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An Textual Analysis of 3 Texts

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Seminar Leader: Ms. Kanh Duc Kuttig, M.A.                         Graham Buchanan gb219

13November 2008

School of European Culture and Language Studies

English Language Unit

LZ331 Analysing Language

Write an analysis of no more than 1000 words on a given text.

I have chosen to analysis Text Set 4 for my assignment. Text 1 is a letter of recommendation written by the teacher of a pupil who is trying to be admitted into graduate school. The purpose of the text is to persuade and inform. Text 2 is an editorial letter in response to an article written on a coup in Afghanistan. The purpose of the text is to argue and inform. Text 3 is a personal letter between friends. The purpose of the text is to inform.

Text 1 is a formal letter. This formality is shown by the use of the formal introduction ‘Mr John Smith’ and how the numerals are written out, ’twenty’  which is in contrast to the editorial letter where the writer has instead chosen to use digits, ‘30’.  Text 3 is highly informal shown by the use of idiomatic and very colloquial language in ‘what’s up’ and the use of the contracted form in ‘what’s’.

Another interesting point is the writers use of anaphoric reference in the letter of recommendation as they often refrain from using the personal pronoun ‘he’ to replace the subject ‘John Smith’. This is to constantly remind the reader of the applicant in question so that he stands out more. Anaphoric reference is also apparent in the editorial letter in ‘your story in Afghanistan....when it stated...’, ‘it’ being a reference to the story.  It is apparent in text 3 in ‘it’s been so slow’. This is done to avoid repetition and keep the reader interested.

The use of modals is apparent in 2 of the 3, in the letter of recommendation’...he should certainly..’, used to make the statement uncertain as it is not the writer’s decision as to whether the applicant is admitted. Modals are not present in the editorial letter as he is recounting the event as it happened and there is heavy use of facts, therefore erasing the need for any modals. It is used in text 3 in ‘she will get around to sending it’ to denote certainty.

In text 1 there is a heavy use of polysyllabic lexis such as ‘acquaintance’ and ‘exceptionally’, this along with the dominance of declarative complex sentences ,‘John was a student of mine in Linguistics 100, where he did exceptionally well, writing a very good paper indeed’ the underlined being the sub-ordinate clause, could be because the writer is attempting to appear educated and therefore a more credible source. These characteristics are more commonly associated with the written text as if this were used in spoken text it would be harder for the listener to understand. This is in contrast to text 3 which does not contain many long polysyllabic words and contains predominantly simple sentences such as ‘I hate it when it’s so slow’ and compound sentences such as ‘I’m at work now and it’s been so slow’, along interrogative sentences such as ‘how have you all been?’ used to imply that the writer is looking for a response.

Text 1 contains many adverbs such in the noun phrase ‘good fortune’ used here to further amplify the already complementary ‘fortune’. The writer uses them to choose his degree of vigour. The writer often uses the comparative form of the adverb such as in ‘less well’ and ‘working more insightfully’ as the writer is comparing him to other students but refrains from using the superlative ‘most’.

Metaphors are used only in text 1 with ‘carrying the academic load’ which is slightly unusual as metaphors are usually reserved for less formal writings but was used to make the text more visual and emotive. There are also connotations with ‘load’ of being a heavy weight used to emphasize the amount of work involved. The lack of metaphors in text 2 could be as it is already a very visual piece with the direct repetition of ‘blood’ which brings up graphic images in the readers head, additionally words such as ‘bodies’ and ‘bullets’ have connotations of death. The descriptions are already extreme and the writer uses alternative techniques by using the almost euphemistic ‘but it’s hard’ which with the lack of adverbs or more powerful vocabulary create a contrast with the extremities of the proceeding lines, making them more powerful.  Text 3 is also free of metaphoric language, instead alternative techniques such as hyperbole are used, shown in ‘seems like it’s never going to end’ making the text more emphatic.

Text 1 uses field specific lexis such as ‘graduate school’ which is from the field of education. By simply stating ‘Linguistics 100’ requires the reader to use their schema to conclude that linguistics is referring  to a educational course and the ‘100’ shows it is at the most basic level. These are used as it is meant for a very narrow audience group of perhaps only 1 and the writer is familiar with them. Both these word are also are also Americanisms. Text 2 has field specific lexicon of war shown in ‘coup’ and’ peace corps’, while also containing words from the field specific lexis of middle eastern culture with ‘shah supporters’. As this text is from a newspaper the writer would expect the reader to have a higher level of knowledge or at least to have read the previous article and therefore understand it. ‘Peace corps’ is lexis common to America due to it being an American organisation. Text 3 uses Americanisms in the German loan word ‘kindergarten’ and ‘upstate’; this is used due to its American origins. Text 3 uses abbreviations such as’ b’day’ which are used due to the informality of the text and are becoming more commonplace in our language today due to the influence of technology such as text messages and email where speed is major factor.

The use of tenses in the texts is something of significance also, in text 2 the writer begins by using the past tense, shown by the simple past inflection ‘ed’ in ‘ducked the bullets’.However the tense then changes to the present in ‘a tank pulls’, this is used so the reader can see it as the writer saw it making the text more emotive. Text 1 uses a mix of the past tense, ‘john was a student...’ when recounting events and present tense ‘I recommend john...’.  Text 3 also uses a mixture of present and past tense.

There are many differences between the texts with different language techniques being enforced to achieve different effects on the reader, with the biggest determining factor being the purpose of the text.

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