Form

This framework, as a literary concept, is concerned with the shape of a text.  In analysing poems, you would look for patterns in rhyme and rhythm, while in longer literary texts, this might be issues of narrative structure – e.g. is it chronologically presented.

Whenever you’re commenting on form, it’s not going to be enough to say what the form is (just like you shouldn’t content yourself with identifying who the audience is) – the point is the effect that this has on the language. How is the text constructed and how is this related to formal considerations or conventions of the form? Even more interesting, has the writer broken with formal or generic conventions or borrowed some from a different form to make some kind of point?

Of course, one of the key things you need to do in Language or Lang-Lit assessments is compare texts that aren’t alike, and you may find yourself having to apply this framework to a broad range of texts.  Here’s some ideas on what to look for:

In transcripts of spontaneous speech, you should look at topic management and speech structures.  For example: whose topics get talked about (this should give you some idea of where the status in the conversation lies); how are new topics introduced; are all the topics related; are there structures like adjacency pairs/three-part exchanges; is there simultaneous speech and what kind is it.

In media articles, you would mostly be looking at the way the information flows through the text: how does the whole connect together?  Often texts move from narrow (personal experience) to broad (bigger issues) and sometimes back again.  Or, they might start with an argument and then provide several different kinds of evidence for it.

Non-fiction writing is often similar to media article writing in terms of structure.  Again, you need to look at the flow of information and of topics. With transactional texts, you would be concerned with explaining how the text is constructed to make it a diary, letter etc.

In terms of smaller structures, you might also look for rhetorical features like repetition, triadic lists, contrasts and syntactic parallelism under this heading.

Literary form may also describe the type of text and its structure. Poetic form may be related to a specific number and arrangement of lines or even the rhyme scheme, e.g. a sonnet, ballad or lyric.  Novels may be classified using terms such as Bildungsroman or a novel of manners, while descriptors such as comedy, tragedy or history may be applied to dramatic works.