2017 Steve Campsall

grammar and other analytical methods or 'frameworks'

On your course, you'll be needing to use several 'linguistic methods' to help you analyse texts in a methodical manner (being methodical in your analysis is an aspect of the mark scheme). These are often referred to as the analytical frameworks. As you will have guessed by now, a key framework is grammar but to remind you of them all, on this page, you'll find a summary of each one.


ANALYTICAL METHODS
Here are the analytical methods or frameworks you'll need for your course. You'll find a brief explanation of each method below, along with a hyperlinked extended explanation if you need it.


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GRAPHOLOGY

This is the visual form of a text - what it looks like. The important aspect from an analytical viewpoint is that the 'graphology' of a written or printed text is the very first aspect the mind perceives and reacts to - and react to it, it does! You'll be analysing such things as the effects of shape of the text, the writer's choices of language features such as paragraphing, headlines, images, layout, tables, 'bullets', sub-headings, font styles and so on. Graphology is too easily misunderstood and analysed badly - and it is for this reason that many teachers tend to advise against a focus on it; and yet an analysis of graphology can reveal the deepest of insights that gain very high marks indeed. It's never what you analyse - but what insights this allows you to develop that will allow you to respond to the essay question in a detailed and useful way. The graphological aspects of a text are central to the way a text is perceived and thus interpreted. This is because from a very early age we become culturally conditioned to respond to different genres in quite set ways - and it is the graphological aspects of a text that first indicates its genre. Think about your 'culturally conditioned responses' to such texts as: the Times newspaper and it use of serif fonts, its formal looking logo / masthead and layout; or the use of logos at the top of a letter; or an envelope with the words 'Inland Revenue' on (if you were a tax payer), and so on. None of us can escape the effects of graphology when we are the audience for the text and deep insights can be generated from this analysis, for sure.

LEXIS

This refers to aspects related to word choice. When our mind wants to communicate its thoughts, ideas and feelings, words are what we think of using first; and when we join those words into sentences, of course, grammar must be the next choice we make - so a lexico-grammatical analysis must always be your primary analytical method. Whilst context and audience give rise to thoughts on topic, attitude and purpose, word choice is determined by the requirements of genre, audience and purpose. Aspects of word choices that might create useful effects and thus be worthy of analysis are: the polysyllabic nature of a text in general; the use of 'low-frequency lexemes' (often 'Latinate' and formal); the use of 'field-specific lexis'; jargon; euphemism; hyperbole; figurative language, and so on. Much of this, of course, crosses over with semantics - which see below. In some sense it can help to think of lexis 'graphologically' - that is that lexis is an aspect of from (what words look and sound like - and the effects of this); once you begin to consider the content of a word (i.e. its sense or meaning) as opposed to its form, you are considering meaning, and thus semantic aspects; and when you are considering the way context creates the need to infer meaning, you are in the area of pragmatics.

GRAMMAR

This is study and the analysis of sentences. It has two 'sides': the study of syntax (word order) or the study of morphology (word formation).

SEMANTICS

This refers to the analysis of meaning. Meaning can be generated through denotation (the basic meaning of a word) or connotation (words used in ways that suggest layers of meaning beyond the denotation, such as 'ideologically loaded' words, e.g. the word 'yobs' in this tabloid 'Yobs Rule Inner Cities' or the words 'hero' and 'coward' in, 'She married a hero, not the coward he was soon to become'.

PRAGMATICS

This is the analysis of the way the semantic aspects of language are often dependent upon context. Pragmatic meaning depends upon a knowledge of context or the ability to infer, e.g. When Marje says to Homer, 'No more donuts, Homie' he infers she is referring indirectly to his waist size. 

DISCOURSE

A discourse is any act of linguistic communication. To consider any text in isolation from the remainder of the discoursal aspects is likely to lead to a reduced and poorer analysis. Every text was once evidence of a larger public discourse - and to develop the deepest and most useful insights into a text, these wider discoursal aspects must be considered. This means considering the text within its original contexts - thinking of, for example, aspects of gender, relationships, social, professional, political, philosophical and other contexts. All effective textual analyses should be like this, so on your course, your aim is always to carry out a discourse analysis

PHONOLOGY

This is the analysis of the second kind of form that language has - sound. Sound is central to language (we even 'hear' what we read, in our mind), and creates the meaningful, contrasting minimal units of language call phonemes.

DISCOURSE STRUCTURE

This refers to the ways in which a text is made fluent and coherent. Think of the way a persuasive letter is linked by 'discourse markers' such as, 'Subsequently...', 'As a result', 'In conclusion', and so on, or the way a story moves seamlessly, yet seemingly naturally, from opening through to climax and resolution.

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