? Is there a notable difference between age groups? Who uses them more or less and for what ends?

Kelly Wright’s work on the representation of race and ethnicity in sports journalism sparked some interesting discussion in episode 6 and we spoke to her at about the same time as a PFA report on representation of footballers was published.

This is a fascinating area to investigate and there’s great scope for you to build your own mini-corpus and explore the language of representation here, whether it’s with a focus on the terms used to describe black athletes compared to white…

how women are represented compared to men, how Paralympians compare to able-bodied athletes… there’s a lot to think about. Gathering data, selecting a database for your own mini-corpus analysis, exploring key words & their meanings, can all be productive.

We focused on accent change in our Northern accents special in episode 8 and talked to Georgina Brown about new research about (maybe) new accents. So often, accents are linked to prestige and social expectations, so could this be a focus?

You could look at particular sounds, think about how they are used by different speakers in different social situations and think about their social meanings. Accent studies at A level can be trickier than others, but there’s scope for a good investigation if you think carefully.

In episodes 3, 4 and 10 we’ve talked a lot with Devyani Sharma, Shivonne Gates and Lucy Jones about language variation and identity. You could take any of the work they talked about – their own research or studies they’ve mentioned – as a useful starting point.

MLE, language performing different social identities and questions about how we change our language in different contexts can all lead to studies where you collect your own data and offer your own questions.

That’s enough to be going on with for now… If you have any other ideas, based on what we’ve done so far, let us know!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Intersections and explorations

One of the key messages from the feedback on Language Change and Diversity on Paper 2 over the last few years has been that students who understand the interconnected nature of the language topics* often have a better chance of hitting the higher levels of the AO2 mark scheme than those who see them in separate boxes. And this makes a lot of sense when you look at the kinds of questions being set and - more broadly - the nature of language and its users.

To paraphrase and oversimplify decades of sociolinguistic thinking, the first wave of work in the 60s and 70s tended to look at the language associated with and used by different groups in society, the second wave looked at social networks and how connections and associations between people and groups impacted upon language use, before the third wave came along and looked at how language is used by people to perform different aspects of their identities by drawing on linguistic repertoires and pools of language features. You'll find many better worded and more developed explanations of these trends in sociolinguistics text books, but as a general picture of where thinking has been going, it's a start. 

What this feeds into for Paper 2 is that if you view language use in a kind of essentialist way (ie that working class people use x kind of language and middle class people use y kind of language because of the social classes they belong to) you're probably not going to appreciate the more complex nature of our identities as language users. After all, we are all more than just products of our environment and the categories we can be placed into. Aspects of our identities - gender, ethnicity, occupational and social groups, for example - all have an impact on how we use language and we perform these aspects of our identity in different ways depending on who's around us and what we want to achieve. I probably didn't think a great deal about 'performing my whiteness' when I was teaching in a largely white college, but I thought about it more - and about my students' performances of their own ethnicities in that college and later on, elsewhere - when I worked in a largely African-Caribbean college. Sometimes, we start to think about these things and realise that aspects of language we had perhaps taken for granted are part of a much bigger and more complex picture.

It's also why a lot of us teaching the course keep reminding students that while the topics* for Paper 2 - occupation, gender, world Englishes, region etc - have their own knowledge base and bodies of research, there are some key strands that link them all together. It's this overlap or intersection of different aspects of language that can be really interesting and the exploration of these overlaps can lead us into some of the higher reaches of the mark scheme when it comes to assessing work.

Let's take a couple of recent programmes about language as cases in point. Radio 4's Woman's Hour recently aired a segment about accents. You can find it here: From about 33 minutes in

In this programme, the contributors talked about how their accents had been commented upon, criticised, belittled and mocked by others. While it was sad to hear this and the emotional and professional impact it had had on these women, it wasn't new: we hear about this all the time and accent bias is something you're bound to look at on the course at some point. Where it became more interesting is where the prejudice about accent (usually - but not exclusively - seen as a feature of regional variation) started to intersect with issues such as class and gender. Were women particularly discriminated against because of their accents? There certainly seemed to be an aspect of all of this behaviour that suggested that women's voices were fair game for criticism in a way that men's voices often aren't. 

