Text varieties workbook answers
Overall examiner comment
The student has made a good start at grouping these texts, but it is a rather undeveloped answer that could have been taken in different directions to get a higher mark.
AO1: there is some accurate identification of some language features, but there is room for more detail. If you call something a ‘word’ you should always try to think what word class it is and try to label it appropriately (for example, abstract noun, adjective etc.). This AO would probably have been placed in the middle of the sound–good band on the mark scheme.
AO2: there are some reasonable groupings made here, including ones around purposes and language features. Some attempts are made to differentiate within those groups, but they are not always successful. It would have been better to plan this answer a little more and look for more subtle connections between the texts. There is a mix of description and analysis here, and some use of example (although not always consistently) so this would probably have been somewhere in the middle of sound–good again.
AO3: this is not as developed as the other two areas because the candidate has not always discussed in detail how the language works to create meaning. There are references to different audiences and purposes, but these need more development. On a couple of occasions, the candidate mentions a language feature without really explaining how it works in its context. This would probably have been a bit lower in the sound–good band.
Overall, this student would probably be looking at a mark total of about 25–30 out of 48, so over half marks but not heading into the territory needed for top grades.
Rewrite this answer, using the examiner’s formative and summative comments to guide you towards a stronger answer.
texts using images to convey meaning
texts that represent music and opinions about it
texts that offer instructions
texts that tell stories
texts that feature descriptive language for different reasons
As you can see from the above, some of these groupings rely on language methods, some on purposes, some on the content of the material, some on the visual look of the texts and some on the mode (spoken).
It is a good idea to make sure that your groupings are not all based on just one of these areas and that you are able to pick texts that might appear in two or more groups.
Some possible areas to address:
While there are only two texts that use the spoken mode and they are quite different in their content and purpose, there are similarities. Text K is spoken but likely to have been scripted in advance, while text N is taken from a stand-up show, which would have been scripted, rehearsed and delivered again and again at different shows.
Text K deliberately uses some non-standard features of English such as dropped ‘H’ and ‘G’ sounds which reflect Vinnie Jones’ cockney accent. Text N seems to consist of non-fluency features such as repetition, pauses and reformulations, but is probably deliberately designed to sound like this in an attempt to accentuate the surreal situation being described. Neither are genuinely spontaneous texts.
Several of the texts offer instructions. Text K is designed to teach people the basics of a life-saving technique; text M gives readers clear guidance about recycling in a textual and visual form, while text O offers instruction in the event of a fire emergency. They share a number of language features — imperatives and modal verbs as you might expect — and this is often worth looking at if you’re feeling uncertain over which features to talk about.
Elsewhere, you can see that opinions are expressed in texts I and P. Text I is designed to be a review of Cher Lloyd’s album, but offers a wider perspective than just her music. There is a certain amount of supposition being made on the writer’s part that the references he uses are going to be familiar to his readership (presumably not the target demographic for Cher Lloyd’s album) and the same is true in text P which assumes a degree of knowledge on the part of the visitors to the website about certain genres and forms of music. Both texts use field-specific lexis and a range of proper nouns to describe performers, genres and song titles.
Two of the texts tell stories, again in different ways. Text K is part of a sketch telling the audience about a show, so you would expect a degree of narrative structure to it. Text L is a simple narrative, written by a child. The differences between these two ways of storytelling could be worth looking at in a bit more detail, especially as they are in different modes (one written, one spoken), and are for very different purposes.
As with the texts you get in the ENGB1 paper in the exam, there are many other potential groupings, so these are just a few suggestions.
Example answer extracts
The extracts here show some good points and some areas for improvement.
This extract has opted for a sensible grouping but one that still needs a bit more definition. Most language describes in some form or other, so it might have been better to focus in on particular types of description. An example might have been to look at how adjectives show the different writers’ views and how they represent different opinions. What is definitely missing from this answer are clear examples. The language labelling is strong, but we do not get any examples of where these features are, and we could also do with a bit more explanation of how they achieve particular effects.
This extract is effective. It gives examples and some texts that go together in a relevant group, and it contains some decent language analysis. Graphology is not the most demanding language method to apply but can offer some interesting comparisons, particularly when it is considered alongside the language that accompanies it. If all you are doing is describing a picture or how big letters are then you are not going to get much reward, but here the student makes reference to how the images work and what they represent, and ties them in to the purposes of the texts.
Section B Language and social contexts
Language and gender
First gender text (AA): interaction and gender
1 The context here is that we have three speakers who all have a fairly close relationship, so some of the features of their language will reflect this. Another factor is clearly related to where they are and the fact that they are in a relaxed social situation. Gender must be considered as a factor too (especially in a question focused on language and gender), but should not be treated as the only factor here. For example, the fact that they are male might influence some of their conversational choices, but there are many different ways to ‘perform’ male identity.
