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ENB1 - Introduction to the Study of Language

The exam in ENB1 consists of two parts.

First, is a text grouping exercise. There are 8 texts of different genres and purposes, and you're required to group them together through similar aspects in about three or four groups.

The second part of the exam is a detailed analysis of a couple of texts.

Unlike GCSE, which was obsessed by comparing texts, A-Level English Lang won't have you comparing until near the end of A2. It's a good idea to still do it though!


Spoken and Written Language

We all have our own idiolect - our own personal language. Think about your own speech; do you have a certain style? Are there certain 'fillers' you use, do you use tag questions a lot, use voiced pauses a lot? Paralinguistic features?

In an exam, you might be asked to analyse a transcript - a written record of a conversation or utterance that was originally spoken. Scripts are different, because they were written first (like a play, or a politician's speech) and then spoken.

It's important to have an understanding of spoken language.

You get things like:

  • Paralinguistic features: facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye contact, [laugh]
  • Prosodic features: stress, intonation, pitch of voice, etc.
  • Ellipsis: Missing out words because reader or listener can fill in the gaps. An example of an elliptical conversation:

    A: Coffee?
    B: Please.
    A: White?
    B: Black.

  • Non-fluency features:
  1. Voiced/Unvoiced pauses: "erm", "um", "err" / Pauses without sound in transcripts are written as (.) or (1) - the number referring to the seconds of pause.
  2. Tag questions: "do you know what I mean?" "innit?" - these are used for empathy and to check understanding.
  3. False starts: Starting again to correct yourself.
  • Fillers: "like", "and that", "and stuff" - these are similar to voiced pauses, but you're saying a word. They provide thinking time.
  • Accent/Dialect - accent is pronunciation, while dialect is different lexis.
  • Deictic expressions - words that require the context to be understood: "look at that!"
  • Simple conjunctions: connecting sentences with "and" and "but", etc.
  • Colloquial lexis - "colloquial" means the language of speech, and so, these are informal words and phrases.

The main difference between speech and writing is, of course, that writing is planned while speech is spontaneous. This leads to quite a few other differences:

Speech Writing
Less structured Structured
Unplanned/spontaneous Planned
Non-fluency feature Fluent
Informal Formal
Impermanent (transient) Permanent (usually)
Low status High status
Non-standard English
(Accent, dialect, colloquial, etc.)
Standard English (S.E.)
Intimacy, interaction, friendliness Lack of prosodic or paralinguistic features.
Received Pronunciation (R.P.) Graphology
Natural Taught

Although speech is seen as unstructured and friendly, linguists have tried to show that conversation follows fundamental principles.

H. P. Grice (1975) said that conversation proceeds on the assumption that those conversing share goals and have agreed ways of achieving these. He called this the co-operative principle.

He proposed 4 maxims (rules) that people follow for successful conversation:

  1. Maxim of Quantity - a contribution to conversation says neither too little or too much than needed.
  2. Maxim of Relation (Relevance) - What you say is relevant to the current conversation.
  3. Maxim of Manner (Clarity) - You should avoid ambiguity and obscurity, and be clear and coherent.
  4. Maxim of Quality - You should be truthful, have enough evidence to support what you say and avoid anything that you suspect may be false.

When analysing a conversation, one person might have power. Check out the notes on ENB2 and Language and Power.

Rhetoric

Rhetoric is using language persuasively. Both written and spoken language can use features of rhetoric. Adverts and politicians speeches (remember those are scripts, not transcripts) are classic examples of where rhetoric is used. Look out for:

    1.  Rhetorical question -- the most obvious rhetorical feature, where a question 
         is asked with an obvious answer than needs no response:
             Do you want to pay higher taxes?
             Should this slaughter continue.
   2.  Lexical choices -- the connotations (psychological associations) of words are 
        particularly important.
             "Field sports" has very different connotations to "blood sports."
   3.	Phonology, such as: 
             Alliteration, (repetition of the consonant at the beginning of words).
             Many mulberries made up the magical pie.
		        Assonance, (repetition of vowel sound).
             Triadic structure: (pattern of three):
             "We have sought justice in the past, we seek justice today, and
              we will seek justice in the future."
   4.   Figurative language -- using similes, metaphors and other imagery to create 
         powerful and emotive images in the reader's mind.
             "Use your head when you've lost your heart.  Find out about Mortgage
             choices" is an example of a metaphor.  You cannot literally lose your 
             head or your heart.
         Metonymy is using a word or phrase to stand in for a noun.  For example:
             "No 10 issued a denial" refers to the Prime Minister.
   5.   Repetition.
             "Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however
		    	long the road may be."
	  6.    Hyperbole -- exaggeration.
	             "Unbelievable! Unrepeatable! Massive sale!"
	  7.    Litotes - understatements.
	             "He wasn't short of money."

