Mode

At its most basic, mode is about differentiating writing from speech, but of course it’s a lot more complex than that and it is quite possible for you to be quite subtle about it.  Please avoid the temptation to declare everything ‘mixed mode’ – remember to visualise mode as a continuum with the most formal written text (legal statutes perhaps) at one end and the most casual conversation at the other.

It is useful to think of the concept of mode as a set of paired concepts, opposites on a series of continuums.  You could ask yourself questions like the following:

How spontaneous or planned is the text?

How known or unknown is the audience?

How monologic or interactive is the text?

The Interaction page should remind you of the theories to refer to in analysing any text which involves interaction between two or more people.

A consideration of mode will enrich comparative analyses of texts, and is therefore useful in the meanings and representations task when shifting from single text to paired text analysis. It is also a required element in analysis of Paris texts for AQA Lang-Lit.

 

 

Context

The context of a text includes several factors:
Genre – what kind of text is it and how does this colour the kind of language that can be used?

Audience – for whom was this text produced?  What assumptions does the producer of the text make about the audience?  Again, how is this evidenced in the language?

Purpose – what are the purposes of this text (there’s very rarely only one)  What in the language tells you these are the purposes?

Mode – how is this text received? What are the mode factors?

Writing about context at A Level requires more subtlety and precision than GCSE.  For example, a broadsheet article may indeed be intended for ‘an educated audience’, but if it’s a piece seeking to persuade people to buy organic fruit and veg, it assumes that its audience doesn’t already, and that they care about the issues the article raises. You will gain more marks for showing how these factors affect the language chosen, than for simply stating them.

Semantics

Semantics is basically about the meanings words have. When looking at semantics, we’re considering words separately and in the phrases they appear in, rather than thinking about the overall effect of the whole (that would be more of a pragmatic issue).

Key semantic terms:

  • Denotation – the dictionary definition
  • Connotation – meanings we associate with a word: spinster connotes old/ugly/miserable
  • Collocation – words which are strongly associated or often found together: vast majority
  • Antonym – opposite: day/night
  • Synonym – same/similar meaning: bright/clever/smart (often synonyms have the same denotation but may have different connotations to create shades of meaning)
  • Euphemism – putting something in a ‘nicer’ way, covering up the truth: passed away, sleeping with
  • Dysphemism – also not directly saying the thing, but using harsher words: kicked the bucket, banging
  • Idiom – everyday metaphor, not literally true but understood by most/all within a cultural context: raining cats and dogs, dressed to the nines
  • Simile – comparing two things using “like” or “as”
  • Metaphor – comparison without “like” or “as”, non-literal phrase
  • Hyperbole – exaggeration: I’ve told you a thousand times!
  • Oxymoron – contradictory or opposing terms put together: brilliant darkness (not just a clash, and the words need to be next to each other)
  • Metonym – using a part of something, or something associated with it to stand in for it: the crown (meaning monarch) skirt (meaning girl/woman)
  • Semantic field – a group of words related by meaning.  For example, in the field of furniture we have things like: chair, table, lamp, sofa etc etc.  In this example field, the word furniture is the hypernym and chair etc are the hyponyms.  In other words, the hypernym is the head word/title and the hyponyms are the lower terms.  A hyponymic list is (unsurprisingly) a list of hyponyms: “He ate hungrily.  Meat, potatoes, vegetables all were shovelled…”

Here are some examples of effective uses of semantics:

  • LANGUAGE/LANG-LIT: MODE ANALYSIS – semantic features may be different in different modes, e.g. written language is more likely to be figurative than spontaneous speech.
  • LANGUAGE: CHILD LANGUAGE – children’s early spoken words tend to come from a small range of semantic fields, e.g. toys, food, social words, people.  Children’s early writing also tends to reflect their interests or school topics, e.g. a 6 year-old may use a range of football-related terms in a story, or they may use several words from the field of dinosaurs.
  • LANGUAGE: DIALECT – words may be used differently in different linguistic varieties e.g. youth dialect uses ‘gay’ and ‘sick’ differently to the standard.
  • LANGUAGE: CHANGE – semantic shifts such as pejoration/amelioration, weakening, broadening/narrowing are worth discussing.
  • LANG-LIT: COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS -semantic analysis is likely to focus on imagery in the poetry coursework, while the exam analysis may require consideration of the semantic fields used.  It is likely, for example, that a literary text may use a greater range of lexis within the main semantic field than a transcript of spontaneous speech would.  It is also probable that the written texts may use secondary semantic fields metaphorically more than the spoken text will.

Phonology

Phonology is the framework that is concerned with sound.  In some areas, we will want to make precise comments about sounds used (e.g. in describing children’s speech or accents), but often in textual analysis, we’re looking at effects created by sound patterns.  