2 In a spoken interaction such as this, it is often a good idea to think of a range of different language methods before you start writing your answer. In this text, it might be important to think about aspects of interaction such as turn-taking and topic management, but equally you might find a lexical and grammatical approach useful. In terms of contextual factors, the situation and relationships may also influence some of the language, specifically the ways in which the discourse assumes a degree of prior knowledge on the part of each participant, i.e. they already know each other well and can refer to previous events and experiences.
Initially, it can be important to make a clear distinction between texts that involve gender and interaction and those that involve the representation of gender. On a basic level, it is valuable to be able to work out which theories and case studies are relevant and which do not need to be considered for a question. Examiners do not want to see responses that simply churn out everything you have learned, whether it is relevant or not. What they want to see is a student who can select what is appropriate to the question set.
However, with gender we cannot always neatly section off interaction and representation, because every time gender is involved in interaction some kind of representation also takes place (for example, a man might use language to interact and to represent his personality and gender to others) and often when we represent gender in a written or spoken text we do it through interaction (for example, in an advertisement aimed at parents looking for toys for their children, we might see language used to represent gender which also attempts to interact with an audience).
If you are alert to the subtleties of language and context, you might see some of these patterns in the texts here or in the examination paper.
The first of these two texts (text AA) is clearly primarily about interaction. The conversation is spontaneous and appears to be casual.
In terms of context, the following might be important areas to consider:
All the participants are male.
All the participants are about the same age.
They know each other well.
They are talking casually in a pub together.
You might decide that the transcript displays a degree of closeness to their relationships in that they are happy to abuse each other in a humorous way and make jokes about each other without taking it too seriously. This can be related to existing research by linguists into the patterns of communication found in all-male talk.
3 There is evidence throughout the transcript, but two good examples are when speaker B jokes about mistletoe and fairy lights to the evident discomfort of speaker A, and when he starts to sing a 50 Cent song, poking fun at his friend, to the amusement of them all.
4 Competition can take many different forms but here we can see at least one clear attempt to interrupt and take a turn away when speaker A tries to stop speaker B from continuing by starting his turn with [Oh man]. On a wider level, it appear that speakers A, B and C all jockey for position a little by talking about a topic that speaker A does not seem to want to talk about.
5 The speakers all have similar styles in that they talk about the same topic in a similarly humorous way, but it might be argued that speaker C takes fewer turns and is therefore a less vocal participant, while speaker A is perhaps taking a more leading role by initiating the topic in the first place. However, the turns that C does initiate are important, as they are the ones that put speaker A on the back foot.
Second gender text (AB): representation and gender
6 Unlike some old-fashioned children’s books, Princess Pearl is given an active role in many sentences. She is represented as the agent of many verbs (e.g. ‘Then Princess Pearl stepped forward, crying, “STOP, you silly chumps!”’) and is seen to mock the traditional roles of princesses (e.g. ‘prancing round the palace in a silly frilly dress’). She is shown to be liberated enough to choose her own career (e.g. ‘I want to be a doctor, and travel here and there’) even if it does still fall into a ‘caring’ profession.
Interestingly the representation of the knight challenges the powerful, independent image of many fairy tale heroes by showing him agreeing with the princess (signalling his cooperation with her independent choices) and choosing a caring profession too. The agency apparent in this sentence is also significant, because the power to do the verb ‘train’ is assigned to Princess Pearl while the grammatical object of the training is the knight, suggesting perhaps that the power in this relationship resides with the female character.
As with text AA, which includes an element of representation of gender within its interaction, text AB manages to include an element of interaction within its representation of gender roles. The knight hedges a little when he uses the adverb ‘perhaps’, hinting that he is not as forthright as the stereotype might suggest and is prepared to seek permission from the younger female in the story.
7 This text has more focus on representation, so it is perhaps more important to think about ways in which language is used to construct gender identities. This book has a target audience of children (and their parents who might read it to them) so it is interesting that stereotypical gender roles are deliberately challenged in the representations created here. While the primary purpose of the story might be to entertain, there are also potential messages about gender roles being given here. The approach is playful rather than didactic, however, and might appeal to parents as well as children.
8 In terms of theories and concepts, it is not always essential to name different theories and case studies, but you could consider referring to some of Norman Fairclough’s work on power (Language and Power and Critical Discourse Analysis are two key texts) and how language is used to construct gender and status identities here, as well as more general background about gender from the work of writers such as Deborah Cameron and Dale Spender.
