Thursday, March 25, 2010

Exam revision - getting started

It's getting near that time again, with exams looming ever closer. If you are starting to think about revising for your exams then here are some pointers as to where you can look and what you can do. This post is designed for A2 students and there'll be one for AS students to follow soon.

ENGA3 consists of three parts: Language Change, Language Variation and Language Discourses. Your paper is 2 hours and 30 minutes long, which is nice. You get a choice of question 1 or 2 (Qu 1 is on Language Change and Qu 2. is on Language Variation) and then just one question 3 which you have to do. The first bit of advice is don't just revise either Change or Variation. Because you don't get any choice with question 3, it's a very good idea to make sure you're rock solid on both Change and Variation, so that you're ready to answer a language Discourses question on whatever crops up, be it debates around Political Correctness (change), male female talk (variation) or attitudes to accent (variation).

The next bit of advice is to think about the different types of question you'll get. Language Change questions may have a focus on older texts, in which case you'll be asked to analyse them for what the writers are saying, how they are saying it and how the language of each text represents the time period it's from. So to revise this, try looking at plenty of older texts from different genres. Go to the British Library texts in context site and browse through texts from Early Modern English onwards. Mug up on your language frameworks too,  by checking Beth Kemp's A level site. Don't forget to use the emag site (with your SFX log in that can be obtained from the LRC) and Kerboodle (log ins are on Moodle).

Another type of Change question could presentyou with new words, or old words with new meanings, and use these to stimulate discussion about how and why language changes and where new words come from and how they are formed. There's masses of stuff out there about new words and you should have a look at the MacMillan Dictionaries Buzzword pages for lots of good examples of new words. Also, try this link to a page full of old blog posts about new words. Don't forget that you may also be presented with numerical data, perhaps in the form of charts and graphs showing you how frequently a word might have appeared over time and in different places. Make sure you mug up on wave theory and other processes of language change from your A2 textbook.

Next time, we'll look at ENGA3 Language Variation and then at Discourses. If you have any questions, please post them as comments and I'll try to answer them.


Anonymous said...

could someone explain what 'language discourse' actually means?

Dan said...

Yes, it's like a debate or discussion around a language issue.

The word "discourse" has several different meanings in linguistics and wider usage, but here it means something along the lines of a debate or a way of thinking about language.

Hope that helps.