Linguistic Variations of Power
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- Content: A clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: Expert guidance on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: A range of suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected which best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
Power in language is a theme that will keep cropping up again and again in the study of English Language.
Ask students to jot down below the many different ways that language can make us appear powerful or help us to assert power in our speech and writing that they have encountered on the course so far.
AS English Language
The topic of Language and Power comes into closer focus in Exam Paper 2 where it is examined with the other topic of Language and Gender.
In Exam Paper 2, students will be asked to do two tasks:
Q1. Write originally for a specific audience, purpose and context about a topical issue introduced by a controversial statement to do with Language and Power or Language and Gender.
Q2. Write about EITHER Language and Power OR Language and Gender by analysing a multimodal text. (This question will always have similar wording):
Using appropriate terminology, examine text A in the light of the ways in which power is represented. In your answer, you should:
- analyse the language features of the text
- explore how contextual factors and language features construct meanings
- consider the ways in which your understanding of concepts and issues relating to power in language use illuminates the representation of power within the text.
NB – A multimodal text is one having features of more than one mode: linguistic and graphology.
It could also be used as part of an answer when analysing speech for Question 2 of Exam Paper 1. This question asks students to compare two different texts, one of which will always be a spoken text. The concept of Language and Power could be applied to analysis. The question will always have a similar wording:
Q2. Using appropriate linguistic concepts and methods, analyse the ways in which language is used in these two texts. In your answer you should:
- explore connections and variations between the texts
- consider how contextual factors contribute to the construction of meaning.
A Level English Language
The questions are very similar for the A level, although they are found in a slightly different places in the exams.
The original writing now comes in Exam Paper 1 and can be on a topic drawn from across all of the A level curriculum – so might include Language and Technology, Child Language Acquisition, Language and the Media as well as Language Change. It is also worded in such a way that there is more than one approach and one conceptual area. For instance, in the Specimen Paper the quote that is used in the question is:
Q2. ‘Technology is spoiling the English Language’ A response could either disagree or agree with the statement and both approaches would be valid. The conceptual areas that the response might touch on are obviously Language and Technology but areas such as Language Change, Language and the Media, Language and Power might all be legitimately be the focus of the answer.
The comparison of two texts at A level remains the same as AS level and indeed uses the same wording:
Q3. Using appropriate linguistic concepts and methods, analyse the ways in which language is used in these two texts. In your answer you should:
- explore connections and variations between the texts
- consider how contextual factors contribute to the construction of meaning.
The different question type occurs in Exam Paper 2 of the A level. Again this will be Question 2. Rather than the AS model which requires students to look at a multimodal text with a separate text for Language and Power as well as one for Language and Gender, the A level Exam Paper asks students to look at a single multimodal media text and analyse this text in terms of Language and Power/Gender/Technology. However responses do not have to cover all three areas, only those that the student deems appropriate to the text provided in the exam – but it is hard to imagine a (media) text where a student is unable to make some comments on Language and Power.
This question will have similar wording:
Q2. Read Text B in your Resource Booklet and answer the following question.
- Using your understanding of relevant ideas and concepts, investigate how language features and contextual factors construct meanings in this text.
Because of the similarity of how Language and Power is examined between the two qualifications (and if the qualifications are being co-taught), this Delivery Guide is designed to be used for either AS or A level students.
This Delivery Guide can be split into two sections:
- Power in Discourse
- Power Behind Discourse
The Power in Discourse section will look at:
- Introduction to Language and Power
- Types of Power
- Unequal exchanges
- Modal verb
- Specialised Lexis
- Power in Written Texts
- Representations of Power in Multi-modal texts
The Power behind Discourse section will look at:
- Synthetic Personalisation
- Language and Power and Advertising
- Althusser and Interpellation
- Binary Oppositions
- Language and Power in New
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this topic to set learners up for topics later in the course:
The study of Language and Power in this Delivery Guide should be a useful introduction for students who want to investigate further and explore a subject that is of interest to them personally in their own Language Investigation which forms part of the NEA (Non Examined Assessment – aka coursework).
This Delivery Guide could really be split into two sections. Roughly the first half of the guide looks at power in discourse, both written and spoken. This should give students a solid grounding in different types of power and how to approach the analysis of this topic. The latter half of the Delivery Guide looks at the Power behind discourse and takes a more conceptual approach.