It’s really important to think specifically about sounds (phonemes) rather than letters: I often see students claiming that, for example, there is alliteration in “crispy chocolate” when the sounds are clearly entirely different.

Key phonological terms:

  • alliteration, assonance, rhyme
  • onomatopoeia
  • puns using homophones or collocational clashes
  • plosive sounds: pin, ball, ten, dog, car, girl
  • fricative sounds: see, zoo, she, leisure, thin, though, fat, van

Ways to use phonological knowledge:

Analysis of texts there may be phonological effects to comment on.  Remember to use labels accurately, to provide evidence (a quotation) and to either explain the effect/purpose of each feature, or to connect it to context (mode, audience, purpose, genre).

Child language detailed phonological knowledge is useful in explaining children’s early mispronunciations.  You should also be comfortable with terms like “deletion”, “substitution”, “assimilation” and “cluster reduction”.  You may also remember that plosives are the easiest consonants for toddlers to produce, and that approximants (yellow, red, welly, long) are usually the last to be mastered.

Variation the more detailed you can be phonologically in describing accent features, the better.  Clearly labelling replacement of the fricative in “the” with the plosive “de” is much better than simply stating “de” is used instead of “the” in Black British English. Knowledge of the IPA is not required, but it is rewarded.  If, for example,  you know the IPA symbols for the two ‘th’ sounds, so much the better. Next steps to learn would be the symbol for the ‘ng’ sound – useful in talking about Trudgill’s Norwich study – and the glottal stop. There is no need at all to attempt to learn the whole IPA (even as it applies to English) at this point – you will get a chart in any exam where it is needed.

 

Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Lexis

Lexis is the framework at the level of vocabulary.  

Note also that the word ‘lexis’ is like ‘vocabulary’ – it is not plural, nor can it be made plural (it’s a non-count noun, like traffic or money). We can talk about examples of lexis, but not ‘the lexis “green/dog/fascinating”‘. If you think of it as a substitute for ‘vocabulary’ rather than ‘word’, you won’t make that mistake.

When we look at lexis, we’re largely considering the complexity, formality or origin of the words used.  

Key lexical terms:

  • Monosyllabic/disyllabic/polysyllabic lexis (single-, duo- or multi-syllablled words)
  • Low/high register (higher = posher/more formal)
  • Low/high frequency (higher = more commonly used)
  • Slang; colloquialism; taboo; jargon; cliché
  • French-latinate, , latinate, Anglo-Saxon (describing origins – you often won’t know, so don’t worry too much about this!)

Examples of good ways to write about lexis:

  • Meanings and representations/analysis there may be a link between mode and lexis, e.g. “The speakers use lexis typical of the spoken mode, such as the hedge ‘kinda’ and the filler ‘like’.”
  • Child language it’s worth looking at the types of words in the data, or talking about the kind of lexis children tend to start with, i.e. familiar objects like ‘bottle’, ‘teddy’ or ‘banana’.
  • Variation lexical choices are often part of a dialect, e.g. the Nuneaton ‘batch’ compared with the Leicester ‘cob’.
  • Change recent neologisms can be described in terms of their make-up, e.g. blends like ‘tescopoly’, acronyms like ‘wag’
  • Lang-Lit: Paris – it’s worth commenting on lexis, particularly if you can link it to mode/context, e.g. “Bryson’s use of a higher register in noun phrases such as ‘a long immobile queue’ and ‘a vicious rebuke’ contrast with the more mixed register found in Steves’ podcast ranging from monosyllabic imperatives like ‘take the first left you can’ when directing the listener to the more specialist adjective phrase ‘noble but crude’ when describing the exhibits.”

 

Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Graphology

Graph/  ology  = the study of marks

When looking at graphology, we consider all the visual aspects of a text, but essentially we’re looking at everything visual except the language itself. Just try to remember to move beyond simply saying what that graphology is, and to relate it to the text’s context, meanings and intended representations.

Graphology is not an essential framework, and can be skipped, especially if everything is as you would expect it to be for the kind of text you are looking at. With this framework, it’s really only worth noting where the text strays from the standard – don’t waste your time on ‘the newspaper uses large bold font for its headline’ – how on earth are you going to make a meaningful point out of that?!? However, a text that uses the layout of a different text form playfully – that’s worth noting…

Layout

  • Is it in a “standard”/accepted form, eg letter conventions?
  • Does it focus attention on particular elements?
  • Does it copy the layout of a different kind of text for effect?

Font use

  • Is it appropriate?
  • What does it convey/connote?
  • Are techniques such as bold, italics, different sizes used?

Colours

  • Do they add interest/emphasis?
  • What are the connotations/associations of the colour(s) used?

Images

  • Do they add to/detract from the text?
  • Are they intended to provoke a particular reaction from the reader/audience (e.g. sympathy in charity leaflet pictures)?

