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Delivery guides are designed to represent a body of knowledge about teaching a particular topic and contain:
- 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 that best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
This Delivery Guide will focus on Component 2, Section C of the A level – Dimensions of linguistic variation: Language Change. The focus of this section is on analysis of historical varieties of English. The analysis will be based on drawing connections and comparisons between two texts from different times. This section is examined externally with a maximum mark of 36, and covers the key skills of students’ ability to apply appropriate methods of language analysis, using associated terminology and coherent written expression (AO1), analysing and evaluating how contextual factors and language features are associated with the construction of meaning (AO3) and exploring connections across texts, informed by linguistic concepts and methods (AO4). AO2 is not covered in this question and this therefore gives students unrestricted opportunity to focus on the impact of texts on diverse audiences and respond critically and with careful consideration of context, production and reception.
Students should study the ways that English language has developed and changed over time, and the unit encompasses methodologies for the study of language change. Included in this guide are opportunities for students to examine a range of historical texts and genres – ranging from romantic correspondence to war diaries to recipes. In the exam, students will be expected to identify and compare significant features or patterns in texts from two different times and explore their effects (AO4) e.g. comparing how agony aunts have answered problems in the past and present or comparing a romantic email with a love letter from the C19th and identifying the contextual and lexical impact on the different audiences (AO3).
Although this delivery guide isn’t a scheme of work, if all the activities are completed the students should be ready to take the exam. To test how ready the students are, they should be encouraged to attempt the question on language change that can be found on the OCR GCE English Language web page, Assessment Materials section, Question 3 in Unit 470/2. It is also worth noting that the descriptors in the mark scheme will remain consistent, therefore any linked texts that come from different eras could be used, such as, those in the Transition guide regarding historical varieties of English
Resource: Read David Crystal’s chapter ‘Etymology’ from A Little Book Of Language together in class.
Discuss and ask students to identify key points, what they would consider to be a key quote and explain what is it they find interesting about the topic. What can they relate to from their own personal reading or experiences? For example, the novels of Bernard Cornwell. Have they watched anything (TV/film) that can add to their understanding and knowledge? For example: Wolf Hall, Ripper Street, Gladiator.
Introduce students to topic-specific terminology: broadening, narrowing, amelioration, pejoration, weakening, metaphor, idiom, euphemism, political correctness, colloquialism, Latinate, compounding, loan word, slang, derivation, meiosis, coinage, globalization, synchronic change, descriptivism, prescriptivism – giving them examples of each term (see Learner resource 2).
Development/homework activity: ask students to research up to five words that have undergone some form of language change, identifying what the word used to mean and now means e.g. nice, spinster, clue.
Explain to students the differences between the three terms.
Ask students to explore the connotations of these examples, which share the same denotation: skinny and slender, childlike and childish, cheap and inexpensive. What effect does the language have on the listener and what does it tell us about the speaker/ writer?
Flocabulary resource: can be used for a mini activity with students in groups working on the best word choices.
Euphemism – Sara Thorne Mastering Advanced English Language chapter 17 on ‘The Language of Politics’ is particularly useful.
Development activity: Students should then use a current news story to write their own speech using the three terms extensively throughout. Commentaries on the use of euphemism in political speeches can be found within the Commentaries 1 and 2 resources.
Now ask students to read and/or listen to US Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech and read the analysis afterwards which could point out to students how to create ambiguity in their own attempts. (See Paul Ryan’s speech transcribed resource, Paul Ryan's speech resource and Post-speech commentary).
Approaches to teaching the content
A useful way to begin would be to introduce students to the idea of language change and identify how, why and in what ways language has changed and is changing. This will begin to address AO3 in understanding the importance and effect of context. An understanding of topic terminology is key and students should be encouraged from the outset to use this terminology and to address the language levels in their analysis of texts (AO1). This has the option of introducing students to prescriptivism, descriptivism and semantic change, making use of students’ opinions on this topic and guiding them towards some research on language change by linguists such as Honey, Milroy and Milroy and Cameron.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this topic to set students up for topics later in the course
The approaches listed above should encourage students to develop their interest and enjoyment of English and understand language change as explorers of language via context and function. Therefore, the necessity of a good understanding of the topic-specific terminology, concepts and language levels will enable them to make use of these skills across the entire A Level English Language course, as well as this unit.
Identifying significant features or patterns in a text and analysing contextual features will aid them in their study of language under the microscope (Component 1). Considering gender, power and different modes of English will support their work in comparing and contrasting texts (Component 1) where the focus is on exploring linguistic connections and comparisons between different modes of communication.
The intention of this section of the Delivery Guide is to make the students aware of different approaches to language change and whether ‘standards are falling’. The activity references a range of resources that present this issue and could lead to a piece of writing from the student, or the class could ‘debate’ the issues with specific students leading the debate and presenting one approach to this debate.