In both halves, the emphasis is on the Learner Resources, every Lesson Activity has Learner Resources and by using the resources the students should have considered Language and Power enough for both the AS and A level exams.
Ask students to think about, possibly in groups, and then note down all the different ways and terms we use to address each other – they should use Learner Resource One for this.
Learner Resource One goes on to ask students to think how language reflects relationships and how texts can have a powerful effect on audiences.
This introduction is relatively straightforward and might be merged with Lesson Activity Two, depending on the length of lessons.
Ask students to start comparing different types of power in texts. This is introduced in Learner Resource 2.
The second activity asks students to look at the Queen’s speech for the State Opening of Parliament – the 2014 speech is available in the OCR textbook but any recent state opening of Parliament will do and can be accessed using the URL. The lesson could conclude by asking students to think about their peers and communities and think how they identify people who have power by their language. Finally, students could look at Wareing’s different classifications of power.
Give out Learner Resource 3.1 which is about Instrumental and Influential Power and the differences between them.
Then move on to Learner Resource 3.2 which asks students to consider the different types of power.
Tell students that you will be looking at Instrumental Power first.
Students will examine power relationships inside the classroom. They can watch an extract on a classroom exchange using the URL link and then look at the transcript of the encounter. The students then analyse the extract following the instructions in Learner Resource 4.1. What they are examining is Instrumental Power and you could ask students to explain how the transcript can be considered an example of this. Then give the students Learner Resource 4.2 which concludes with analysis of an extract taken from ‘Working with Texts’. The purpose of this resource is to look at modal verbs and the different types of modal verbs there are.
Ask whether the text is using instrumental or influential power and why.
Now look at specialised lexis and jargon. Again the focus of this is whether different professions might use influential or instrumental power to assert their position in society.
To a certain extent, how students respond to Learner Resource 5.1 and Learner Resource 5.2 dictate the pace of the lesson – Learner Resource 5.2 could certainly be a lesson in itself – the choosing of the jargon and the testing and recording of the scores. Use Learner Resource 5.1 to establish how specialised lexis can make texts seem unfamiliar. There is a URL link to a will but almost any example of a will will do – although some are quite lengthy.
Students will now start to think about and analyse multimodal representations of power – how language and image combine to create these representations. They consider how different aspects of graphic design can suggest power and authority. The first 4 URL links are found in Learner Resource 7.1 and are examples of the mixing of lexis and image. The students will then draw up a checklist to help then analyse these examples.
Students can then go on to analyse examples found in Learner Resource 7.2
Students might well have been looking for explicit representations of power in texts. Now they need to start thinking about the implicit power that lies behind texts. When looking at power behind texts, context becomes very important, and a central part of this is the concept of ideology.
So it would be useful to provide student with a definition. Ideology is defined as ‘a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory’.
Now discuss with students the idea that a ‘text producer’ might well be representing a set of beliefs that they are attempting to put to what they see as the ideal or implied reader so that a way of thinking about the world is shared. This can be shown in the choice of words and the meaning behind those words – newspaper reaction to a court case about Brexit and the use of the term, ‘Enemies of the People’ is an example of this. Can the students find others? A good place to look for newspaper front pages is Paperboy - link provided on the right.
For each example that the students find, ask them to identify the technique in use and then try and identify its intended effect. The examples needn’t just analyse lexical choice, they could include a mixture of graphology and possibly even grammar choices.
To lead into Lesson Activity 9, it could be pointed out to students that some linguists, such as Norman Fairclough, think there is always a link between texts and ideological perspectives and that no text is ever completely neutral. Students could be told that this is known as critical discourse analysis.
Students should start the lesson activity by thinking about how to write persuasively and thinking about examples of when they have used this form of writing previously.
Students then go onto consider Rhetoric, what the term means and the different aspects of it, using Learner Resource 9.1. The URL links contained in Learner Resource 9.1 offer students the chance of further illumination on the subject of Rhetoric.
Once this has been established they then consider how Rhetoric, and Rhetorical devices, can be used using real speeches - the YouTube link provided on the right (‘Example of Logos, Pathos, Ethos'), provides a starting point and gives a detailed analysis of Barack Obama’s inaugural address. Further examples from well-known speeches can be found in Learner Resource 9.2
Finally students look at how politicians use features of Rhetoric and how quite straightforward rules can be followed to great effect – see Learner Resource 9.3 – and the way that audiences respond to ‘claptrap’ (see the final URL ‘Claptrap: How to win a standing ovation (Part 1)’).