And what about social class? Is it worse for a woman to sound working class than a man? And what about working class women in certain occupations such as teaching and lecturing? This is where an understanding of wider ideas such as attitudes to standard and non-standard English, different attitudes to linguistic variants (how someone might say bottle, grass, or use different words for greetings - hi, hey, whassup, alright) across the world and a grasp of the shared patterns across different topics really comes into play.

A second programme on Radio 4, called Code-switching, also illustrates some of this. While code-switching and style-shifting are fairly common areas to study on the course, the different angles in this programme are particularly fascinating. The host, Lucrece Grehoua takes us through some of the ways in which the Black people she interviews view their use of language in relation to predominantly white and middle class workplaces, how they feel about adapting their language and the different tensions between between ethnicity, class, occupation and gender. For a lot of people of all ethnic and social backgrounds, converging and diverging are just things we do all the time, so it's really interesting to hear people dissecting their own language use in such fine detail and at such a meta-level.

Again, this is the kind of discussion that helps to illuminate a number of different areas of language study and allows you to see how so many of them link up. Have a listen and see what you make of it.

Get back to work, you lazy slackers.

With the new academic year starting, I thought it might be a good idea to post a few short blogs. Today, I've been thinking about work and the Paper 2 Language and Occupation topic*. 

The lockdown has led to a lot of talk about how we work, what work means to us, how it oils the wheels of the economy and how it generates new language. So, while we've had lots of new expressions emerge from how many of us have had to change our working practices - WFH (Working From Home), Zooming (using the Zoom app to hold meetings), Zoombombing (like photobombing but with other people's Zoom meetings) and Toxic Productivity (the pressure to work at full tilt throughout the lockdown) - we've also seen a lot of language used to discuss and represent work. 

As you probably already know, all the topics* for Paper 2 (gender, social groups, ethnicity, region etc) can be as much about how language is used to represent different groups as it can be about how people use language. So, for example, when looking at language and gender, you might look at supposed communication differences between the sexes but also look at how language constructs ideas of masculinity and femininity; for language and social class, you might focus on sociolect and education, but also how language represents different social groups through terms like chav, posh, townie or pleb.  

Up until now, I'd found language and occupation a slightly trickier proposition for a representation focus than many of the others. There's always been discussion of business jargon and arguments about plain English in the workplace, and they've been set before as part of the AS exams already, but that's about all I could come up with. 

What's been interesting in recent months is how work, as an idea, has been discussed and represented. One good source for material is in the media coverage of the government's messaging about safety in the workplace (and of course, for teachers, catering staff, classroom assistants, students and admin staff, schools and colleges are among these places of work) and how that messaging has been pitched to represent work in different ways. Of course, a major part of this messaging has been about how safe it is (supposedly) to return to work, so there has been a lot of reassuring language used, but coupled with that has been a creeping implication that if we don't get back to the office soon, sandwich retailers and coffee shops will go bust, the economy will collapse and will it all be our fault. As the reassuring messaging about schools, offices, public transport and bowling alleys (?) is rolled out, other messages are fed to us too.

In many ways this is indicative of how I think a lot of government policy during the pandemic seems to have operated: first an idea is pitched to a sympathetic media outlet who run it and see what the reaction is; then the proposed policy is re-calibrated or pulled, depending on how it has been received. 

Try this tweet from The Sun, for example: 

Elsewhere, the return to work was described in various terms in other media outlets. Try a few of these for size...