Give students definitions of prescriptivism and descriptivism. Sara Thorne (2008) Mastering Advanced English Language, 2nd edition, Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 98–101, has two clear definitions as well as a useful activity where students are asked to decide which of 17 informal spoken English utterances are acceptable to them and there is also a commentary on analysis. Teachers and students might also find it useful to look at The Queen’s Speech (Christmas broadcast 1957) and possibly a clip from Channel 4’s programme Skint. Two extremes but useful for making the point glaringly obvious and it will create a debate on what students consider to be acceptable standards of English. This should engender a lively discussion about students’ opinions about language and perceived falling standards in language via language use. Students should be able to cite wider reading to reinforce their points.
Ask students to research Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language 1755 (see resource) and look for 7–10 examples of where Johnson has standardised spelling and meanings of words.
There is an amusing episode of the television series Blackadder with Rowan Atkinson and Robbie Coltrane which depicts Johnson writing the first dictionary (see resource).
Theorists e.g. John Honey, Milroy and Milroy and Deborah Cameron can all be cited (see Language debates resource) and students given the opportunity to do individual research on current thinking.
Dan Clayton’s article in Emag April 2010 ‘Language discourses 1 – Debates and Discussions about language’ is also recommended reading.
Students are to urged to immerse themselves in the English language and to read widely, looking at different time periods, genres and text types. They should share their reflections on their reading and on other interesting articles and thoughts they have encountered in their reading and in this way, build a compendium of wider reading. It would be considered relevant to identify how gender, power and language change have moved together and how in this context, social and economic change has played its part in the evolution of language. Teachers could consider giving groups of students research projects to complete, which might be: considering the history of the English language, English as a global language, loan words and the effect of the British Empire, how technology has impacted on language change, how the rise of the ‘ladette’ has changed the face of women’s language, contemplate how the changing political scene has affected language and changed it and deliberate/ discuss what the future of English might be.
This delivery guide will be exploring how men and women’s language has changed, or women’s language has changed since the nineteenth century, helping them access how the language of recipes has changed in addition to analysing the differences between how Fielding and Austen have presented the characters of Bridget Jones and Elizabeth Bennet through their lexis (Bridget Jones vs Elizabeth Bennet). This enables them to explore connections across different levels and discourses, as would a short video clip for visual, aural and kinaesthetic students. They will need a general understanding of genre, author, subject matter, original audience, date of publication and how texts would have been produced. Thinking consciously about lexis (e.g. archaic, old-fashioned and dialect) should help students focus on the vocabulary of English, including social and historical variation, whilst asking students to consider the effects of connotation and euphemism will help them to address how language features are associated with the construction of meaning. The comparison of texts from the past can be given to students to analyse in groups and teachers could take this opportunity to introduce students to the IPA and gauge levels of understanding. Also, an Aramaic version of the Bible could be listened to, both with and without the text.
A number of advice columns, ranging from Cathy and Claire’s advice column in Jackie magazine in the 1970s to Marie Claire magazine’s advice column in the modern day, have been included in the guide and can be utilised to cover the key skills of students’ ability to apply appropriate methods of language analysis, using associated terminology and coherent written expression (AO1), analysing and evaluating how contextual factors and language features are associated with the construction of meaning (AO3) and exploring connections across texts, informed by linguistic concepts and methods (AO4). The Emag article included as part of this unit (Language change: agony aunts past and present), if used as wider reading, can give students an understanding of the context (AO3).
Common misconceptions or difficulties students might have
Students may need to be reminded, when completing analysis, to consider context, production and reception and the impact of texts on diverse audiences, in addition to the language levels and topic-specific terminology.
They should not be drawn into a micro analysis of rights and wrongs of particular texts but be encouraged to understand language change as a constantly evolving and organic process and to approach it as such.
There will be a variety of texts offered; some are from before 1600 which is the given date in the Specification but they offer interesting ideas about language change and the students should find them useful preparation.
For this lesson activity, in either pairs or groups, students could be given three different resources which they work through in turn. When the groups have completed their tasks, each group should carousel to each of the resources in turn and add their analysis to the work already completed. The last group should present their findings.
Resource 1: see Five texts resource.
First, take each of the five texts separately, think about the context and then answer the following questions: Who wrote it? What genre is it? What is the subject matter? When was it written? How would it have been produced? Who was it originally written for?
Identify examples of archaic, old-fashioned and dialect lexis.
Next start to analyse it using the key constituents (lexis, semantics, grammar, pragmatics, phonology, graphology, discourse).
Use the topic specific terminology found in Learner resource 2 now to analyse.
Resource 2: see Language change in the Bible resource.
Compare and contrast this section of the Bible through 1380–1611 and 1997.
What similarities and differences do you notice?
Resource 3: see The Lord's Prayer resource.