Spelling/punctuation

  • Is it deviant?  
  • What effect does this have? (more memorable/unique, conveys a sense of …?)
Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Verbs

Verbs can be used in the active or passive form:

  • Active: I threw the keys on the floor
  • Passive: The keys were thrown on the floor
    [passive always includes some form of the verb ‘to be’ plus the perfective aspect of the main verb]

It can be useful to label verbs used passively in analytical work, because this often has a particular effect: to hide agency, i.e. who ‘did’ the verb. This is particularly noticeable in political and rhetorical discourse such as news articles, but you can see it in anything opinionated.

 

Verbs can also be described by their tense and aspect

  • Simple present tense: I run
  • Present tense + progressive aspect: I am running (present progressive)
  • Past tense + progressive aspect: We were running (past progressive)
  • Simple past tense: I ran
  • Present tense + perfective aspect: I have run (present perfective)
  • Past tense + perfective aspect: He had run (past perfective)
  • Future: We have no future tense as such in English – we use the auxiliary “will”
    [progressive conveys duration; perfective conveys completion]

These labels are less likely to be useful in analytical work, but will be helpful when trying to explain deviation from standard usage, such as in regional variation or child development of language.

Types of verb:

  • Main verb – describes an action [NB: there is always a main verb in any main clause]
  • Auxiliary verb – to have, to be, will, must etc {NB: auxiliary verbs are not always present – if there is more than one verb in a string, only one is the main verb]
  • Modal verbs: can, could, will, would, must, shall, should, ought, may, might
  • De-lexical verb – (without meaning) often do or get, e.g. it’ll get broken
  • Primary verb: to be, to have, to do [these can be used as both main and auxiliary verbs]
  • Phrasal – verb + another word: to get away

These labels are more useful for you to know in order to understand descriptions in textbooks/dictionaries and to be able to explain usage yourself. again, they are less helpful in analysis, as they are less likely to relate to meaning.

Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Syntax

Syntax is concerned with the structure of sentences, and the parts that make them up (i.e. phrases and clauses). It’s sometimes known as ‘group grammar’, while identifying word classes is ‘word grammar’. In analysing syntax in a text, you may simply be talking about word order, particularly in an older text using a word order that would not be used now, or if discussing data relating to CLA or variation. It’s also worth noting that spoken syntax is different to written syntax, so avoid criticising speech as ‘ungrammatical’ for simply not being in sentences such as you’d find in a written text when in fact that’s normal.

Phrase:

  • A unit within a sentence.
  • It centres on a head word, which gives the phrase its name – i.e. a NOUN PHRASE has a noun as its head word.
  • The phrase may also include pre-modifiers (coming before the head word) or post-modifiers (coming after the head word).
    • e.g.: the fat cat (cat = head word, pre-modified by fat)
    • the cat over there (cat = head word post-modified by over there)
  • A noun phrase can consist of a single word: cats chase mice – cats is a noun phrase, as is mice, while chase is a verb phrase.
  • Verb phrases consist of main verbs with or without accompanying auxiliaries.

Clause:

  • “Bigger” than a phrase and usually contains both a verb phrase and a subject (although sometimes this is implied rather than repeating from an earlier clause: He paused the video and reached for his coffee – ‘he’ is the subject of both clauses here, making them both main clauses).
  • Main or independent clauses can stand alone as simple sentences.
  • Subordinate or dependent clauses cannot stand alone as full (major) sentences.
    • relative clauses open with a relative pronoun, e.g. did you see the man who was here yesterday
    • comment clauses are usually brief and could be removed from the sentence without any real loss of meaning; they tend to be more about relationship between speaker/writer and audience, e.g. you know, I think, as I’ve said before, as we all know

Sentences

A sentence is a complete ‘sense unit’.  There are five structural types:

  • Simple sentences are made up of a single clause.
  • Compound sentences are made up of two or more clauses, joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but).  The clauses are of equal importance, and are therefore both/all main clauses.
  • Complex sentences are made up of two or more clauses, where one or more is subordinate to the main clause.  These are often joined by subordinating conjunctions (eg because, since, although) or relative pronouns (e.g. whose, which, that).
  • Compound-Complex sentences are made up of two or more main clauses with at least one subordinate clause.
  • Minor sentences lack something required to make a full simple sentence, commonly a subject or verb.Sentences can also be described according to their function.  There are four main types.
  • Declarative sentences make statements, and are constructed using a subject-verb word order.
  • Interrogative sentences ask question using an inverted verb-subject word order, or with a dummy verb (‘do you like…?’ – notice that the ‘do’ does not serve any purpose other than to turn the statement ‘I like …’ into a question). Note that although we can ask questions using only intonation (‘You are going to the party?), that form is grammatically a declarative, although you can use a tag question to make it a question: you are going to the party, aren’t you? (tag questions repeat the same verb, or use an auxiliary and reverse the polarity of the verb phrase)
  • Imperative sentences issue commands or instructions, using the bare stem of the verb without a subject: leave now, write this down,
  • Exclamatory sentences are emphatic and usually use an exclamation mark. They are usually incomplete grammatically and often start with ‘what’ or ‘how’ (e.g. ‘how awful!’) Note that every sentence with an exclamation mark is not an exclamatory.  To be an exclamatory, the sentence needs to not also be another type.  In other words, if it could be an imperative or an exclamatory, it’s an imperative; if it looks like an exclamatory but also fits the ‘declarative’ criteria, it’s a declarative.