  • ...the Government tries to entice people out of their lockdown habits and reboot the economy (the Daily Express)
  • "I think there's a limit, just in human terms, to remote working. And there are things where you just need to spark off each other and get together in order to make progress." (Government Minister Grant Shapps, quoted in the Daily Express)
  • ‘The UK’s offices are vital drivers of our economy,’ says Dame Carolyn, who speaks for almost 200,000 firms. ‘They support thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars. They help train and develop young people. And they foster better work and productivity for many kinds of business. (Daily Mail)
  • The UK economy could lose almost half a trillion pounds of output if workers fail to return to their offices, a study estimates. (Douglas McWilliams, a former chief economic adviser to the Confederation of British Industry as reported in The Guardian) 
  • 'Go back to work or risk losing your job': Major drive launched to get people returning to the office. Ministers warn that continuing to work from home could make staff ‘vulnerable’ to being sacked (Daily Telegraph)
  • Brits must return to offices to stop city centres becoming 'ghost towns', CBI boss warns (Evening Standard)
What's interesting about these from a language analysis point of view is that we can see a mixture of positive representation of the office environment and thinly-veiled threats that not returning to work might result in being sacked. If you were pulling a few of these extracts apart, you might think about some of the following:
  • verb choices - entice, spark, foster - offering the language of encouragement and positivity linked to the office
  • semantic fields of financial cost
  • home working being represented as having 'limits' and 'risks'
  • modality doing a quite a lot of work about what might happen: could lose, could make staff vulnerable, must return
There are all sorts of good reasons why people might want or need to return to the workplace - doing things you can't do from home, mental health, the social side of the workplace, pinching other people's mugs and biscuits, the injection of money into the office economy etc - but I think we need to look carefully at the ways in which all this is framed and represented to us, and some focused language analysis gives us the chance to unpack some of the different agendas at work. Along with this, it's also very helpful for paper 2 if you want to think a bit more about how language represents occupation and its changing nature as a result of the pandemic. Maybe you could start to find your own examples to look at as part of a mini-study of the area, or even pick it up as part of a language investigation. It's unlikely that the data will dry up any time soon - furloughing looks like it will come to an end in October and different workplaces will be featured in various government campaigns and media onslaughts - so there will be a lot to look at and a number of different viewpoints to consider.

(*Topics are not really the preferred term here as they are all linked and related, but we often teach them as topics before making the bigger connections.)

Monday, April 06, 2020

Embracing Independent Study (at home!)

This is a guest blog by Richard Young, an A level student at St Thomas More RC Academy in Tyne and Wear, who's hoping to go on to study English Language/Linguistics at degree level.

As David Crystal (2011) says, ‘all living languages change’. And, even at this moment in time, whilst Coronavirus forces us into lockdown, there are still neologisms creeping up here-and-there, surrounding the pandemic’s semantic field. Whilst we aren’t at school or college, it is possible to keep up with these linguistic innovations, develop crucial digital literacy research skills, and foster an understanding (and an interest) around the topics and language issues that we have a passion for exploring further.

Lockdown is the perfect chance to delve into linguistic research, and do an ‘Independent Study’ - taking time to explore a topic that interests you. It’s an opportunity for you to be creative and experiment with a selection of research methods, to see what works best for your revision, whilst practising those key skills that help make your research credible. I really enjoyed independent study, during my A-Level course, and now in preparation for studying English at university, I am keen to make the most of it again. The benefits of independent study include:

  • a freedom of choice - allowing you to research a topic of your own interest, and present findings in a way that suits your own study habits. 
  • the opportunity to ‘scratch up’ on strategic use of digital/online resources - becoming a necessity in lockdown, with the majority of us (if not all) referring to the internet for our research. 
  • a developing understanding of language topics - making you think hard about your own opinions, leading to more critical questioning about your reading and sources. 
Now, you’re probably wondering how to approach independent study?

Firstly, think about the kind of language source you might like to study. With the internet, there are now various ways to find sources to study. Choose a source that you believe you will find most interesting and relate to your interests; here are some of the tasks that you could consider:

  • watching an episode of a TV programme with a language context - e.g. Channel 4’s ‘Educating…’ series or ‘The Secret Life of Four and Five Year Olds’ - relevant for social groups, language change and language acquisition topics. 
  • watching a TEDtalk on a language issue or debate - there is an interesting talk by John McWhorter, ‘Txting is killing language’, useful for language change.  
  • listening to a podcast on a language issue or debate - BBC Radio 4’s ‘Word of Mouth’ and Lexicon Valley are amongst many useful series.  
  • reading an article on language change or prejudice from an online broadsheet newspaper - e.g. The Guardian’s ‘Mind your language’ section.  
  • collecting your own language data for an investigation - e.g. ‘below the line’ comments on articles and social media feeds, debating language change and issues. 
  • using an online corpus to research the collocations and meanings of particular words, investigating potential language bias. 
  • using Google Images to find examples of language use in popular culture - e.g. investigating if t-shirt slogans vary, according to gender and identity. 
  • following key linguists and exploring hashtags (e.g. ‘#coronaspeak’ or ‘#plainenglish’) on Twitter - interacting with language debates, keeping up-to-date with current discourses and language change in action; there’s something new, almost everyday! 

