Analysis of the Language used in 3 extracts about Education

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Texts A, B and C all focus around the theme of education. However, in terms of context the texts are fundamentally different. While text A transcribes spontaneous speech between a teacher and her students in the classroom studying a play, texts B and C are in the written mode, with text B being an excerpt from Bill Bryson’s autobiography ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ and text C being an extract from Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Hard Times’. While the purpose of the conversation in text A is pedagogical, Bryson’s intention in text B is to give a humorous account of his experiences with teachers from his point of view, whereas the purpose of text C is to establish the characters of Mr Gradgrind as the fiercely aggressive schoolmaster, as opposed to schoolgirl Sissy Jupe who comes off as timid in comparison. Text A is a moving text as both parties produce and receive text; in contrast to this, texts B and C are static as readers receive it in its final form, which cannot be altered.

In text A, the role of the teacher as a figure of authority in the classroom is immediately established. This is seen as the teacher is the most dominant speaker, using the informal discourse markers of ‘right’ and ‘ok’ to assert herself in the conversation while directing the flow of the conversation through the use of imperatives (‘pick out any word or phrase that you discussed’) and interrogatives (‘Is there anything else about the furniture’), as opposed to the students, Jane and Ally, who only respond when prompted by the teacher (‘well we said they are obviously rich…’). The teacher also speaks in a more authoritative tone through the declaratives she uses (‘I’m going to ask one person from each group…’) to address her students. The teacher’s tone of anger as she tries to maintain control in the class is seen in her utterance (‘if if we could have some respect for each other hey’) as well, with word stress used (‘if’, ‘hey’) to attract her students’ attention.

The pedagogical purpose of the text is also seen in the lexical choice. Text A as a conversation centered on the teacher’s lesson about a play is predictably in the semantic field of education and drama (‘playwright’, ‘stage directions’, ‘play’). More importantly, however, is the way in which the speaker’s attitudes influence their lexical choice. In Text A, the casual classroom atmosphere is established through the teacher’s use of informal lexis (‘you lot’, ‘guys’, ‘yeah’, ‘okay’), and the teacher’s initial annoyance at her class can be seen through her pointed use of the abstract noun ‘respect’ to reprimand her class, as well as the adverb ‘please’ and the interjection ‘hey’ as she tries to get their attention. However, she soon conducts her lesson in a brisk and business-like manner once she gets her students’ attention, giving positive feedback (‘good’, ‘absolutely’) while commenting on the play (‘high status people’, ‘…aren’t very comfortable…’).

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In terms of syntax, text A as transcribed speech is organised in adjacency pairs, especially question and answer pairs (‘is there anything else about the furniture yea it’s not cosy…’) that are typical in conversations with a pedagogical purpose. The conversation itself has disjuncture present (‘absolutely (.) very good (.) thank you…’) and the use of simple conjunctions such as ‘and’ (‘…and drinking champagne so yeah…’, ‘and maybe the playwright is trying to suggest…’), which are common in spontaneous speech.

There are also numerous non-fluency features present in text A which indicate that it is a transcription of ...

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