Point out to students that synthetic personalisation is often used in advertising, as a way of forming a relationship between the producer of the product (and advert) and the consumer.
Let the students work their way through a number of different magazine adverts, these can be found either by using the link or by the teacher using examples they have already.
Learner Resource 11 should be used to guide the student in their analysis.
Students might wish to explore the ideas of Louis Althusser. A very useful website for this is www.englishbiz.co.uk\downloads.althusser.pdf - link provided on the right, which has a very readable two page piece of the ideas of Althusser.
Having read and discussed the pdf, students should go to www.coca-cola.co.uk/stories/share-a-coke - link provided on the right, and discuss how the campaign could be considered to have used interpellation.
Students could also look at two magazine covers – Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health - links are provided on the right, (although other examples can be used) and then answer the following questions:
- What values and desirable lifestyles are ideologically encoded into the adverts?
- How is the code created to represent or reinforce what it means to be ‘normal’ within society or within the target audience for the text?
- What makes the code difficult to resist?
- How does the text create such a powerful sense of ‘normality’ that, even if a reader tried to resist its ‘normal’ interpretation, he or she would feel belittled or as an outsider, even abnormal?
Introduce students to the central role that narrative plays in all lives and how we use a number of different narratives to make sense of the world around us.
Ask the students to start by looking at two adverts, which can be found using the URLs provided which use common narratives to construct their message.
Then ask then to consider the (main) character types that can be found in Propp’s narrative theory. There is a URL link provided for this on the right.
Next, ask students to use Propp’s theory when looking at newspapers – there is a link to the PaperBoy (UK) provided on the right, where there are lots of examples of newspaper front pages.
Then, ask students to consider whether media texts still make use of mythical narratives. After the discussion, you might look at the MailOnline link to the story of Mary Donaldson, link provided on the right.Finally, ask students to consider the 2014 John Lewis Christmas advert and see if they can identify how many cultural myths are in operation during the advert - link provided on the right.
Although students might well have been using the term ideology before in studying language and power, this lesson is a chance to consider what the term means and the impact it can have on language and power.
Learner Resource 13.1 will take students through this Lesson Activity.
Stuart Hall's and Reception Theory Although this a theory often used in Media Studies it can be useful for this specification as the questions are asking students to consider representations of power in language and how different audiences read the same representation. Learner Resource 13.2 takes students through this theory and invites them to consider a Media Studies Prezi and make connections to language and power.
A useful way for students to consider how language and power is represented in texts is to consider binary oppositions – using these they should be able to see who is powerful in the text and who is without power. Learner Resource 14 takes them through a number of activities, including using the Star Wars poster in the link and the parody twitter account which uses a commutation test to create its humour.
It concludes by asking them to consider a text for the AS exam, however it would also be useful practice for A level students to consider this text as they will also write about multimodal text when considering Language and Power.
This lesson serves as an introduction to considering how language and power appears in news stories.
Students will first be given a mythbuster document produced by a local council and asked to discuss the three most commonly heard ones to explore the statistical evidence before looking at news reports.
Then the students will be given one of the two news stories that appeared on the topic of asylum seekers (the ones in the URLs provided) and consider how language is used to present a particular group and how this connects to power.
One of the major sources of non-fiction material that we encounter is that of news. News often mixes words and images, so is worthy of study.
This lesson takes students through how collocations are established (Learner Resource 16.1) and the meanings that are connected with these collocations. The URL on the right links to a Guardian article that discusses these points.
Student can then think about how euphemism is used in the reporting of wars – and how new metaphors are also employed in this reporting(Learner Resource 16.2). The other URL on the right will take you to the Imperial War Museum website where the language of war is evident.
Hegemony – Gramsci Learner Resource 16.3 - This Learner Resource is an extension activity about how language is used to create a dominant consensus in society - the ideas of Gramsci and cultural hegemony. Part of the extension is watching an Al-Jazeera link to the discussion of binary oppositions.
Students use Learner Resource 18 to analyse tabloid and broadsheet newspapers and how articles use language to represent a particular group in society. The Resource concludes by asking for a presentation but this could be turned into an essay as part of exam preparation.
Learner Resource 19 provides a summary of the theories and concepts discussed in this guide for students to check their understanding.
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