How To Write A Language Analysis Essay

In your Language Analysis (or Analysing Argument) SAC, you will be required to analyse how language is used to persuade in three or more texts. While this may seem a bit daunting at first, it really isn’t much harder than a single text analysis once you know how to approach it. Of course, there are multiple ways to tackle this task, but here is just one possible method!

Introduction:

Begin with a sentence that briefly describes the incident that sparked the debate or the nature/context of the debate. Remember to use the background information already provided for you on the task book!

Next, introduce the texts one at a time, including the main aspects for each (eg. title, writer, source, form, tone, contention and target audience). You want to show the examiner that you are comparing the articles, rather than analysing them separately. To do this, use appropriate linking words as you move onto your outline of each new text.

Consider significant features for comparison, for example:

  • Is the tone/style the same?
  • Is there a different target audience?
  • How do their key persuasive strategies differ?

You may choose to finish your introduction with a brief comment on any key difference or similarity.

Sample introduction: The recent return to vinyls and decline in CD sales has sparked discussion about the merits of the two forms of recorded sound. In his feature article, For the Record, published in the monthly magazine Audioworld in June 2015, Robert Tan contends that vinyls, as the more traditional form, are preferable to CDs. He utilises a disparaging tone within his article to criticise CDs as less functional than vinyls. In response to Tan’s article, reader Julie Parker uses a condescending and mocking tone to lampoon Tan for his point of view, in a letter published in the same magazine one month later.

Body paragraphs:

Block structure

Spend the first half of your essay focused on Article 1, then move into Article 2 for the second half of your essay (and, for those doing three articles, the later part of your essay based on Article 3). This structure is the most simple of all, and unfortunately does not offer you ample opportunity to delve into an insightful analysis. Hence, we would not recommend this structure for you. If possible, adopt the Bridge or Integrated structures discussed below.

Bridge structure

Analyse the first text, including any visuals that may accompany it. Students often spend too long on the first text and leave too little time to analyse the remaining texts in sufficient depth, so try to keep your analysis specific and concise! Remember to focus on the effects on the reader, rather than having a broad discussion of persuasive techniques.

Linking is essential in body paragraphs! Begin your analysis of each new text with a linking sentence to enable a smooth transition and to provide a specific point of contrast. Continue to link the texts throughout your analysis, for example, you could compare:

  • The tone
  • The techniques of each writer and how these aim to position the reader in different ways.

Often your second and/or third texts will be a direct response to the first, so you could pick up on how the author rebuts or agrees with the arguments of the first text.

Integrated structure

In this type of structure, you will analyse both articles in each body paragraph. Watch Lisa's video above (coming soon) for a sample paragraph based on this structure.

Conclusion:

In Lisa's video above, she suggested a short and sweet summary in your conclusion by incorporting some quotes from the author's own conclusion. 

Alternatively, you could opt for a different approach. In your conclusion, aim to focus on how each text differs from the others in terms of the main techniques used by the author, and more importantly, the effect of these techniques on the reader or audience. You should summarise the main similarities and differences of each text without indicating any personal bias (ie. you should not state whether one text might be more or less persuasive than another). For example, a point of comparison could be the audience appeal - will any particular audience group be particularly engaged or offended? Why?

Finally, finish with a sentence suggesting a possible outlook for the issue. Good luck!

By the way, did you know that our Ultimate VCE English Study Guide includes a more comprehensive review of structuring two or more articles on language analysis?

*This blog post was originally created by Christine Liu, with additions made by Lisa Tran to suit the new modifications in the English study design.

Click here to check out FREE snippets from the course!

For many VCE Students, Language Analysis is most commonly their ‘weakest’ section out of all three parts of VCE English. Throughout my years of tutoring, when I’ve asked these students why they struggle, they usually blame the difficulty in grasping the most important component of Language Analysis:

Understanding how  the author intends to persuade their readers. 