 ...these are just a few starting points; but, whatever you decide to explore is good preparation (and practice) for your Language Investigation (NEA). I found exploring the impact of Brexit on the language of politicians interesting. I became intrigued in the topic, and continued to keep up-to-date with published articles and research, by following many of the key linguists on Twitter. The constant media focus, frequent examples of new content and the discourses around the topic gave me the idea for my NEA, where I explored it further.

Collecting meaningful research/data to accompany and support your study is essential. As I learnt, the first result that appears in your search of ‘accent and dialect’, for example, may not always be the best choice. One of the many useful strategies is the use of a ‘search operator’; they can help restrict your source to specific websites. For example, if I enter into a search engine, ‘dialect levelling’, the ‘’ only returns results of websites that are of an academic institution, such as a university - try it for yourself, on your next search!

The ‘CRAAP test’ is another particular favourite of mine, whereby you assess the currency, relevance, accuracy, authority and purpose of a source (published online or on paper), in order to ensure that the source you have selected is valid, and a good choice to refer to in your study. Check the usefulness of a source, by asking:

  1. When was it written - is it recent? If it is a few years old, could it be outdated or the content no longer accurate? 
  2. Which sections are relevant for my study? Will it support and provide evidence for my points? 
  3. Who wrote it - do you have any information about the author/writer? Are they an expert/specialist in the subject - can you trust them? Is there potential bias, due to the writer’s own opinion(s)? 
  4. What is the purpose of the source? Is it trying to spark debate - and influence your opinion? Or, inform you of an issue? 

 Remember to keep a list of the sources you find in a document. Every time you refer to a published source (online or on paper), you could practise referencing these, in a bibliography format. This helps to make referencing and acknowledgment of your sources common practice; again, particularly useful in preparation for your NEA and Higher Education, where a bibliography is expected.

Also, think about how you want to record your findings, and personal reactions to the source. You could present them on a PowerPoint presentation, or through a revision poster or flash cards, or even through an audio or video recording of yourself explaining them.

Summarising the key points of information that are significant and interesting in bullet points on a Word document or written list may help you structure the way that you choose to present your findings; you may even choose to write a list of potential exam questions, where you could apply the concept(s) you have researched.

And finally, consolidate your learning by considering any questions you have, or what ideas have sprung to mind, on what you have read and researched. Keep those questions in mind for when you come to discussing your findings with your teacher and/or your classmates.

Remember, research a topic that interests you - and be creative in the way that you present it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

NEA support: genre and the original writing commentary

If you are still working on your NEA original writing commentary, or just polishing it up for submission, here are a few bits of advice.

We covered the NEA commentary a while ago here on the blog, but there are a few other things I'd add to that, having seen hundreds and hundreds of folders since then.

Think carefully about the genre of your style model and your own piece. Genre is the key to doing well on AO2 and is often - according to the Lead Moderator's report - one of those areas often not done very well. What does 'genre' involve? It's basically about the kind of text you're writing, how you might classify its type. But as with any classification, there will be some texts that fit really neatly into a genre, others that seem to straddle genres and others that are harder to pin down.

Daniel Chandler, a media and visual arts theorist, talks about a traditional view of genre in An Introduction to Genre Theory:

For the purposes of your English Language work, I'd argue that these - theme, setting, structure and style - are all very relevant, but that it's perhaps structure we see done less well at the very top end. While the content side of things is often quite well-handled (think of thrillers, ghost stories, dystopian fiction etc and you'll have a pretty instinctive grasp of what is going to appear in them), it's the form side of things we don't see done as well. 

So, have a think about this in relation to the two texts you're looking at (the style model and your own piece). Which structural elements are linked to the genre? How are they important? 

An example. You're writing a dramatic monologue to be performed on stage or in front of a camera. The structural elements of the narrative might be deliberately designed to delay key information about the narrator's character: that's a key structural aspect of this genre. 

However, it's also worth bearing in mind that genre isn't always that simple. As Chandler goes on to point out: 

So, you can manipulate and experiment with genre, and that's what I think the mark scheme is driving at in the descriptor in Level 5 for AO2 of 'demonstrate understanding of genre as a dynamic process'. Some kind of understanding that what you have written (and even perhaps, the choices made in your style model) as being more than just a tick-list of features to add, but a set of choices that writers make for all sorts of reasons seems to me to be a good way to show evidence of this descriptor. 

