Friday, January 20, 2017

Sociolect, social groups & social class

One of the areas that we've been looking at in AS classes recently is that of sociolect. I've also been mugging up on the writing and research for this area because of a project I'm working on for something else, so it's been useful to go back to some of the studies that have been carried out into the links between language, the social groups we belong to through choice (communities of practice and discourse communities around work, play and special interests) and those we belong to due to accidents of birth (social class and gender).

One of the things that's particularly interesting to look at is the overlap between what we might call social groups and the other areas on Paper 2 of the AS and A level - gender, regional dialect, occupation - and it's clear to me that you can't really talk about one of these without thinking about the others (and indeed, areas like age, ethnicity & sexuality).

I've set my AS classes the following task recently and we've been looking at ways in which it can be approached from different angles. Here's a structure that we used to look at it. Next week, I'll add some more ideas about approaching another question on the same broad area.

Question 1 
Discuss the idea that the language of some social groups is designed primarily to keep others out. In your answer you should discuss concepts and issues from language study.

You should use your own supporting examples and the data in Text A, below which is taken from an article about teenage slang from the Daily Mail. [30 marks]

Planning and structuring your answer

Start by dissecting the question and explaining its key terms.

Language: think about the different language levels. It’s more than just words (lexis), so consider phonology and grammar (and perhaps spelling, punctuation and graphology as well?)

Social groups: which social groups? Define this term and think of a variety of social groups who you could use as case studies. Think about age, class, interest groups, occupation groups etc. The more the merrier.

…designed primarily to keep others out: what does language do? Think about the functions of the language used within social groups: what is it primarily designed to do? Can you think of examples where it is the primary aim?

How can you make use of the data?

  • What examples are there in the data to use? 
  • How can you categorise the examples? 
  • Can you develop any of these? 
  • Do any of these help you address the main question? 

What to do next?

  • Draft an introduction to show you understand the question. 
  • Map out 2-3 social groups whose language you can discuss and comment on in more detail. 
  • Construct a line of argument to guide you through the whole question. 
  • Think about the research and theory that you will need to refer to: you will need to refer to work done by others and the research carried out by Trudgill, Cheshire, Moore, Kerswill, Fox, the Milroys and Labov & the ideas put forward by Coleman, Fox, Dent and others when discussing this area. 

Get writing. You have 40 minutes to complete it.

Allow yourself a few minutes at the end to check spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

NEA Commentary

As part of the Original Writing section of the NEA, students will be required to produce a commentary on their piece. This blog post will provide some guidance on completing the commentary for the NEA and useful tips.

What is the commentary? 

The commentary is designed to enable you to explain the decisions you have made in writing your piece and the language levels that you have employed and replicated following your exploration of a style model. 

Word Count

The commentary is just as important as the Original Writing piece in that it is also 750 words and the same number of marks (25). 

Assessment Objectives 

This piece will test your ability to employ all of the assessment objectives equally. Below is a screenshot from the criteria on the top band features: 

What does this mean? 

A01: You need to use a range of language levels. Note the key words ‘integrated’ and ‘connected.’
Regardless of the language levels used, aim to cover a range rather than repeating multiple times the use of a particular word class. Do not write about the language levels in a disjointed fashion. You will do better by integrating them, e.g. The attributive adjective “gold” within the noun phrase “the gold surface.” 

A02: Through your knowledge gained from the style model, you will need to demonstrate an awareness of genre. How does your original writing imitate the genre? How have you shown understanding of how individual genres work (and possibly overlap)?

A03: You need to engage in the way language is used to create meanings and representations. Think about how the language levels are used to create different effects.

A04: Within your commentary, you must make reference to the style model. An integrated comparison between the style model and original writing piece is needed.

A05: Throughout the entire piece, you will be assessed on your ability to express ideas clearly and carefully using an effective structure. Note the key word “guide.” You need to provide a clear analysis that is well organised rather than a disjointed piece of work that lacks coherence.

Getting the process started

In order to produce a successful commentary, you should complete the following:

1. As part of your planning for the Original Writing, you will have have selected a style model and looked at the linguistic strategies that it uses. In order to write a successful commentary, analyse the language levels used in your style model. Highlight them in different colours, e.g. red = syntax, green = word classes. This is a really important starting point as you need to make connections (A04) to your style model. Your commentary cannot just write about your own Original Writing piece as you need to justify how they relate to your selected style model.