Pronouns

A pronoun replaces a noun or noun phrase.  They are used to avoid dreary repetition (John woke up. John stretched…)  They are functional, closed class words.

You mainly need to know about personal pronouns at this stage.  They most commonly replace people’s names.  They are described by person (1st/2nd/3rd) and number (singular/plural).

Singular pronouns:

  • I/me – 1st person
  • You – 2nd person
  • He/him/she/her/it – 3rd person

Plural pronouns:

  • We/us – 1st person (remember that if there is a group with you in it, you will say ‘we’ or ‘us’, so those are the plural forms of ‘I’ or ‘me’)
  • You – 2nd person
  • They/them – 3rd person
    NB: the pairs above are subject/object* pronouns

Pronouns and Gender

Third person singular pronouns are gendered in English (i.e. there is one for male subjects and a different one for female subjects). There have been attempts to introduce neutral ones, but these have been mostly unsuccessful (possibly related to the slow speed of change with functional words). It is, however, now acceptable to use the third person plural ‘they’ to refer to a singular subject – something which some people still (somewhat stubbornly) see as wrong. This has been a growing tendency to refer to unknown subjects (e.g. ‘if a customer has a complaint, they should…’), but it is also gaining popularity as a choice to signal genderfluidity or a non-binary identity and is likely to increase further, unless alternatives emerge. Singular ‘they’ was the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year in 2015 for this reason, and the link above will take you to a very informative OED blogpost on the history of the pronoun if you’re interested.

Note that pronouns and titles/address terms (such as Miss/Mr/Mx) are not the same thing grammatically, but are related issues in this context.

Other types of pronoun:

  • Demonstrative pronouns demonstrate which one we mean and are mainly used in speech – Have you seen this? Did you eat that?
  • Interrogative pronouns start questions – Who ate that banana?  Which did you see?
  • Reflexive pronouns refer to things done to the speaker by the speaker – Baby Andrew fed himself today!
  • Relative pronouns introduce a relative (or adjectival) clause, adding more information about something – Do you know the girl who always stands over there? He ate the one that I wanted.

NB: subject and object relate to the verb in the sentence. The subject does or carries out the action of the verb, while the object receives it:

I ate the apple – I = subject; the apple = object

We saw John in town – we = subject; John = object

John seemed happy – John = subject (happy is a complement – an adjective giving information about the subject)

Nouns

You need to be able to differentiate different classes of noun.

  • Nouns can be common or proper:
    • Proper noun = unique (Claire, Lancashire, Sooty)
    • Common noun = everyday (table, goose, lesson)Common nouns are often further classified as either concrete or abstract (although this is a semantic categorisation and therefore involves some subjectivity):
  • Concrete noun = thing which actually exists in a physical sense (chair, sky, cheese)
  • Abstract noun = a concept rather than a physical object (love, hope, disappointment)
    • Some nouns can be used concretely or abstractly.  Compare: “He was stabbed in the heart” with “He has a kind heart”.

Collective nouns describe a group of things (flock, herd, bunch). Collective nouns are used with singular verbs and can go with ‘a’ – they are not usually plural.

It is often useful to talk about a noun phrase. The noun phrase is the headword (the noun) and everything that belongs with it: any determiner(s) and adjectives. A useful test is to replace the noun with a pronoun. Any other words that have to be removed with the noun belong in the phrase, e.g.: I saw that scruffy black dog twice yesterday – I saw IT twice yesterday, therefore ‘that scruffy black dog’ is the noun phrase.

The noun types discussed so far can be useful to be identified in analytical writing, such as the meanings and representations question. There can be points worth making about the meanings conveyed by these classes of noun. The types of noun below this, however, are less useful in analysis and are more worth noting in the types of question where you are differentiating standard from non-standard usage, such as in CLA or variation.

The way nouns work with number can vary:

  • Count nouns can be counted, you can have one___ or any number (lamp, elephant, sheep) – they work with ‘many’, not with ‘much’.
  • Non-count nouns don’t go with numbers (traffic, money) – they go with ‘much’, not with ‘many’.
  • Mass nouns are usually non-count but can be count in some circumstances (tea, sugar, milk)
  • Invariable nouns only have one form, which can be either singular or plural (scissors, music, snow, trousers)