On a simple level, you might argue that being able to identify the features of a genre and then use them is one kind of skill, but it's another level of skill to be able to understand the nature of the genre and explore it, test its limits and even mix it with another. If you can combine this with a discussion of the language you've used and the representation and effects you've intended to create, then it could form a good blend of AO1, 2 and 3. Talk about both texts together and offer a clearly written line of argument, and you're doing all 5 AOs well. 

So, if you're still working on your commentary, give this some thought and if the idea appeals, have a bit more of a read of Chandler's ideas about genre and see what you make of them.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Paper 2 Section B resources

Other A Level English Language teachers have been really generous with their help at this weird and unsettling time, so thanks to Jacky Glancey at Macmillan Academy for sharing her revision material for Paper 2 Section B.

The activities here are designed for Question 3 and help get you thinking about the kind of analysis that's needed when you're addressing texts about language issues. It then broadens out to focus on the wider discourses and issues connected to the analysis. There are loads of helpful ideas in here, so it should be helpful not just for Paper 2 but also for helping develop analytical approaches on NEA if that's what you're working on.

The activities here are designed for Question 4 and are designed to address the AO2 side of the task, by offering ideas about identity and language that can be discussed and debated.

NEA support: language investigations

As promised, here is (what I hope will be) some helpful material if you are still working on the NEA. We don’t yet know if the ‘calculated grade’ that Year 13s will receive, in lieu of the grades you would have got in the summer, will factor in any element of NEA, but as NEA was specifically mentioned in the Ofqual guidance last week, I thought it might be useful to offer a few things to help.

So, if you’re at the stage where you want to polish off the investigation, or you’re redrafting, following some feedback from your teachers, or you’re working out how to complete the commentary for the original writing, the posts today and later in the week are designed to help. If you've already submitted your final draft, then your work is done and this post isn't for you. Don't stress about it.

First off, the language investigation. A lot of the posts on here about the investigation have been to do with how you set one up and get started. You’ll be past that stage by now (if not, I won’t judge you… look here instead), so there are a few things to think about.

The advice from the NEA lead moderator’s report last year (and most years so far) has been consistent about what makes a good language investigation.

A few of these are going to be difficult to address now, so without a complete overhaul (which I wouldn't really recommend at this stage), it's probably best to think about those areas you really can deal with. 

Beginnings and ends
Starting at the end of the project is one way to think about this, because as you write your conclusion (and evaluation, if you are doing one as a separate section) you'll also be thinking back to the beginning of the project. Make sure you have actually done what you said you were going to do. If you haven't, why not? Did your investigation lead you to question your original aims and research questions? Did it make you reconsider your assumptions? If so, this could be turned into some interesting reflection and evaluation.

An example. You set out to investigate whether females and males used language in different ways in their interactions in social media. What you discovered was that gender was less important than the topic being discussed or the nature of the relationship between the participants. Does this mean your project was a disaster? No, not at all. Your evaluation might actually address some of these other factors. It's not too late to read what others have said about this too, so you might be able to reference ideas around the diversity model of gender, Butler's ideas about performance of gender identity, or perhaps other work carried out on social media to support your observations and show how it's more complicated than just a binary gender difference. 

The conclusion and evaluation is also a chance to reflect on the wider issues and consider if - had you been doing this as a longer study, or had access to more equipment/respondents/time - you would have liked to proceed. You should also be able to look back at the early stages of the investigation and see if you have phrased your aims and/or research questions and/or hypotheses as clearly as you can.

A problem that has been flagged up at various feedback meetings with teachers is that lots of investigations aren't very clear at the start about what it is they are actually investigating. Here's a tip. Show your introduction and methodology to someone who doesn't do this course. Ask them to read it and summarise in a few sentences what it is they think you are going to do. If they can't understand what your investigation is about or what it is you're setting out to find, consider re-writing it. 

We want the introduction to say exactly what it is you are going to do and what the language focus is going to be.

While it's probably too late to make big structural changes to what you've written, have a think about your subheadings. The advice has pretty much always been that you should follow the prescribed sections of the investigation in the spec as a bare minimum (Introduction, Methodology, Analysis, Conclusion, References, Appendices) and add more if it helps. This means you can add an aims section if you like, or subdivide your analysis under helpful subheadings, related to the approaches you've outlined in your methodology or the aims/research questions/hypotheses you've offered. many people also add an evaluation section.

