Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Language Change: political correctness and technology

Recent Language Change questions on ENGA3 have featured pairs of texts (one old, one contemporary) on the same topic and offered you the chance to analyse how they use language to create different representations of whatever it is they are focusing on: rugby matches, the city of Bradford or coffee, in recent years. You are also expected to think about how the times the texts are from might have influenced their language. It's worth remembering though, that this isn't the only type of question for ENGA3, so you might want to think about some others. Remember too, that any topic that turns up in Section A of the paper can also appear on Section B as a Language Discourses question.

Political correctness (PC) is worth a look at as a language change topic. It's a movement to change language and redress some of the perceived inequalities in how language represents traditionally less powerful groups in society, but it's always controversial. A question on PC could offer you examples of words that have been changed to make them more inclusive and/or less discriminatory (like this) and perhaps extracts from a text like this one which offers a range of opinions and arguments about how homophobic language can affect people.

Even in Section A, it would be hard to avoid addressing attitudes to PC and there's no reason to steer clear of this kind of debate, because it is covered in the mark scheme. However, what you need to bear in mind is that it's Section B where you will find texts that offer opinions and discussions about language and this is where you can engage more fully with debates and discourses.

The following texts are worth a look to help you think about the arguments.
Gender-neutral language and arguments around PC
Simon Heffer gets wound up about PC (from this page)














Feminist academics upset the Daily Mail and its readers by suggesting that 'Miss' is less respectful than 'Sir'. Full story here.

The other kind of question that has cropped up before is where texts show evidence of the use of new language. Back in June 2011 the paper had an extract from a review of a digital camera. Here you would be looking at how new words are being used and how they reflect technological change (amongst other things), but as with any question on this paper, you're also looking at how language represents the topic, in this case, how the reviewer represents the digital camera. Don't forget either, that - as with the PC questions above or the ones on pairs of texts in recent years - any analysis of the text is also expected to cover how the writer represents him/herself and how s/he addresses the ideal reader. These ideas around positioning and stance are always worth mugging up on to help you secure AO3 marks, whatever kind of text you have to analyse.

It would be quite possible to get a question that had a text featuring a lot of slang and/or new words from popular culture, so you would apply the same analytical skills but perhaps focus in BP2 on a few other areas of language change. Have a look at these examples of news pieces on emojis for some ideas about this.
Emojis on the up
Emoticons are changing the language

As with PC, it's quite possible you could get a Language Discourses question on Technology and Language, so here are a few pieces to have a look at.
Is the internet destroying English?
A similar one from Steven Poole in The Guardian
Robert McCrum updates George Orwell's famous attack on poor English to cover the internet