Analysing Texts

Detailed and subtle textual analysis required you to link two key things:

  • Knowledge of linguistic terminology, preferably detailed knowledge
  • Understanding of context and meaning

This means labelling features of texts and explaining why they are there. It does not mean feature spotting or ‘translating’ the text for us in a simple way.

For example, look at this extract from an email from a well-known pizza delivery company, sent in January:

“The text uses a semantic field of temperature”. 

“The text tries to sell the offer by contrasting the hot pizza to the cold weather, making it sound more tempting.”

Both these points are correct, and could be credited on the language spec (one for AO1 and one for AO3), but neither goes far enough. Even together, though, they still are only an average point. A higher-band student would tie together more than one linguistic method/framework, and bring context and meaning together more clearly…

“Using adjectives e.g. ‘frosty’, ‘arctic’ and the adjectival phrase ‘piping hot’ from a semantic field of temperature allows the text to trade on the climate, using pragmatics to contrast the weather with the pizza arriving from the company’s trademark quick delivery. This reminds the customer of the freshness as well as the heat of their pizzas when delivered, which the text seals with the non-verbal ‘mmmm’.”

For the AQA exam papers in English Language, the Textual Analysis tasks also require you to talk about representation, which is something many students find difficult and therefore is naturally something which helps us to separate out the higher level candidates. To help that to be you, try to remember to ask yourself:

  • How are people represented in this text? Which people?
  • How is the reader addressed? What is assumed about them?
  • How does each writer/speaker represent themselves?

E.g. above, the company represents itself as quite fun and informal through the lexis. Which words and/or phrases would you analyse to make this point as fully as possible?