Friday, May 10, 2013

Changing channel

Several recent ENGA1 Language and Mode questions have used texts that contain a mixture of spoken and written mode characteristics. Occasionally, students have complained that these aren't as easy to analyse. I think they pose their own challenges but can often allow you to explore some of the most interesting dimensions of mode and score really high marks across all the AOs.

While it might reassuring to open an exam paper on this topic and see a straightforward transcript and a straightforward extract of written language, the grey areas of mode open up areas such as how one mode has been made to look like another and why that might have been done.

For example, in this January's paper, there was an extract from an article about women's football that featured a written version of an interview carried out with three women who had gone to the Women's World Cup. While some aspects of their speech had been modified in the written version of the interview - non-fluency features edited out, punctuation added, prosodic features removed - there were still elements that remained from the spoken mode: fairly casual lexis ("It gives you a buzz"); some non-standard grammar ("Neither me or my mum had ever been outside Europe"); sentence punctuation such as splice-commas reflecting a more casual and free-flowing style ("We didn't ask anyone else to come along, it was a girly trip.").

Each of these examples can be identified and described linguistically (AO1), discussed from a mode perspective (spoken mode & aural channel changed to written mode & visual channel - AO3i) and then considered in terms of meaning (AO3ii), i.e. why it has been conveyed in this way and how it represents the women's views about the experience.

To test your own grasp of these kinds of texts, why not look for a few yourself? A good place to start might be the NME website, where the spoken words of various musicians (and Funeral For a Friend) are conveyed in a written form. A previous ENGA1 paper used the They Work For You website, which has written versions of MPs' spoken questions and responses in parliament. Just find a short extract and do a quick analysis of it, building an analytical paragraph up as you go along:
  • Identify and linguistically label the features of language you spot.
  • Link them to the mode characteristics of the text.
  • Provide a clear example.
  • Discuss the meaning of the extract and/or the representation it creates of its subject matter.

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