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Be as up-to-date as you can on material here.  General “reading around” about language will benefit you hugely in A Level assessments.

See this excellent blog for language news of the week, maintained by a teacher of A Level English Language.

Other useful links are collected here.

Representation of  Diversity

Representation of diversity may arise in a meanings and representation type question, but it could just as readily be the subject of a Paper 2 section A ‘discuss’ or ‘evaluate’ question, in which case you’re mostly thinking about issues of labelling. Here are some key ideas that may help you.

Dominant and Muted Group Theory

This theory derives from anthropology, where researchers found that they were always introduced to powerful members of societies and were therefore only hearing very skewed versions of how societies worked. (Imagine if British society were explained to an outsider by the Queen…!)

The relevance for linguistic representation is that muted groups are always the ones receiving language labels, whereas dominant groups, as the ‘norm’, seem invisible to society and therefore do not have as many synonyms attached to them - especially not offensive or dismissive ones.

Not convinced? Think about how many words there are for these categories in UK slang:

Things which can make labels ‘worse’:

Political Correctness

Be aware: there is a lot of criticism of political correctness in the popular press, which is often inappropriate and based on inaccuracy. Political correctness is based on an attempt to make language (and society) fairer.

The following are PC myths, which have been invented to ridicule the idea of PC language by people who want to ‘go back to’ using outdated racist/sexist/ableist language:

Note: For Language Change

Political Correctness has been less successful than it might have been perhaps because it is often experienced as a ‘top-down’ and therefore unnatural change in language. Language usually changes naturally over time, as a result of various natural processes, but political correctness is a conscious attempt to drive language change for social benefit.

Underlying theory: Linguistic determinism and reflectionism

There is a (largely now outdated) theory that thought is determined by language, i.e. we can only think a certain way because of the language we speak. This is the so-called ‘strong’ version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which came from Sapir and Whorf’s comparative study of various languages, leading them to note differences in culture and thought between speakers of different languages. The ‘weak’ version (the more acceptable version) is that language influences thought.

The reverse theory is linguistic reflectionism: that language reflects society. In other words, that language works the way it does because society works the way it does.

So, does English have a lot of sexist constructions because English society has traditionally been sexist or is English society sexist because the English language is sexist? Clearly, PC language rests on a belief that we can change the language and through this, change the thought and behaviour.