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Frameworks

These are very important for talking about a piece of text, whether written or spoken, and are really the structure you'll use for analysing texts. There are six frameworks:

  1. Discourse Structure
  2. Graphology
  3. Lexis
  4. Grammar/Syntax
  5. Phonology
  6. Pragmatics

Discourse Structure

One of the hardest frameworks to talk about, discourse structure is 'the journey a text takes from the start to the end'. It is the organisation of a text.)

(You'll notice that I've organised the frameworks so that "discourse structure" is first, in order to draw your attention to it!)

Everything has a discourse structure - either written or spoken.

Telephone calls, for example, will start with an exchange of "hello" and use adjacency pairs - an utterance and response that are often seen together:
A: "How are you?"
B: "I'm fine, thanks."
The conversation will continue with one person using topic management to organise it: "I was just ringing to ask you..."
Finally, it will end with an exchange of "goodbyes".

Written examples are:

  • The discourse structure of an essay -- it might have an introduction, the middle being the main essay, and then a conclusion.
  • A story -- it might have a dramatic opening, build up to the climax, an exciting climax and finally a resolution.

Discourse structure also includes graphological features like bullet points/numbered lists: they're used to order the text. Another easy discourse structure is a recipe. This usually has a numbered list because the order is essential. If you do something out of order, you could ruin the entire recipe.

Keep an eye out for discourse markers like "firstly" "secondly" "in conclusion" -- the words that are used to create a structure.

Everything has a discourse structure. Try thinking about some more examples: a phone call, a letter, this website...

Graphology

A feature used in writing is graphology. From the word 'graph' which means 'image' and '-ology', which means 'study of', it's literally 'a study of images'. Graphology is the visual elements of a text. There are various elements to it, including: layout, font sizes and type, use of images, use of colour...

If you talk about graphology, it's important to consider why it has been used. What could you say about the following logo:

O2 = Oxygen. The bubbles are a representation of air. It's everywhere, just like you'll find the phone everywhere. You need oxygen to live, and so you need the phone to survive. The name 'O2' is also unusual and abstract, meaning it's more likely to stay in your mind.

Graphology is an easy framework to talk about, and you'll probably remember it from GCSE, so don't get too into writing about it -- the examiners won't mark you too highly on it.

Lexis

Lexis is 'individual word choice'. NEVER use 'word' when you could say 'this lexical choice' or even better, identify what word class a word is (see below). Examiners like to see you writing with the correct terminology.

The framework of lexis is concerned with the specific word choices a writer/speaker uses. Do they deliberately create a semantic field? A semantic field is a group of words with similar connotations.

This is a transcript of a conversation between three boys playing a video game. Louis is playing and James and Greg are watching.

Louis:     and now (.) just watch (1) watch me kill him
James:   [laughs]
Greg:      throw your | light saber 
Louis:                     | No (.)  death by force grip is way better (.) slower

In the transcript above, a semantic field of fighting is created, through the lexical choices such as: kill, throw, saber, death, grip. This, remember is affected by the context. A semantic field also makes assumptions on the listener/reader -- that they will understand the words drawing from the field.

Some lexis go habitually together. For example, 'fish and chips' and 'home and dry'. Phrases like these, almost cliches, are collocated.

Lexis might also be used to create imagery (is the lexis used metaphorically?) or to create a mood. Emotive lexis, words used to evoke emotions in the reader, or hyperbole (exaggeration) might be used predominantly in a piece of persuasive writing, for example. For a newspaper article, though, there might be a lack of emotive lexis, in an attempt to be detached.

Some pieces of writing might use the opposite: euphemisms - words or phrases that soften the reality of words. Such as "to let someone go" (fire them), "to downsize a company" (fire lots of people) or "ethnic cleansing" (slaughter people of a different race). A politician, for example, might use euphemistic speech when talking about something difficult, like a war.

Choice of lexis might create alliteration or other phonological features (see below).

Lexis, like graphology, is quite an easy framework to talk about... so don't spend all your time on it. Remember the harder frameworks, like discourse structure and pragmatics.

Grammar/Syntax

Both words mean the same, though syntax sounds better. Syntax is concerned with sentence structure, function and length.

Is a particular sentence function used throughout? There are three basic sentence functions:

  1. Declarative - statement: It was grey.
  2. Imperative - command: Get here, right now!
  3. Interrogative - question: Are you okay?

A persuasive text, for example, might use imperatives throughout, in its attempt to make you do something, while a story might largely use the declarative sentence function.

There are four different sentence types.

  1. Minor sentence - this isn't a complete sentence. "Look out!"
  2. Simple sentence - the simplest complete sentence. Includes a subject, verb and object. "The cat sat in the rain."
  3. Compound sentence - two or more independent clauses joined by conjunctions (and, but). "It was raining, but the cat sat there."
  4. Complex sentence - contains at least one subordinate (dependant) clause. "Because it was raining, the cat moved to sit inside." ("because it was raining" cannot be understood without the independent clause "the cat moved to sit inside").

Pre/post-modification might be used in the construction of a sentence.

Pre-modification: Words (usually adjectives) that come before a noun to describe it. For example: the pink, gently swaying flower.

Post-modification: Words that come after a noun to describe it. For example: the flower, which was pink, swayed gently...

