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VCE English Language Notes

Jonathon Lum
jonathon@connecteducation.com.au
Edited by Anna Nguyen

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Table of Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................. 4 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 About the author ....................................................................................................... 4 About the editor ........................................................................................................ 4 About these notes ..................................................................................................... 4 Disclaimer, copyright and sources............................................................................. 5

Unit 3: Language variation and social purpose ........................................................... 6 2.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................... 6 Some key terms ................................................................................................. 6 Summary of informal linguistic features (AoS 1) ............................................... 7 Summary of formal linguistic features (AoS 2) .................................................. 7 Evaluating registers ........................................................................................... 8

2.1.1 2.1.2 2.1.3 2.1.4 2.2

Spoken language ....................................................................................................... 9 Summary of content .......................................................................................... 9 Nature of the spoken mode .............................................................................. 9 Prosodic and paralinguistic features ................................................................. 9 Gricean maxims of cooperation (the cooperative principle) ........................ 11 Conversational strategies and features ........................................................... 13

2.2.1 2.2.2 2.2.3 2.2.4 2.2.5 2.3

Written language ..................................................................................................... 22 Summary of content ........................................................................................ 22 Nature and functions of written language ...................................................... 22 Coherence and cohesion ................................................................................. 23 Stylistic features of written texts .................................................................... 26 Information flow.............................................................................................. 34

2.3.1 2.3.2 2.3.3 2.3.4 2.3.5 2.4

Politeness, euphemism and taboo .......................................................................... 37 Politeness ........................................................................................................ 37 Euphemisms and taboo ................................................................................... 37 Dysphemisms and swearing ............................................................................ 38 Attitudes to swearing and taboo ..................................................................... 39

2.4.1 2.4.2 2.4.3 2.4.4 2.5

Deceptive, manipulative and obfuscating language ............................................... 40 Doublespeak .................................................................................................... 40 1

2.5.1

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2.5.2 2.6

Gobbledygook................................................................................................ 41

Discriminatory and Politically Correct (PC) language .............................................. 42 Discriminatory language .................................................................................. 42 Politically Correct (PC) language...................................................................... 43 Evaluating political correctness ....................................................................... 44

2.6.1 2.6.2 2.6.3 3

Responding to short answer questions .................................................................... 45 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 The short answer section of the exam .................................................................. 45 Suggestions for revision activities ........................................................................... 45 Tips for responding to the short answer questions ................................................ 46 Typical questions ..................................................................................................... 48 Sample responses .................................................................................................... 49

Writing an analytical commentary .......................................................................... 55 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 What is an analytical commentary? ........................................................................ 55 Suggestions for revision activities ........................................................................... 57 Tips for writing the analytical commentary ............................................................ 57 Sample analytical commentary ............................................................................... 59

Unit 4: Language variation and identity ................................................................... 62 5.1 5.2 Introduction ............................................................................................................. 62 Factors of language variation .................................................................................. 62 Age variation and Teenspeak ........................................................................ 62 Gender variation .............................................................................................. 63 Ethnic and cultural variation, ethnolects ...................................................... 63 Socio-economic variation ................................................................................ 64 Standard Australian English ............................................................................. 67

5.2.1 5.2.2 5.2.3 5.2.4 5.2.5 5.3

Attitudes to varieties ............................................................................................... 68 Some common attitudes ................................................................................. 68 Evaluating the attitudes .................................................................................. 69

5.3.1 5.3.2 5.4

Language change in contemporary Australian society............................................ 70 Forces that drive language change .................................................................. 70 Technology ...................................................................................................... 71 2

5.4.1 5.4.2

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5.4.3 5.4.4 5.5

Americanisms .................................................................................................. 72 Natural change over time ................................................................................ 72

Jargon and slang ...................................................................................................... 73 Jargon .............................................................................................................. 73 Slang ................................................................................................................ 74

5.5.1 5.5.2 6

Writing an English Language essay .......................................................................... 76 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 The essay section of the exam ................................................................................ 76 Suggestions for revision activities ........................................................................... 76 Common essay topics .............................................................................................. 77 Tips for writing an English Language essay ............................................................. 78 Sample essays .......................................................................................................... 82 Essay on attitudes towards discriminatory language ...................................... 82 Essay on Standard English ............................................................................... 87 Essay on strong views about language .......................................................... 90 Essay on power and authority ......................................................................... 93

6.5.1 6.5.2 6.5.3 6.5.1 7 8

Exam technique ...................................................................................................... 96 References cited in these notes ............................................................................... 98

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Introduction
1.1 About the author