Listen to the Aramaic version of The Lord’s Prayer and identify where you think it can be linked to the version we know today. (Students should then be offered the worksheet ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and asked to use the IPA from the specification to identify changes in pronunciation of words.)
Students work around changes to the Bible and ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ employing a couple of interesting sources.
The Huffington Post article (see resource) on language change within the Bible makes for thought-provoking reading.
David Crystal lectures on ‘The Influence of the King James Bible on the English Language’ (see resource). This also makes for interesting viewing.
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen, Chapter 34 (see resource).
- Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding, Monday 14 August (Learner resource 1).
Take each of the texts separately first and think about the context. Who wrote it? What genre is it? What is the subject matter? When was it written? How would it have been produced? Who was it originally written for?
Identify examples of archaic, old-fashioned and dialect lexis.
Next start to analyse it using the language levels (lexis, semantics, grammar, pragmatics, phonology, graphology, discourse).
Use the topic specific terminology now to analyse the use of: broadening, narrowing, amelioration, pejoration, weakening, metaphor, idiom, euphemism, political correctness, colloquialism, Latinate, compounding, loan word, slang, derivation, meiosis, coinage, globalization, synchronic change, descriptivism, prescriptivism (Learner resource 2).
Development task: What are the key variations in the two pieces? What is the effect? How would their audiences have reacted to them? How does a modern audience respond to Austen in this context?
Teachers could begin this lesson activity by watching an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth/Band of Brothers/Dad’s Army or the BBC1 series Army: A Very British Institution (see resource).
Students should be encouraged to compile a list of British army field-specific lexis. The article ‘Fighting Talk’ that was published in the Daily Mail (2008) may also make interesting reading that might generate lively debate. The article can be found at: Donald, G., 2008, Fighting Talk, Daily Mail, 13 October, p. 13.
Learner resource 3 is a compilation of war-time diary entries by both men and women: Oswald Blows (1916), Anne Frank (1942) and Sean Smith (2010). There are extensive lists of Second World War diaries (see resource) compiled and archived by the BBC; one, from a choice of many, that might be of interest for this exercise can be found within the War Diary resource.
Students should be asked to consider lexis and semantics in these contexts and comment on social and historical variation as well as pragmatics. What connections are there across these different texts? How have different audiences received them and can students identify any patterns within the texts?
Before starting this activity, if the school or college has access to the English and Media Centre archive (see resource) students should read a couple of really useful articles as an introduction. Both are only available with the English and Media Centre password. The first article is by Dr Graeme Trousdale and is on language change and the second is on the language we use when giving advice.
Students should then look at the examples of problem pages given below.
- Jackie magazine (see resource) problem pages with the legendary Cathy and Claire.
- Modern-day advice for girls and young women from Marie Claire magazine (see resource).
- The Huffington Post (see resource), a quite pithy post about why men shouldn’t write advice columns.
The article ‘Words of Wisdom: The Best of ‘Dear Abby’’ (see resource) gives an insight into the type of problems that the public felt compelled to ask advice for.
All of these focus on women as the target audience. What evidence can students find to justify this? How does the language specifically target women?
Student task: research advice columns from the past and present for men. What similarities or differences can you see? Refer back to the subject specific terminology (broadening, narrowing, amelioration, pejoration, weakening, metaphor, idiom, euphemism, political correctness, colloquialism, Latinate, lexis, compounding, inflection, modal auxiliary, loan word, slang, derivation, meiosis, coinage, globalization, synchronic change, descriptivism, prescriptivism) (Learner resource 2) and identify examples.
Extension: write an advice column for three problems using language suited to the period of your choice.
1. Students could be asked to draw up a list of the ten most popular slang words used by their immediate circle of friends/ common in their locality. This should generate some element of discussion – it might be more productive if the teacher also lists the words they remember and contributes to the discussion e.g. how has the use of the word ‘sick’ evolved, what does ‘peng’ mean to an older/younger audience or what does ‘jomo’ mean?
YouTube clip ‘Teenage Language explained by Clueless Adults’ could also be shown at this point (see resource).
A homework task could be to research the Word Spy website (see resource) for current words.
2) Teachers can steer this discussion and ask students to consider how use of slang can exemplify how language can be used to include/exclude others and possibly also touch on language and power.
Andrew Moore has written extensively on language and power (see resource).
3) David Crystal gave a talk (see resource) via the British Council and answered the question: ‘What do you most enjoy about the English language?’ (Answer: that it changes). (He is filmed talking to students in Europe which makes this clip very accessible for AS students.)
There are three newspaper articles, from The Independent (2007), The Sunday Times (2010) and The Times (2011), that cover different aspects of language change. The three articles are:
- Jury, L, 2007. When did we start going to the loo? The Independent, 3 January. (See The Independent resource).