Language and power
First power text (BA)
1 The classroom context means that there are certain expectations about how people should behave. The usual expectation is that the teacher would have a degree of control over what happens in the classroom and guide the learning of the students in the class. Different schools and classes obviously have different expectations and standards, but most would recognise the teacher as having some control. Therefore you would expect to see instrumental power used by the teacher, with sanctions that are supported by the school.
Instrumental power is the kind of power you expect from the state and its systems (the classroom being a good example of this) while influential power is that linked to the power of persuasion.
2 The teacher chooses topics and guides the direction of the interaction. He exerts control over students who do not cooperate with his approach, using influential power in the form of humour and directives. Control is exerted through the use of discourse markers to gather his students’ attention to what he is saying, emphatic stress to express his displeasure, and politeness markers such as please and thank you, which show a degree of respect.
3 One pattern that might be worth considering here is the use of Initiation — Response — Feedback (IRF), where the teacher asks a question, a student responds and the teacher offers feedback on this answer. In this IRF pattern, often credited to the linguists Sinclair and Coulthard, the teacher is the one who has the ‘right’ to offer feedback on what the student has said, because he or she is the one who presumably knows the answer to the question that was asked.
On a more general level, and beyond the texts used here, it is often a good idea to look at some of the following when thinking about how power is represented or reflected:
On a word level — features like the use of modal verbs to either pressure or offer options, or the use of field-specific lexis tied to a particular type of discourse. Sometimes using specific lexis can suggest a degree of expertise which might indicate knowledge and professionalism, both of which might help position an ‘expert’ in a higher position than the rest.
On a sentence or clause level — features such as declarative statements which appear to present clear facts, or imperatives which command and direct others. Interrogatives can also be used to soften directives.
On a discourse level — the use of face-threatening acts and how certain exchanges are constructed within a wider discourse of classroom behaviour can be worth considering.
On a pragmatic level — the implications created by particular statements. How are the people meant to respond to uses of humour and sarcasm?
Second power text (BB)
4 Text BB is a written text that uses a different set of language features. This text uses a mixture of influential and instrumental power, with a combination of warnings, threats and politeness strategies. While the target audience of text BA might be seen as the participants in the classroom themselves, the audience for BB is a little more select as it appears to be aimed at those who have received the e-mail and is designed to warn them about the ways in which they use the contents of the preceding e-mail.
5 For this text, many of the same methods as in text BA could be applied:
On a word level — many modal verbs are used — both deontic and epistemic — to suggest obligation, authority and possibility. Look for examples of ‘must’, ‘shall’ and ‘may’, for example.
On a sentence or clause level — many of the sentences feature high levels of grammatical complexity, often describing the consequences of making improper use of the e-mail’s contents. Others feature straightforward declaratives with no modality suggested. These sentences sound direct and to the point.
On a discourse level — the text is dense with legal lexis, probably meaning very little to many people.
On a pragmatic level — a degree of politeness is used in places, with politeness tokens such as ‘please’ being employed.
Language and technology
First technology text (CA)
1 Many of the posters communicate in response to the contributions of others, so some interaction is apparent. For example, the entire subject line of the thread is an open question to other forum users, so each participant is interacting with the initial question to some extent. Beyond that, posters sometimes make comments that relate to what others have posted, including, for example, user 4 who embeds a post from user 3 and reiterates a positive and a negative point to show his/her agreement.
2 There are frequent non-standard features, including abbreviation in the form of:
initialisms, e.g. FWIW = for what it’s worth
number homophones, e.g. ‘2’ for ‘too’
deviant spellings, e.g. ‘ova-hyped’
non-standard capitalisation: proper nouns such as band names, and sentence punctuation omitted
typos and misspellings, e.g. ‘your’ instead of ‘you're’
emphatic/phonetic spelling, e.g. ‘pleeeease’
Some of these might be related to the mode being used — unedited, spontaneous CMC — while others might have been errors that would have happened in other forms too (e.g. ‘too’ and ‘your’).
3 Some of the posters tend to use more standard than non-standard forms, so that is often a good area to look at for idiolect in CMC texts. Individual grammatical choices (such as poster 1 generally using standard grammar and punctuation) might also indicate a personal style or idiolect. You can check each poster’s contributions and see if there are discernible styles evident from their different posts.
4 There is sometimes a tendency online to assert yourself more bluntly and with less consideration for others’ face needs. That means perhaps that in this exchange there is a degree of confrontation apparent between posters 1 and 4 that might not have been evident in a face-to-face exchange where politeness and respect for the other person’s face needs might have mitigated some of the more extreme views.