Jonathon Lum completed Units 3 & 4 English Language in 2007 as a Year 11 student at Balwyn High School, achieving a study score of 49 and a Premiers Award. In 2008 he graduated with a perfect ENTER (now ATAR) of 99.95. Jonathon has always held a strong interest in languages and linguistics, studying French, Italian and Classical Greek to a Year 12 level. In 2011 he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Deans Scholars Program) at Monash University, with majors in Philosophy and Linguistics. This year, he is undertaking an Honours year in Linguistics under the supervision of Kate Burridge, one of the authors of the Year 12 VCE English Language textbook Living Lingo. Jonathons thesis explores the morphosyntax of (non-)discriminatory labels for minority groups in Australia. At Monash, he is also the president of LingSoc, the Monash University Linguistics Society. Jonathon has tutored many students in English Language since 2008, with several achieving Study Scores of over 40. Jonathon enjoys travelling, playing table tennis, following the AFL, and playing the online AFL fantasy game SuperCoach.

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About the editor

Anna Nguyen was tutored by Jonathon Lum in year 12, completing English Language in 2011 with a study score of 47. She achieved an overall ATAR of 99.75 and is currently studying Dentistry at La Trobe University. Annas interests include cooking and interior design.

1.3

About these notes

These notes are a summary of the 2012 course for Units 3 & 4 VCE English Language. They are based partly on my own study notes from 2007, when I studied English Language, and from notes I have prepared more recently for the benefit of my students. Important contributions have also been made by Anna Nguyen, a former student of mine, and so much of the credit for these notes goes to Anna. Thanks must also be extended to Eddie Cliff, Sam Kothari and Lex Ituarte for making Connect Education possible, and to Lex in particular for proof-reading these notes. The notes are largely a product of my own understanding of English Language and linguistics, and so I give special thanks to Kathryn Van Winden, my English Language teacher from Balwyn High School, and to my Linguistics lecturers at Monash University, whose expertise and passion have inspired me to continue studying Linguistics and to share my knowledge with younger students. I have prepared these notes largely as a complement to the end-of-year revision lecture I will give with Connect Education, but they should also be useful to those unable to attend this lecture. In many areas they contain more detail than what I cover in the lecture, though in other areas they may contain less detail and in particular lack the images and audiovisual material of the lecture slides. I suggest that you use these notes in conjunction with other Copyright 2012 Connect Education 4

Propel the topic by asking questions or sharing an opinion, observation or anecdote Change the topic. This is commonly introduced with a topic shift particle/marker (anyway, to change the topic, to change the subject, oh did I tell you about?, this is off topic but, etc.). Some topic shift markers can be described as topic loop particles/markers since they bring about a topic loop, that is, a topic shift back to a previous topic. Topic loop markers include getting back to or as I was saying. Successful topic management may be evidence of cooperation, so consider this conversational strategy for questions on how the participants cooperate or collaborate. Also consider topic management for questions that ask how the linguistic features or conversational strategies reflect the context. E.g., on radio or television, the audience expects an orderly, relevant and well-paced progression of topics, otherwise they will lose interest and flick the channel. In more private contexts, however, close friends or relatives might freely spend as much or as little time on a topic as they wish. In contexts where the participants are doing something apart from talking that requires some of their attention (e.g., two builders on a construction site), it is common for two topics to be handled at once (one relates to the building project, the other may be more social).

Turn taking: some factors to consider

Balance does one particular speaker dominate? Or are the turns evenly balanced between speakers? Are there clear reasons for this? E.g., the speakers may have certain roles, or their relationship or relative status might dictate who should speak more. Transitions are the transitions between turns orderly? Are there overlaps where speakers seemingly compete for the floor before someone backs off, or are there gaps between turns? Do speakers employ floor strategies to hand over the floor to each other? Length of turns do the speakers each have long turns before losing the floor, or do they have shorter but more frequent turns? Consider reasons for this.

Consider turn taking for questions on context and relationship. The way in which turn taking is managed is largely determined by the Principle of Appropriateness, with more orderly and balanced turn taking occurring in more formal or public contexts. In casual conversations between friends, turn taking is likely to be much looser. Also consider discussing turn taking for any questions on cooperation. Successful turn taking may be evidence of cooperation. Copyright 2012 Connect Education 15

contains more declaratives. Texts that aim to entertain may contain such features as puns, metaphors, rhymes and other stylistic features that engage the reader. The context and audience also influence the linguistic features of written texts. For example, the context can determine the level of formality, and the audience can determine whether such features as jargon or slang are used.

