If the thought of analysing and commenting on the linguistic features of a text brings you out in a cold sweat, fear not! The following should help you to better understand what you should be doing when you analyse a text, and how best to go about it. Sound good? Read on...
Aims of Analysis
OK. When completing any linguistic analysis (exam, coursework or whatever), remember you are trying to:
- demonstrate your understanding of the effects on language of audience, speaker/writer, context and purpose
- demonstrate your ability to use a range of linguistic terminology accurately and appropriately
- show you have understood the text's meanings
- to 'unpack' the text (whatever mode) and explain the effects of the writer's, or speaker's, language choices
The analytical process
Here's how to go about analysing a text:
- First of all
- - read the text thoroughly, at least twice
- underline, circle, highlight or note salient features
- Introduce your essay
- write an introduction identifying and describing the text's purpose, audience and meanings (by 'meanings' I mean what you should know at the end of reading a text that you didn't at the beginning; thoughts, ideas or impressions you should be left with - in other words, what the writer wishes to convey)
- Write the main part of the essay
- write a series of linked, focused points about the writer's/speaker's patterns of language choice (always linking to meanings)
- Round it off
- conclude in a useful way - comment on the writer's/speaker's success in communicating meanings, what you believe to be the most effective technique used, or what impressions/ideas the text leaves you with
- And Finally...(but of great importance)
- check your work carefully for errors - mistakes with accuracy and terminology can cost you marks.
You will be rewarded by the lovely examiners for:
- clarity and order (use a helpful structure, including an introduction and conclusion, to communicate your ideas)
- accurate use of Standard English
- correct use of terminology
- looking at a range of appropriate features (not all word choice or connotation)
- considered and full explanation and interpretation
- You can revise for analysis - learn meanings and spellings of linguistic terms, and what features you can look for in texts.
- Spend time thinking and planning. A short, high-quality response will earn you more marks than huge amounts of disorganised and vague waffle - that's a promise!
- The examiners like a full and considered statement of the audience, purpose and context of a text - it is better to try to be specific (talking, say, about likely audience in terms of interests and values) than to deal in generalisations and stereotypes (age, gender, class).
- Unless a point discusses a writer's, or speaker's, language use and its effects in terms of communicating meanings or achieving effects, it is probably useless. Do not waste time on worthless points or feature-spotting.
- Try to look at as wide a range of features as you can - aim to make at least one point about lexis, semantics, grammar and (if you're analysing speech) discourse features.