5 While it is clearly not a face-to-face conversation, there are several elements of spoken interaction that might be seen in a message board exchange like this:
interaction between posters
spontaneous and unplanned features of language (e.g. typos, non-standard grammar)
attempts to emphasise emotion or viewpoint through punctuation and graphology (e.g. smilies)
However, there are also several factors that are unlike spoken conversation, such as the lack of genuine interaction and the ability to interrupt a turn of another participant. The turns are also not exactly in real time, which means that the turn-taking is not as fluid as might be seen in face-to-face talk.
Second technology text (CB)
6 A web page like this offers a degree of interactivity through hyperlinks, which may take the user to another page on the site or to external links. This page also has interactivity in the form of tabs for other areas of the site, links to downloads (such as pdfs) and clickable video links. The language used on the site sets up interaction in the form of second person pronouns and direct address (e.g. ‘you can now search’).
7 There is clearly a fairly specialist audience for this site in the sense that it is directly aimed at English teachers. There is subject-specific lexis in the form of the titles of set texts, names of authors and a range of educational jargon that will be familiar to most teachers (e.g. AQA, GCSE, TES). The site also assumes a degree of technological literacy from its users (e.g. pdf, DVD) but is not beyond most people.
In terms of purposes, there is a mixture of advertising in the form of positive comments from the TES, a respected educational newspaper, and straightforward shopping, with the use of a ‘basket’ to purchase products from the site.
8 In many ways, the language here is much like a standard written text, but when writing for an online audience, space is often at a premium and information has to be kept fairly concise. For example, the details of each publication need to be included in short sound bites and a clickable link offers you more information on a different page. A number of short phrases and sentence fragments are used instead of full, grammatically complete sentences for some of the headings (e.g. ‘new and forthcoming’).
The following are some brief suggestions about areas to look at when answering the questions on further texts at the end of the workbook.
01 Suggested areas of discussion for text AC:
graphology: colour schemes linked to gender
semantic fields: how do the words chosen link to traditional/stereotypical gender roles?
audience: how would different audiences respond to the representations of gender shown here: children, parents?
concepts: gender-specific language; man-made language and assumptions about gender roles
02 Suggested areas of discussion for text AD:
graphology: striking image — use of stereotypes in different context?
purpose: aimed at supporters of women’s rights to support campaign — not just women
gender roles and perceived threats to women’s status in society
03 Suggested areas of discussion for text BC:
See sample student answer and examiner feedback on pages 16–18 of these answers for ideas on this text.
04 Suggested areas of discussion for text BD:
graphology: use of letter format and personal signature
instrumental and influential power?
power disguised by ‘pledges’ and requests?
What is the point of such a letter? Is the whole point to remind potential voters in London of the Mayor’s claims to be working on improving the transport infrastructure?
05 Suggested areas of discussion for text CC:
Technology influences this by making it a conversation that is not face to face, but conducted at a distance over the phone.
Certain frames are expected in telephone conversations generally (greetings and farewells), but also in customer service exchanges such as this one (a formulaic approach, often scripted, on the part of the CSR) and perhaps a more spontaneous response from the customer.
The technology of the automated system also leads to a closing down of options for the caller. Choices are limited and the customer is ‘guided’ in to specific options by the company.
Politeness markers and turn-taking are interesting to look at in exchanges like this.
06 Suggested areas of discussion for text CD:
Technology influences this in many ways:
Hyperlinks to other websites
Shortened, abbreviated and often non-standard language choices
Short, punchy tweets that often respond to others’ ideas or retweet others’ tweets
Promotional aspect of some tweets, being used as marketing technique by some companies and organisations
Graphology uses avatars with images of tweeters (or their choice of image to represent themselves), date and timestamp, Twitter-specific hashtags and usernames.
Sample student answer to question 03
The following is an example of a response to question 03 on text BC on language and power.
Overall examiner comment
This student has answered the question well. There is a good mix of analysis, interpretation and understanding of linguistic concepts.
AO2: there is some good understanding of language concepts here, including address, influential power and representation. It is not perfect, and the references to synthetic personalisation might have been better explained, but this AO would probably have been placed in the very good band on the mark scheme.
AO3: there is some excellent analysis and exemplification in this response. The language methods are applied with some skill, depth and range, helping to reveal the techniques behind the advert. The student could have said a little more about the intended audience and where this advert might have appeared, but it is a strong answer.
Overall, this student would probably be looking at a mark total of somewhere around 42 marks or more. It is a really good response, but could be improved a little to give it a bit more range. What aspects would you improve of this response and how would you use a similar approach on other answers about power?
AQA AS English Language (B) Unit 1 Categorising Texts
Philip Allan, an imprint of Hodder Education © Dan Clayton
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