2.3.3
Coherence

Coherence and cohesion

Coherence refers to the consistency of a text logically and semantically. If we say that a text is coherent, we mean that it makes sense and fits together as a whole. The following factors help a text to be coherent: Logical ordering this may be chronological ordering, or some other organisational system that is easy for a reader to follow. E.g., a recipe presents the first step first, the second step second, and so forth. Narratives tend to present earlier events before later ones. Logical consistency a logically consistent text does not contradict itself, its different parts are mutually compatible from a logical perspective. E.g., She loved to exercise, so she always cycled to work is logically consistent, but She loved to exercise, so she always drove to work is not logically consistent and thereby incoherent. Inference the use of prior knowledge (especially cultural or contextual knowledge) to make sense of a text. Inference occurs where a text does not explicitly state something, but that something can still be inferred by the audience because of their real-world (non-linguistic) knowledge. E.g., Would you like to get some KFC with us? Im a vegan. Relevance if a text is to be coherent, its different parts must relate to one another in a fairly obvious way. Layout and typographical features the visual presentation of a text can help to make it coherent. The use of paragraphing, columns, headings and sub-headings can all show us how the different parts of the text relate to one another, and ultimately help the text to make sense. Similarly the use of bold, italics, underline, CAPS, colour, font size and so forth help show us what words or parts of the text are more important and which are less so.

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on short answer questions, you can just do the short answer section rather than the whole exam. Again, make sure you check your answers afterwards. If you have access to more practice activities/exams than you have time to do, I suggest you still have a look at them. Would you know what to write for each question? If not, check the answers or go back to your notes. This is not as good as actually trying to do the activity or exam in question, but is better than ignoring it completely.

3.3

Tips for responding to the short answer questions

Below are some tips for how to answer questions in this section of the exam: Make use of your reading time to read the text(s) provided. I suggest you start by reading the contextual information provided at the top of the text(s). This is normally a sentence or two that may tell you useful things like the text type, the purpose, the audience, the participants and their relationship or roles, the degree of formality, whether it is scripted or spontaneous, and so on. Keep this information in mind when you read the text and when you answer the questions. Next, take a quick look at the text(s), then read the questions to see what you have to do, then return to the text(s) to read more thoroughly and actively. Read every line of the text(s) without skipping sections. Look out for features that you are required to comment on in the questions. As soon as you are allowed to write, highlight, underline, circle or annotate any important parts of the text(s) that you think is relevant to the questions. This will save you time later searching for things you have already found. Before you answer a question, make sure you have read and re-read it carefully. I suggest doing the questions in order unless you think a particular question is very difficult or time-consuming. Often, the earlier questions will feed into the later ones, so it is best to do them in order. Use metalanguage in your responses to identify linguistic features from the text(s). However, dont use metalanguage if it is not relevant or necessary, since this is confusing (e.g., if its not particularly relevant to your discussion that the sentences in the text are declaratives, then dont mention it). Be careful that you follow the instructions in the question. For example, many questions ask that your example(s) be drawn from a particular range of line numbers (e.g., lines 10-20). Also, many questions may specify a particular subsystem (e.g., syntax), or may exclude certain topics or subsystems (e.g., apart from turn-taking or apart from lexical features). Dont waste your time writing something that wont count! For multi-mark questions, you normally would need to identify at least one linguistic feature for every two marks (one mark is for the feature and discussion, another mark for an appropriate example). So a six-mark question would require you to identify and discuss three different features, and provide examples.

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clearly and concisely as possible. Avoid using long sentences or words that you do not fully understand. Proof-read each paragraph immediately after you have written it, and proof-read the entire piece when youve finished it. Check that you have enough features, examples and discussion. Make sure that your examples have line number references and are in quote marks. Look out for errors in spelling or grammar, such as missed words or awkward phrasing.

4.4

Sample analytical commentary


The following analytical commentary is based on an opinion article written by Danny Katz in The Age on August 25, 2012. We cant reprint the article here for copyright reasons, but you can access it for free online: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/soyou-expect-me-to-swallow-your-sugarfree-diet-mantra-fat-chance20120824-24s2f.html (or type in Danny Katz so you expect me to swallow your sugar-free diet mantra into a search engine). To get the same line numbers, youll need to print the article via print view, then number the rows of text yourself, starting with the headline. If you like, you can have a go at writing an analytical commentary on the article before reading the sample one below. Note that this sample is much longer than what you need to write in the exam. Ive done this just to give you more ideas of what sorts of things you could include. It could have been shortened by omitting some of the features and examples.

