Friday, 21 May 2010

Language Change List of Things to Look For


  • How is cohesion created?
  • Is there evidence of contrasting registers?
  • Is there evidence of dialogue or narrative structures? Are there any interpersonal features?
  • Is there evidence of different discourse conventions?
  • Is there one general viewpoint or several?
  • Is the register formal or informal?
  • Is there a difference in purpose between the texts or in an older text compared to your knowledge of modern texts?


  • Is the reader expected to recognise and identify with specific societal roles?
  • Is the reader expected to share social codes and values?
  • Is the reader expected to accept particular roles and responsibilities?
  • Is the reader expected to accept particular social attitudes/ cultural assumptions?
  • What attitude is expressed about language: prescriptive or descriptive?
  • Are assumptions made about the readers’ knowledge and understanding?
  • Is there evidence of changing values or ideologies?


  • Is there obsolete lexis or for old roles and practices?
  • Is there archaic language or archaic slang?
  • Is the lexis Latinate, or of classical derivation, or polysyllabic or formal? Are the collocations archaic or unfamiliar?
  • Are there unusual allusions e.g. classical or religious?
  • Are there any unexplained references?
  • Are there differing specialist terms?
  • Is there evidence of borrowing, clippings conversion, neologisms or coinages?
  • Does lexis suggest technological development?
  • Are there any emotive overtones to the lexis?
  • Is there evidence of colloquial or slang lexis? Is the lexis of Old English origin or short words or informal? *Is it largely intelligible and familiar?
  • What influence has technology had?


  • Identify the semantic fields
  • Are there specific connotations, metaphors, innuendo or figurative language?
  • Is there evidence of semantic shifts or changes
  • Is there any pejoration or amelioration?
  • Is there anything significant in the terms of address, are there politeness markers?
  • Is there any difference between the texts in the degree of implicitness?
  • Is the text accessible and easy to understand?
  • Is there any relevance in how much authority the text has?
  • Are there examples of special collocations or metaphors?


  • Are grammar choices formal or informal?
  • Does syntax seem outdated? Does it suggest a classical style? Are there any complex or Latinate grammatical structures? Is there any unfamiliar syntax?
  • Comment on the verb forms, adverbs, pre-modification.
  • Are prepositions used differently?
  • Are there differences in conjunctions/punctuation?
  • Do the texts use modal auxiliaries? What do they convey?
  • Does the text use pronouns for immediacy of address
  • Are any questions used without auxiliary verbs?
  • Are minor sentences used?
  • Are there any variations in sentence length and complexity?
  • Is there use of syntactic parallelism or repeated sentence structures?
  • Do the texts use the forms of informal speech?
  • Does the text use a lot of imperative, declarative, exclamative or interrogative sentences?
  • Orthography
  • Are capital letters used differently?
  • Do texts use different letter forms e.g. the long s
  • Are words abbreviated in a familiar way?
  • Are there any differences in spelling or punctuation?
  • Are there competing or unusual spellings?
  • Are spellings similar to modern English?
  • Are there approximations of foreign spellings or unusual letter strings for English spelling?
  • Are plurals formed differently?
  • Does the spelling in the texts relate to your knowledge of standardization?
  • Are conventions related to technology?


  • How are fonts used, for example - to assist discourse structure/for emphasis?
  • How are illustrations used?
  • Are there different design or layout conventions, for example - bar code, price and logo slogans?
  • Is there a greater use of graphological devices to signal text structure, for example - space-shifting, textboxes, bullet points; or systematic, colour coded layout, headings.


  • What sort of societal roles are implied?
  • How does the text position the reader?
  • What are the shared social values?
  • What attitudes to the text are assumed?
  • Is there an authoritative tone?
  • Is there a religious context assumed?
  • Is there an assumption about the reader’s education?
  • Is there evidence of a prescriptivist attitude?
  • What principles are assumed to be self evident, true or desirable?
  • What stage of language development is exemplified in the text?
  • Is the use of language very specific to this type of text or can you generalise?

Other Issues

  • Situational as well as temporal variation.
  • What can be assumed about the audience and how the text is read e.g. is the text intended to be read aloud?
  • What is the social and linguistic context?
  • Can you find any relationship to key/landmark texts you are aware of? (e.g. Lowth’s grammar; Johnson’s dictionary)
  • What evidence does it supply about attitudes to language change?
  • What evidence is there of attitudes to gender, class and ethnicity?
  • What evidence is there of the society’s different technologies and priorities?
  • What sort of situation produced this text? What are the genre conventions of this text?
  • What sort of priorities is does the author/audience seem to have?
  • Can you make connections with other texts you have seen?
  • Does it reflect specific economic or scientific priorities of the time?
  • What comparisons can you make to modern texts/use of language?
  • Does the text represent the views of a particular section of society?

Research coverage

  • Stronger answers will place the text within a sociolinguistic and socio-cultural perspective.
  • Some students will be able to make connections between this text and other texts they have encountered.
  • There may be references to other developments relevant to language change including those in education, economic development and popular culture.
  • Can you show differences in situational as well as temporal variation- you are aware of how the situation in which this text is produced influences the language as well as when it was produced.

Temporal variation

  • Technological context e.g. relatively unsophisticated print methods of older texts.
  • The more Informal and conversation style of modern texts.
  • Change in attitudes towards language: grammatical preoccupations of previous years, compared with communicative competence model of modern texts.


Anonymous said...


InflectionFour said...

this is really helpful. Thank you

Post a Comment