Thursday, April 20, 2023

Analysing texts about language

While I'm doing posts about Section B of Paper 2, I'd better mention the kinds of texts that appear here and that you have to analyse and respond to. They're often (but not always) articles from newspapers and online sources, but can also be book extracts or something like, as was the case of the 2019 paper, an article from an accent tutoring website. I've summarised a few of the others below: 

  • An extract from an online piece equating political correctness with ‘thought control’ and a blog post complaining about ‘Orwellian’ language reform.
  • A feature article from the Mail Online focusing on young women’s speech and a feature article from The Guardian complaining that young women won’t be taken seriously unless they change the way they speak.
  • An extract from The Telegraph reporting on the use of emojis in writing making people appear ‘incompetent’ and an extract from an online student newspaper complaining about emojis ‘destroying’ the language.
  • An extract from a 2002 Independent article about English as a world language and an introduction to a book from 2017 complaining about American English. 

What you'll probably see from these texts is that many of them come from a position of criticising or complaining about an aspect of language change or diversity, often with a prescriptive slant to them, and that they are often open to linguistically-informed criticism and challenge. Not all of them are totally unreasonable rants; in fact some of them are carefully assembled to foreground opposing and contrasting views. The 2022 paper even had a text that included a 'head to head' style article as one of its texts, where two opposing language commentators argued their cases. 

Bear in mind too, that you're being assessed using 3 AOs in Question 3, so you'll need to be approaching these texts from a few different angles, such as:

  • what aspects of language the texts are focusing on
  • what arguments and views about language are being presented to the readers and what we might be supposed to make of that
  • how these views about language might fit into the bigger picture of language discourses we see in debates about language out there in the world all the time
  • how the text producers are using language to represent the issues 
  • how the text producers represent themselves and try to convince the reader of their views
  • how the texts might be connected: how are they handling the theme, approaching it similarly/differently etc?
Here are a couple of recent texts that might make for some good material for analysis. I've chosen ones that I think link nicely to wider discourses about language (perhaps you can spot a few of those discourses straight away and dig deeper for others) and ones that have a pretty clear view. I'll post a few more in days to come where it's a bit more subtle, as I think you need to be prepared for that too. 

If anyone is interested in discussing these texts and what you make of them, I'll start a thread on the @EngLangBlog Twitter feed so you can reply with observations, points and questions. 

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