4.3 Language in action

The aim of this area of study is to allow students to explore and analyse language data independently and develop and reflect upon their own writing expertise.

It requires students to carry out two different kinds of individual research:

  • a language investigation (2,000 words excluding data)
  • a piece of original writing and commentary (750 words each).

Students can choose to pursue a study of spoken, written or multimodal data, or a mixture of text types, demonstrating knowledge in areas of individual interest.

In preparation for this, students need to study how to:

  • identify an appropriate investigation topic and research questions
  • select and apply a methodology for data collection and analysis
  • work in greater depth and with greater range
  • transcribe spoken data where appropriate
  • use language concepts and ideas
  • evaluate and draw conclusions on the findings of the investigation
  • present findings in an appropriate and accessible way
  • reference reading materials correctly
  • evaluate the structures and conventions of a variety of genres
  • plan, draft and redraft as part of the writing process
  • reflect on the writing process using methods of language analysis.

4.3.1 Language Investigation

Students may choose to pursue an area of individual interest. For example, this might include studies of:

  • representations of different individuals, social groups or nationalities
  • regional dialect
  • gendered talk
  • the language of new communication technologies
  • children’s language use
  • norms and variations in usages of different kinds
  • the language of the media
  • code switching and mixing between English and other languages
  • the language of different occupations or pastimes
  • historical changes in English over time.

Students are not obliged to restrict themselves to those areas that are formally taught, as the basis of the investigation is the value of student-led enquiry supported by open learning. Therefore, any area seen by supervising teachers as yielding interesting questions about language in use may be chosen. Students can ask a number of fruitful questions, which can be generated by questions such as the following:

  1. A genre-based investigation: what are the distinctive features of this type of language use?
  2. A function/use-based investigation: what is the language used to do?
  3. An attitudes-based investigation: how do people feel about this language?
  4. A user-based investigation: who uses this type of language?

Students will need to decide what kind of data they collect:

  • spoken language
  • written language
  • multimodal language
  • word lists (ie lists of new words etc)
  • attitudes to language
  • uses of language
  • views about language.

Underpinning this piece of research is the challenge that, in consultation with their supervising teacher, students should collect their own data as the basis of their study, as well as select their own approach for analysis.

Investigations need a specific focus, for example:

  • the writing of two children aged 8
  • features of the Devon dialect, based on a survey
  • the language of wedding ceremonies from two different cultures
  • the language of teachers’ reports
  • the language used in three different advertisements for a particular product
  • how stories are told in a particular comic
  • how travel guides represent a particular community
  • the language of sports commentary
  • how turntaking works in real-time writing online
  • language patterns in the names of shops.

The list above is neither definitive nor prescriptive.

The investigation should contain the following sections:

Introduction

  • brief discussion of the reasons for choosing the investigation focus
  • what the investigation is trying to find out (aims).

Methodology

  • an evaluative account of how the data was collected and organised for analysis
  • approaches to analysis.

Analysis

  • analysis and interpretation of the findings, responding to the aim of the investigation
  • critical consideration of relevant concepts and issues surrounding the topic area
  • analysis of the contextual influences upon the data collected.

Conclusion

  • interpretation of the findings of the investigation linked to the aim/focus of the investigation.

References

  • a list of all sources used (paper and web-based).

Appendices

  • clean copies of the collected data
  • evidence to support quantitative approaches.

4.3.2 Original writing

Students will produce one piece of original writing based on one of the following three areas:

  • The Power of Persuasion
  • The Power of Storytelling
  • The Power of Information

and one accompanying commentary.

In preparation for the writing, students will study a range of style models before selecting and analysing one style model in detail. Students will select their own style model in consultation with their supervising teacher. Students will then use this research to inform their own piece of original writing.

The commentary will allow the student to consider and evaluate the style model, the writing process and the effectiveness of the final piece of writing.

The folder submitted should contain:

  • a piece of original writing
  • an annotated style model
  • a reflective commentary
  • references (paper and web-based).

Examples of pieces of writing students could consider:

The power of persuasion

  • a piece of investigative journalism
  • a speech delivered on a controversial topic
  • a letter to an MP.

The power of storytelling

  • a short story
  • an extract from a biography
  • a dramatic monologue.

The power of information

  • a piece of travel journalism
  • a blog focusing on social issues
  • a piece of local history.

4.3.3 Methods of language analysis

Both the investigation and original writing will have a distinctive approach to analysis that is shaped by the particular needs of the research pathway or theme chosen. However, underlying any analysis will be coverage of some relevant aspects of the language levels, as follows:

  • phonetics, phonology and prosodics: how speech sounds and effects are articulated and analysed
  • graphology: the visual aspects of textual design and appearance
  • lexis and semantics: the vocabulary of English, including social and historical variation
  • grammar, including morphology: the structural patterns and shapes of English at sentence, clause, phrase and word level
  • pragmatics: the contextual aspects of language use
  • discourse: extended stretches of communication occurring in different genres, modes and contexts.