This text is an opinion article written by Danny Katz in The Age newspaper, on August 25, 2012. Katz aims to persuade his readers that clearer packaging and labelling is needed to distinguish between diet and non-diet products, but his purpose is also to amuse and entertain the reader. As such, the article is written in an informal register and contains many examples of humorous and colloquial language. Since the text is an opinion article in a newspaper, it conforms to the conventions of its text type. The headline in lines 1-2 appears in bold and in a larger font, and the name of the author (Danny Katz) appears immediately below in a smaller font. The first word of the main text, COOLA, is capitalised, as is typical of newspaper articles. Further, the text is divided into a number of paragraphs. This formatting helps readers to digest the text easily, and is part of what makes the text a coherent one. Coherence is further constructed through inference, a feature that also serves to create humour in the piece. For example, skol on line 5 refers to a Scandinavian drinking toast the reader must know this in order to understand Katzs humorous comparison between drinking Coola Lime Cordial and drinking alcohol. Another example is on line 31, where the Copyright 2012 Connect Education 59

Unit 4: Language variation and identity


5.1 Introduction

This unit examines the many roles language can play in society and the ways different groups and individuals use language for various purposes and in various contexts. It is divided into two areas of study, Language variation in Australian Society (AoS 1) and Individual and group identities (AoS 2). It is predominantly from these areas of study that the essay questions in the exam are drawn. In contrast, the short answer questions and analytical commentary, relate more to Unit 3 (though some texts may contain features that invite a discussion of some Unit 4 topics). As for Unit 3, in these notes I have opted to organise the material by theme rather than by area of study, since there is considerable overlap between the two areas of study.

5.2

Factors of language variation

5.2.1

Age variation and Teenspeak

Each generation uses a slightly different English from the last, and indeed this is why Old English looks so different from Modern English. Language never stands still. Older speakers still use some lexemes that for the rest of us are a little antiquated. E.g., the wireless (= the radio); the pictures (= the movies). Older speakers are also more likely to speak with a Broad or Cultivated variety of Australian English (more on these later) compared to their children or grandchildren, who are far more likely to have a General accent. These older speakers grew up in a time when these varieties were more widely used. Teenagers use a highly exclusive variety known as Teenspeak. Teenspeak is characterised by slang (the informal lexical items of a particular social group). E.g., own = dominate, be good at, shotgun = claim, reserve in advance. Some of this slang derives from abbreviations or acronyms used in texting or online chat. E.g., ceebs comes from cbf, rofl also comes from an online chat acronym which stands for rolling on the floor laughing. Some slang involves other interesting morphological techniques such as blending. E.g., bromance from bro and romance. Some slang arguably reflects the values of its users. What do the terms trashed, wasted, slizzered and goon tell us about teenagers values and behaviours?

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6.4

Tips for writing an English Language essay

1. Choosing an essay topic: You will notice that there are three essay topics (though some years there has just been two) from which you are to choose just one. When choosing a topic, consider the following factors: How confident you feel about each topic. Whether youve written on any similar topics before. What ideas you have for each topic. Can you think of three main paragraphs? Which topics would allow you to discuss a range of subsystems? Which topics would allow you to use any media examples or quotes youve prepared? How easy do you think it would be to incorporate the stimulus material for each topic? Which topics do you think would allow you to show off your knowledge the most? How long do you think it would take you to write an essay on each topic? Weigh these things up quickly during reading time then make a tentative decision. However, when the time comes to actually writing the essay, you may decide to switch to a different topic depending on how much time you have left. 2. The reading and planning stage: Read the entire question carefully and underline key words. Annotate the question if necessary. What concepts or features is it referring to? What is it asking you to do (e.g., discuss, explain, do you agree? etc.)? Read the stimulus material for ideas. The stimulus material is a box of three or four quotes from various sources (including sometimes linguists). Some will present an attitude on a particular linguistic issue (you do not necessarily have to agree with this attitude though!), others may simply provide examples that you could use in your essay. If you do not understand the relevance of the stimulus material, it could be that you misinterpreted the essay question. Go back and read it again. Its important you interpret it correctly before you get started, when it may be too late. Now think about how you might incorporate the stimulus material in your essay. For example, there might be some examples of discriminatory language that you could include in a paragraph on how language can be used to offend and exclude. Or there might be a quote that summarises your contention. You could use this in an introduction or conclusion. You dont need to include all the stimulus material in your essay. One quote or example is probably sufficient, two or more is good. Decide on your contention. Will you agree or disagree with the topic? It is acceptable sometimes preferable to partly disagree/agree. How will you Copyright 2012 Connect Education 78