You’ll see that I have italicised the words, ‘how’ and ‘intends’ in the above statement to highlight where your focus needs to be. If you’re currently trying to get your head around Language Analysis, or if you don’t understand where you’re going wrong, don’t worry. We’re going to look at the incorrect assumptions students make about Language Analysis, how to avoid it and also what you should do instead! So first, let’s have a look at a couple common student errors. Students (including yourself perhaps) may believe that:

1. Language Analysis is about finding language techniques that persuade readers.

Stop right there! This certainly isn’t a treasure hunt (but that would be pretty awesome right?). If an essay was just about identifying language techniques, everyone would get an A+ (we wish!). Once you’ve had some practice under your belt, you’ll notice that anyone can find rhetorical questions, inclusive language and statistics, so there is a lot more to it then simply pointing out language techniques. Also, steer clear from throwing in all the possible language techniques you’ve found in an article too, because it’s not a competition about who can find the most techniques and even if you did, it doesn’t guarantee you an amazing score on your essay.

2. Language analysis is about if authors successfully persuade their readers.

Sorry to tell you but this definitely isn’t it either. Our job as the student isn’t to figure out whether or not the author successfully persuades their reader. You can’t really speak for all the people reading an article if they do or do not agree with the author’s contention. Just like if you see an advertisement on television for MacDonalds, you can’t tell if the next person who watches the ad will be persuaded to go out and buy a Big Mac meal. That’s why at the end of the day, it’s not up to you to figure out the extent to which the author persuades their readers. So in that case, what should you be doing instead?

The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your understanding of how the author attempts to persuade the reader to agree with his or her contention.

Let’s break up the essential parts of analysing language so we can pinpoint exactly the part that is most problematic and also how we can finally get a strong grasp on how to be successful in this area:

The TEE rule

—Technique – what persuasive technique is used?

—Example – which text that shows it?

—Effect – what is the intended impact on readers’ attitudes?

1.—Technique 

There are so many persuasive techniques around, once you’ve got your hands on a bunch of language technique lists then you’re pretty much set in this area. Be wary however, as I have mentioned in the past(and above) how simply ‘labelling’ language techniques is not enough for you to do well in language analysis. You can read more here: Why your Language Analysis doesn’t score as well as it should.

2.Example

This is quite frankly, the easiest part of Language Analysis! All you need to do is quote your evidence! Straightforward? If quoting is not your forte, you can check out: how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

3. Effect 

Ok, this is the core of most students’ issues. We already know that the author is trying to persuade readers but here, we’re going to look how their choice of words or phrases creates a certain effect on readers so that they will be encouraged to agree with the author. When thinking about the effect, the best way is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes – you are after all, a reader! So in order to understand the effect think about the following three points:

  • What readers may feel – emotions
  • What readers may think – thoughts
  • And what readers may want – wishes

Example 1: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”

—Think about it realistically. If someone said this to you, how would you feel? There must’ve been a time where you were complimented (whether it be about your clothes, how you did something well, or how friendly you are with others), and use this experience to your advantage. Each time you analyse a language technique, contemplate on what emotions, thoughts or wishes emerge as a result. When someone gives you a compliment, you probably feel flattered, or maybe you feel proud. And this is exactly what you need to include in your analysis! You should garner these everyday experiences as a trigger to help you understand how readers may respond to a certain technique. So if we broke it down via the TEE formula:

Technique: Compliment

—Example: “you are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”

—Effect: You feel feel proud and as a result want to assist your friend.

And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:

Analysis: The compliment, “you are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!” encourages the listener to feel a sense of pride and this in turn, may encourage them to assist their friend.

Example 2: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”

Again, think about the three points – how do you feel? What do you think of is scenario? What do you want as a result? You probably feel sorry of the puppy and want to save it from this situation.

—Technique: Appeal to sympathy

—Example: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”

—Effect: You may feel that it is unfair for the puppy to be in such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation.

And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:

Analysis: Through the appeal to sympathy, “the pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air”, readers may believe that it is unfair for the puppy to be subjected to such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation and thus, may be persuaded to take action to prevent further harm to pets.

Ultimately, focus on the potential effect language can have on the reader and as a result, how this may encourage the reader to agree with the author. If you do that, then you’re definitely on the right track. If this study guide has helped you gain further insight into Language Analysis, then you may be interested in my upcoming workshop where I spend a few hours offering advanced advice on Language Analysis! No matter what scores you have been attaining in Language Analysis, whether high or low, my workshop is loaded with tips which will undoubtedly help you achieve the best you possibly can. You are welcome to register here: VCE English Intensive Spring Break Workshop. Join the Facebook event here today to keep updated on all the latest information in the lead up to the workshop and invite your friends!

 

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