Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mode mini-moments mark 1

In the run-up to the ENGA1 exam in a couple of weeks, here's the first in a short series of short posts on Language and Mode. Today it's about Mode...

What is mode? If you can't answer that question by now, I'd respectfully suggest that you should do some basic work on the topic. After all, the first part of the paper is called "Language and Mode", so you might be advised to understand what it's all about.

So, what is it? Mode, on a really basic level, is how a text producer conveys something to a text receiver. The text producer could be a person writing, texting, tweeting, talking face-to-face or telephoning and the text receiver could be one person or a much bigger audience. So, the mode part of this is what is in the middle - how it gets from A to B. Historically, mode has been separated into spoken and written forms, based upon the channel through which the text is received (visual - i.e. read or auditory i.e. heard) but that's too binary, so the way we generally conceptualise mode for this course is along a continuum. This approach owes a lot to the linguists Doug Biber and Dick Hudson who have both written about the ways in which certain texts exhibit particular mode characteristics or dimensions.

Jarvis Cocker demonstrates his knowledge of 2nd person
pronouns & multi-modality through gesture
More recently, a wider view of mode has been suggested (by, among others, Gunther Kress) in which mode does not apply simply to speech and writing but to other forms of meaning making too, such as gesture and images. This means that a written text with pictures might be seen as multi-modal, as would a spoken lecture accompanied by a power point and gestures (not the kind of gestures I am fond of making to my students to demonstrate first and second person pronouns).

So, if you think about mode early on when addressing the texts you are given in the ENGA1 exam, you can start to make some useful observations about the nature of each text before you start considering more familiar elements such as genre, audience, subject and purpose.

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