Monday, June 11, 2012

ENGA3 June 11th - good luck

Good luck to all of you taking the ENGA3 paper today (and to any ENGB3 B spec people who also use the blog).

Here are some final tips:

  • If a topic comes up that looks unfamiliar, don't panic. Use the approaches and frameworks you would normally use on the texts that you're given and make use of the material within them.
  • Remember to evaluate and critique different models. The top bands of AO2 (20/45 marks on each question) require you to weigh up the different concepts, theories and case studies, rather than just report them.
  • You can talk about attitudes to language in both sections of the paper, but remember that in section B ideas about language are being foregrounded in the texts themselves (i.e. section A often shows you language being used, while section B shows you language being discussed and debated).
  • The more detail you offer in your analysis the higher your AO1 mark. If something is a noun, think about the type of noun. If something is a clause or phrase, try to add more about the type and/or function.
  • Ideally try to follow an analytical sentence model: identify something to discuss; label it linguistically; illustrate it precisely; explain its effects; link it to wider patterns in the text and to what the rest of the text is about.
  • Always remember to read the texts carefully before you start writing. Think about what each text is about and how it is addressing the subject matter. Particularly in section B, think about writing a short (two sentence) summary of the texts in which you tell us what the texts are about, the ideas they are putting forward and the stance of each writer.
  • Make sure you use your time effectively. AO2 is worth 40 of the total 90 marks on this paper, so don't run out of time before hitting the second bullet point of each question.
Good luck.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

ENGA3 June 2012 - revision pointers

There's plenty of material on this blog about how to approach the ENGA3 English Language exam, so I won't be putting much new material on here before Monday's paper. Instead, I'll link here to the previous posts and just add a couple more things about possible topics and what can be done to revise them between now and Monday.

Here's last June's post about Language Discourses. Since then, we've had two more ENGA3 papers.


  • June 2011: A problem page response by Virginia Ironside to a worry about class and accents, and an advertisement for an “accent reduction” company.
  • Jan 2012: Newspaper articles about Political Correctness.
Using last year's revision post as a starting point, here are the topics that are likely contenders, but remember that anything could appear - even a topic that's just been set - so it's always best to make sure you're covered on every topic!

World English/es. This hasn’t cropped up yet and could appear as it’s on the spec. What could be asked about this? Well, there have been quite big debates around the world about the role of Standard English and whether we should be imposing World English (one variety) or showing awareness and understanding of different varieties (World Englishes) and how English changes thanks to local language and culture. There are also several interesting historical angles about why English has spread and whether this will continue in the same way. A particular variety might be looked at – American English, Australian English etc. – so be prepared to discuss specifics too. World Englishes have cropped up in Section A - a South African newspaper, some Jamaican-influenced English and a Hinglish text - but not in Section B.

Gender and variation. This has appeared once, but only in a January paper (where the number of students sitting the paper is very small). The big debates recently have focused on those who argue men and women are hard-wired to use language in certain ways and those, like the mighty Deborah Cameron, who argue that gender is just one factor among many many others. We've covered this topic in detail on this blog, so try some of these links for help:

Changing varieties of English. There’s been quite a lot of discussion about how regional accents are thriving and local accents dying out, as well as new ones (like MLE/MEYD/”Jafaican”) emerging, and whether this is a good or a bad thing. Dialect Levelling might be an interesting one too, because there have been many articles about the supposed death of cockney and the rise of regional super-dialects.





The Queen is Dead

Just as the British monarchy celebrates another milestone, with Her Maj reaching 60 years not out, the society that claims to defend her English - the Queen's English Society - pops its clogs. And of course, being her subjects, it's our language too. A bit like Buckingham Palace...which we're not allowed into and all those Crown Estates...hmm.

So, should we be worried about the language now that it's not protected by the QES? Well, no. And Paul Kerswill explains why, in The Sun (of all places). Kerswill talks about the changing English language and the role of prescriptivists or preservationists like the now-defunct QES, and comes to the conclusion that while the individual members might have been well-meaning, the society itself has outlived its usefulness.

Elsewhere, you can see arguments from the following:

  • Margaret Reynolds in The Guardian who says that "cultural policing (even of this kind) is always dangerous, because it says that I am right and you are wrong"
  • Geoff Pullum on Language Log who rips apart the QES's own use of English, saying "These people cannot competently punctuate their sentences according to the standard rules. Why were we supposed to take them seriously as guardians of our native language?"
  • Guy Stagg in the Daily Telegraph who is sad about the QES's demise and says that organisations like them are "...are not trying to limit the language, but enrich it". 
  • The professional contrarians over at Spiked Online, led by Brendan O'Neill argue that standards are good, because they allow you to communicate with more people in order to overturn the system: "There is revolutionary potential in having everyone adhere to the same linguistic rules; there is only the dead end of division and parish-pump platitudes in the promotion of a linguistic free-for-all in which eevn spleling doens’t matetr".

As well as being an interesting story in its own right, it's great material for ENGA3 Language Discourses (and for ENGB3 Language Change).

Edited on 07.06.12 to add Spiked Online link.