4.2 Language diversity and change

The aim of this area of study is to allow students to explore language diversity and change over time.

Students will study the key concepts of audience, purpose, genre and mode and will explore language in its wider social, geographical and temporal contexts. They will explore processes of language change. This part of the subject content also requires students to study social attitudes to, and debates about, language diversity and change.

Language diversity and change

Students should study a range of examples of language in use and research data to inform their study of diversity and change:

  • texts using different sociolects (to include social and occupational groups, gender and ethnicity)
  • texts using different dialects (to include regional, national and international varieties of English)
  • texts that use language to represent the different groups above
  • texts from different periods, from 1600 to the present day
  • written, spoken and electronic texts about a range of subjects, for various audiences and purposes in a variety of genres
  • items from collections of language data (eg dictionaries, online resources, language corpora)
  • research findings (eg tables, graphs, statistics).

When analysing texts and data, students should explore:

  • how language varies because of personal, social, geographical and temporal contexts
  • why language varies and changes, developing critical knowledge and understanding of different views and explanations
  • attitudes to language variation and change
  • the use of language according to audience, purpose, genre and mode
  • how language is used to enact relationships.

This exploration will include:

  • methods of language analysis
  • how identity is constructed
  • how audiences are addressed and positioned
  • the functions of the texts
  • the structure and organisation of the texts
  • how representations are produced.

Methods of language analysis

Students will be required to use methods of language analysis to:

  • identify and describe features of language diversity and change
  • research diversity and change
  • analyse how texts present ideas about language.

The following list is a guide to the areas of language students are expected to examine:

  • 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.

Language discourses

Students will study a range of texts that convey attitudes to language diversity and change. The texts studied will include those written for non-specialist audiences.

Students will explore how texts are produced to convey views and opinions about language issues. They will explore how texts:

  • represent language
  • construct an identity for the producer
  • position the reader and seek to influence them
  • are connected to discourses about language.

Writing skills

Students will develop skills in:

  • writing discursively about language issues in an academic essay
  • writing analytically about texts as parts of discourses about language
  • writing about language issues in a variety of forms to communicate their ideas to a non-specialist audience.