2. After analysing your style model in detail, you need to then identify the language levels used within your own work. Think about why they have been used. 

  • What representation did you intend to create? 
  • What purpose does the language level that you have employed serve?
  • Ensure that you make a comments on the way the audience, writer and subjected are positioned along the way.
  • When you are analysing your work, it is important to consider a range of language levels. Avoid just focusing on the ones you feel most confident with using. A good spread of language levels that are appropriate and meaningful to justifying your ideas is better than repeating the same ones constantly. 
Beginning the Commentary 

As part of your A Level course so far, you will be familiar with the importance of context and how this shapes the meaning and production of the texts. When producing your commentary, your opening paragraph should contextualise your Original Writing piece and making a clear connection to your style model. Consider the following as part of your opening paragraph: 

  • You need to contextualise your own piece of work. Ensure that you comment on the purpose, form, topic, audience and how the subject is being represented. Do not generalise here. You need to be very specific. Generalisations will not help you reach high marks.
  • You also need to introduce your style model. Why have you selected it? How does it relate to your own original writing piece? 

"My style model is in the genre of a dramatic monologue. There are different sections in the text with scene changes indicated by 'Go to Black' or 'Fade.' The monologue explores a character who is not fully self-aware and I have reflected this in my Original Writing piece... My monologue is similar to Bennett's in many ways, whilst also having differences..."  
Main Paragraphs in the Commentary

After establishing the context of both your own original writing piece and your style model, you then need to carefully analyse the language levels employed in your own work.

  • Remember that you need to integrate linguistic description where possible, e.g. The pre-modifying attributive adjective ‘gold’ used within the noun phrase ‘the gold star’ is used to represent it as ….
  • Once you have commented on your own piece of work, you then need to make sure that you make connections to the style model. It might also be the case that there are marked differences in how you have used the language levels. This is equally acceptable but you need to explain why, as this will enable you to discuss contextual factors shaping the production.
  • Remember that you need to engage in meanings. Think about the way the linguistic strategies and language levels used create a representation.
  • Adopt an interwoven comparison throughout rather than writing about the style model and your own production piece in isolation.
  • Referring to the assessment criteria, you will note that it asks you to ‘guide’ the reader through. You will need to develop a coherent line of thought here. In order to guarantee this, you need to avoid leading with A01 features and instead developing topic sentences that enable the reader to understand the connections and points of comparisons being made. 
    • Both the style model and original writing piece employ … but to create different representations…
    • Within the style model, it utilises … which has been imitated in my original writing piece to …
    • Throughout the style model there is use of …. This is mirrored in my original writing piece … so that the subject of … is represented …
    • Whilst the style model utilises …. To represent the subject as … I have employed them in a different way so that the topic can be represented as … 
  • Ensure that you refer closely to your style model by quoting specific examples from it. Likewise, you will need to do the same with your own original writing piece. If you provide no evidence, credit for A01 features cannot be given regardless of how vast a range of features you have employed. 

"As monologues are spoken, it is important to represent speech. Bennett employs ellipsis to make it sound spontaneous and realistic. For example, Marjory says 'Said it was Rawdon anyway." This has been imitated in my own original writing piece through..." 
Concluding the Commentary 

This does not need to be a lengthy part of the piece. A couple of sentences will do here. Your concluding paragraph should very succinctly summarise the overall representation that you have created in your original writing piece.

  • Overall, my original writing piece employs a range of language levels that are similar to my style model to represent the subject as … 
Useful Phrases: 

  • Emulate / Mirror / Employ / Reflected / Imitated / Utilised / Mimics / Aligns /
  • Represents / Portrays / Illustrates / Illuminates / Conveys
  • The audience are positioned / This positions the audience to …
  • Both / Equally / Similarly / In the same way / Using the style model, I have …
  • Whereas / In contrast / Unlike / Alternatively / On the other hand
Good luck with completing your commentary for the NEA and I hope this has helped. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year Y2K+17

Let's hope it's better than 2016, which surely has to go down on record as the worst year in the recent history of the world.

Whatever happens, there will be lots of English Language resources to make use of and we will need to hone our language skills to make sense of an increasingly messed up world.