You'll need to draw the distinction between prose or poetry, if necessary. The latter, for example, usually has a rhyme scheme and uses a meter like iambic pentametre.

A nice grammar joke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP-84G6PqYE. :)

Phonology

From the word 'phone' which means 'sound' and '-ology,' phonology means: 'study of sounds'.

Many features of rhetoric use phonology, such as triadic structure, patterning, repetition. Are they in the text? Is onomatopoeia used?

Morphology is the study of word structure, for example in 'Beanz meanz Heinz' the plural 's' has been replaced by 'z' to connect the three words phonologically (and visually).

Pragmatics

The final framework, and perhaps the hardest to comment on, is pragmatics. It means 'the underlying meaning'. If you look at the text in context, is there a meaning beneath it? Things such as sarcasm are pragmatics. Look at the following example of a transcript:

Bob: Oh, you've made a great job of that!

Now, if you consider the semantics, (the literal meaning of the words) it's a compliment. However, it could also be sarcastic, meaning, "you're made a right mess of that". In order to understand it fully, we need to know the context. The pragmatic meaning might be different to the semantic meaning.

Remember, whenever talking about the frameworks, don't just point them out. It's important to explain why the writer does a particular thing, what effect they are trying to create.

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Key Concepts

Some of the things you really need to know and be able to point out in an analysis of a text...

Word Classes

There are a few word classes that you need to know about. Nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs are the very basic one.

Noun is person, place or thing,
Adjective does the describing,
Verb is doing, like jump or run,
Adverb tells us how the doing is done.
(© Copyright, Jason Quinsey)

There are two types of nouns, proper nouns, such as "Elizabeth" and "Manchester" that require capital letters and common nouns, such as "the dog," "a cat." Common nouns usually have a determiner (a/the) before them.

There are several types of verbs: main verbs, auxiliary verbs and modal verbs.

In the active voice (where the sentence is structured: Object, verb, subject), you only have one, main, verb:

The cat lunged at the fish.

In the passive voice, however, (where the sentence is structured: Subject, auxiliary verb, verb, object) there is both main verb and auxiliary verb:

The fish was lunged at by the cat.

"was" is the auxiliary verb. It provides additional information as to when it occurred, and "helps" the verb.

Modal verbs change the mode of a piece of writing:

  • can
  • could
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • ought (to)
  • shall
  • should
  • would
  • will

They create four different modes:

  1. Mode of possibility: may, might
  2. Mode of prescription: ought, should
  3. Mode of certainty: will, must, shall, can
  4. Mode of condition: could, would

They can change a declarative to an imperative:

You can walk. (declarative).
You must walk. (imperative).

In the following sentence, the nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs are marked out:

The first, golden rays softly filtered through the curtains.

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Exam Practice

In the text grouping question, you are presented by 8 different texts, and you'll need to find connections between them to group them into three or four groups. It's important to use each text at least once, and if they fit into more than one group, don't be afraid to use them more than once. In each group, while they can be just two texts, it's better to have three or more.

To get started on the first question, you need to quickly read them all, making some annotations as you go along. In the initial stage, it's important to GRASP the texts. This means, identify:

G -- Genre (what type of text is it? Newspaper, letter, novel excerpt, leaflet?)
R -- Register (how formal?)
A -- Audience (Who's it aimed at? Adults, children, elderly, male, female, a social group?)
S -- Subject (What's it about?)
P -- Purpose (What's the text trying to do? Persuade, inform, instruct, advice?)

You can find a lot out about a text from GRASPing it. If it's a children's story, for example, the lexis and syntax might be fairly simple for understanding, and its objective will be to entertain, leading it to use lots of exciting verbs and colourful adjectives.

For the grouping exercise, some groups you could perhaps use (depending on the texts):

  • Mode (type) of text, such as representations of spoken language (the first text is ALWAYS a transcript)
  • Use of a similar semantic field.
  • Use of a certain sentence function (imperative, declarative, interrogative).
  • Use of discourse structure.
  • Use of graphology. (Not recommended because it's so obvious).
  • Target audience
  • Use of phonology
  • Level of register

You need to choose about four or five groups, each with at least three texts in them. You also need to make sure you cover every text given - there are 8. Don't write an essay explaining each group, a good paragraph or two, full of linguistical observations is all you need. Though, once you've grouped them, it's good to show some of the subtleties and differences.

Structuring your response

It's a good idea to take a systematic approach to analysing a text in detail (the second part of the ENB1 exam) to work methodically through the six frameworks:

  • Discourse Structure
  • Graphology
  • Lexis
  • Grammar/Syntax
  • Phonology
  • Pragmatics

Remember, though, frameworks don't always apply to texts. A written essay, for example, might not use graphology at all. Only comment on those frameworks that are relevant to the text; unless the absence of one is used for a certain affect.

It's easy just to focus on the most obvious frameworks, like graphology, and forget more difficult ones like discourse structure and pragmatics. For the higher marks, try to remember to think about all six of them!