If you haven't used subheadings, there's a risk your analysis might just be one big chunk - difficult to read and hard to unpick - so have a think about using relevant subheadings.

Analysis and quotation
Another big area where some people come unstuck is not offering detail, depth or exemplification in the analysis. Are you being linguistic in your discussion of the data? Are you offering some kind of technical description of language features that you're analysing (identifying word classes, interaction features, syntactical structures, for example)? Are you looking at patterns of language use and starting to think about how individual language choices form part of a bigger picture, or show that a strategy is being used? These could be linked to the aims of your project.

An example. You've analysed newspaper reports of the UK royal family over the last year to identify if there's a difference in how the royal wives are represented. You start to notice that certain semantic fields are employed by one publication more than another. Perhaps this field creates certain connotations and links to a stance or political bias you've started to notice in this particular newspaper. Can you back up this hunch with some more focused discussion and analysis?

Another example. You are analysing children's spoken language in a primary school class and notice that some of the children around the tables are being much more cooperative in their speech than others. In the groups where the speech is more cooperative, you think they are getting on with their work better and making more progress. What is happening? How are you actually defining cooperative speech and what are some of its features? Are there any other factors at work? Can your observations be linked to any background reading you have done?

Addressing problems
The list of problems in investigations is worth a look too. If any of these apply to your work, you've still got a chance to address them.

One easy fix for a lack of quotations and examples is simply to go back and find them in your own data. Remember that quotations won't count towards your word count, so don't worry about that. It's  important to support any observations you've made and often a good idea to offer a quick bit of context to your examples. If possible, try to offer quotations of more than just a single word or phrase. It can often be useful to quote a slightly longer extract from the data so that the marker and moderator can see where the bit you're talking about came from and what was around it: it could offer important context.

That's it for this post. I'll address a few other areas later on.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Revising key areas

Thanks to Mr McVeigh, here are some very handy quick guides to different key areas of the course. Paper 2 here, more to follow...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Language topics quick writing tasks

A-Level English Language has an awful lot of content, and a quick way to revise a lot at a time  is to do some short writing tasks.  I use these questions and key word prompts with my students and suggest 15 minutes of writing as much as possible on each one.  I initially saw this idea from someone on Twitter, but I have no idea who - so thank you and sorry for the lack of acknowledgement!    Here are some on language change topics for now.

15 minute writing task:  To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Text messaging is just the most recent focus of people's anxiety; what people are really worried about is a new generation gaining control of what they see as their language. (David Crystal)

Key Words: Prescriptivism, Aitchison, descriptivism

15 minute writing task:  To what extent do you agree with this statement?
“Language change is not a disease, any more than adolescence, or autumn are illnesses.” (Jean AitchisonLanguage Change: Progress or Decay?

Key Words: Prescriptivism, Aitchison, descriptivism

15 minute writing task:  To what extent do you agree with this statement?
I once met a very interesting guy from the OED who was fed up with people misunderstanding what a dictionary is. It's not a set of rules about how to use language, it's a set of observations about how it's used, which is why it needs to be constantly updated. Language changes, it is not fixed, and the only function it needs to perform is to be understood. (C. Higson)

Key Words: Prescriptivism, Aitchison, descriptivism

15 minute writing task:  To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Defenders of politically correct language claim that such speech reduces offensive behaviour. (O’Neill)
Key Words:  determinism, reflectivism, Sapir Whorf, Deutscher, Aitchison, euphemism treadmill

15 minute writing task:  To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Departures from the Queen's English do get noticed. The head of an online graduate recruitment agency wrote that they reject one third of all job applications from graduates with good degrees from good universities, because errors in English in their CVs and covering letters show ignorance, carelessness and a bad attitude.  (B.Lamb)

Key Words: Prescriptivism, Aitchison, declinism, descriptivism

15 minute writing task:  To what extent do you agree with this statement?
"You have too many words in English," said Jean-Paul Nerrière, a retired vice president of IBM USA, who is French. He has proposed his own version of Globish that would have just 15,000 simple words for use by non-native speakers.  "We are a majority," Nerrière said, "so our way of speaking English should be the official way of speaking English."

Key Words: Globish, linguistic imperialism, norm-dependent, norm developing, lingua franca, spread, power

Using the Lexis podcast to inspire Language Investigations

Here's a thread I did on Twitter about how you might want to use the Lexis podcast to help with your NEA Language Investigations. It...