- Rumbelow, H, 2011. The UK is no longer the true custodian of the Queen’s English, The Times, 6 April. (See The Times resource).
- White, R, 2010. Sunday Times News Review: How slang is constantly evolving, The Sunday Times, 19 December. (See The Sunday Times resource).
The Independent discusses ‘words whose origins have been lost over time’, The Sunday Times leads on how our 18th century ancestors led on coinage and discusses how language is evolving and The Times article is about how the ‘UK is no longer the true custodian of the Queen’s English’.
The last article could be used as springboard to discussing how phonetics and phonology play a part in language change. Students should be asked to transcribe some of the words, thinking about pronunciation and paying particular attention to elements of prosody, whilst making judgements on audience impact throughout.
Sara Thorne in Mastering Advanced English Language (2008) gives a clear summary of what, in her opinion, are the causes of language change. Pages 558–559, look at the bones of analysis for an instruction text.
This lesson activity looks at recipes and how the language of instruction has changed.
The resource link begins with a recipe from the 1500s on how to make pancakes (see resource). Students could analyse this in pairs and then be given the analysis that is included.
A contrast would then be to look at the following:
- Mrs Beeton’s recipe (see resource) for Empress Pudding.
- Julia Child’s recipe (see resource) for French crêpes.
- Delia Smith’s recipe (see resource) for Richmond Maids of Honour.
- Nigella Lawson’s recipe (see resource) for chocolate cake.
Students should identify and compare significant features (language levels) from all the texts and explore the effects. How is the language produced in each text and how is it received and understood by its audience? It may well be of use to look at spoken versions as well which are easily accessible via Youtube.
In doing so, they could also consider the use of prosody in Julia Child’s speech compared to that of Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith. Has women’s language changed over time in this context?
This lesson activity could start with a brief look at the Paston Valentine letter from 1477. The clip here from BBC News (see resource) also contains an audio link so that students will be able to hear the correct pronunciation – it would be worth having a copy for display so that they are able to follow, as this could work as an opportunity for some IPA work.
The text of the Paston Valentine can be found within the Paston Valentine resource.
To give students an idea of context, the link to the British Library timeline (see resource) could be utilised.
Students might also wish to look at two different types of romantic letter written in the nineteenth century (Learner resource 4).
Before moving on, students should be asked to think about how they romantically communicate. Text messages, IMS, emails and Snap Chat can be considered, as should this clip from David Crystal discussing ‘The Principal Of Change'. (See David Crystal discussion resource).
Next, students could be given the texts, within the Love letters resource, in groups and asked to look at context in more detail paying special attention to the language levels. They should apply critical skills in close reading, description, evaluation, analysis and interpretation of texts to inform their understanding of the context.
Essentially, students are to be encouraged to critically evaluate attitudes towards language and its users. Is there any difference? What patterns can they distinguish/identify? This is an excerpt from the audio book version of ‘Love Letters Of Great Men' (see resource).
Activity A: William Caxton’s Egges vs Eyren
'Teach it’ (see resource) has a very useful resource based on William Caxton’s book Eneydos.
The tasks are outlined below (tasks 1–4).
The British Library website (see resource) could be set as homework before you start teaching the lesson activity.
William Caxton – preface to Eneydos (see William Caxton 1 resource) could be given to students in chunks and students (in groups) could try to write it in modern English before starting on the tasks below.
The William Caxton 2 resource may be useful in contextualizing Caxton’s work.
Task 1: ask students to write a written summary of the text in modern English. It might be helpful to allow students to hear some Middle English (see resource) and to briefly explain the Great British Vowel Shift before continuing.
Task 2: ask students to identify the issues that Caxton cites as the problems with language in his day. What solutions might he have come up with?
Task 3: ask students to discuss the differences they observe between Caxton’s use of English and the forms used in contemporary Standard English.
Task 4: ask students to read David Crystal (1995) Encyclopedia of the English Language, pp. 54–55 and identify the other three factors that also contributed to the development during the fifteenth century of a standard written English.
Activity B: Middle English development of words from Latin and French
This lesson activity is best taught in a computer room or where students have access to the Internet. The Open University has an entertaining and interesting clip which is accessible for all students on the History of the English Language (see resource).
The Diagram of Language origin resource is also useful in explaining language origin visually.
History of borrowed words resource is an article gives the history of borrowed words.
Look at the groups of words below;
- abide / country / candle
- chair / chicken / ascend
- erupt / ice / fruit
- journey / marsh / sacred
- circus / oak / stay
- table / shadow / camera
Students should research the words on the Internet and decide whether their origin is Old English, Latin or French. What conclusions can they draw from this?
Extension task – ask students to see if they are able to find synonymous triplets of words (Old English/Latin/French). They should use the OED (Oxford English Dictionary online) and a thesaurus as well.
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