It is one thing to know your grammar. It is another to be able to use it.
Throughout the English Language VCE course, the ability to use metalanguage and to contextualise and evaluate the purpose of an author’s or speaker’s linguistic features is critical.
Practice writing analytical sentences – as often as you can and they will become easier.
“The metalanguage is a tool rather than an end it itself.” “Students are not expected to define the metalanguage terms, but rather to use them appropriately in describing and analysing language in an objective and a systematic way.” (VCAA: “Frequently asked questions.”)
We have an extensive list of examples that help students apply their knowledge of the subsystems, whilst contextualising examples.
For example, see the following list of sentences: Editorial, “Swinburne clears the air” (The Age)
“SWINBURNE CLEARS THE AIR” (See Editorial in The Age)
(Function) The Editorial’s primary function is to persuade University policy makers to implement a smoking ban at all university campuses. As well as educators and university policy officers, the editorial targets government officials and the general public in its bid to galvanise support for the ban.
The Editorial’s secondary function is to praise the educators at Swinburne University for their leadership stance.
Register: The formal nature of the editorial is primarily determined by the situational context — The Age is a sophisticated newspaper and the Editor is presented as its spokesperson. The formality is evident in several discourse features: the text’s lexical and syntactic features adhere to the rules and etiquette requirements of Standard Australian English. The printed context of The Age’s editorial as well as its role as a moral community conduit also influences the formality of the text.
Several discourse features, such as an evidence-based approach (example), a moralistic tone (example) and the use of a case study to make pertinent points about public health policy, are all intrinsic to an editorial and help the editor fulfil their social purpose as moral spokesperson.
Function and coherence: The editorial coherently focuses on two lexical fields, which are public health and the role of universities in public life.
Proper nouns such as “Swinburne University of Technology” and a reference to “Victoria’s Health Minister, David Davis” help to locate the text in its geographical and social and political context.
To achieve their social purpose, the Editor uses lexemes relating to public health such as the noun “smoking ban” and adjectives such as “smoke free” to educate the public about the mechanics of the ban. Noun phrases such as “lifelong habit”, “future health”, and “tobacco-free society” also reinforce the public-health concerns raised by the Editor.
From a stylistic perspective, the editor uses specialist terms and jargon which are appropriate in formal contexts and which reinforce the editor’s social purpose — to praise the public health stance taken by the university policy personnel. Examples include nouns (places) such as “properties, decks and balcony areas” and “suburban campuses”.
A typical discourse feature of editorials is the use of pronouns to represent the editor’s public identity and to refer to members of the public in an inclusive and authoritative manner. For example, the Editor uses the inclusive plural pronoun “we” in the third paragraph to highlight the Editor’s moral stance and their reaction to a political point of dissent. The inclusive and independent clause — “We find it curious that” — reinforces the Editor’s subtle criticism of the Minister’s tardy response.
(Syntax/social purpose) Whilst the Editor uses a range of sentence types, they primarily use declarative sentences in order to persuade all educators and policy makers as well as government health officials to implement a smoking ban. Declarative sentences such as “Swinburne is to become completely smoke free” explains the university’s rules about smoking which, the Editor believes, are in the best interests of students’ health.
In Line 6, the editor uses an imperative sentence: “may others follow, swiftly”. The social purpose of this statement is to encourage all university policy makers to follow Swinburne’s exemplary lead. The end focus on the adverb, “swiftly”, highlights the urgency of a move towards smoke-free university spaces.
In Lines 22-23, the editor concludes with an interrogative sentence. Its purpose is to focus the public’s attention on the need to broaden the ban to include a wider-range of public smoke-free spaces.
In the formal editorial, the editor uses a combination of sentence structures such as simple, compound and complex, so as to impart information about the ban in a simple, and informative manner.
The editor begins with a simple sentence in lines 1 and 2 – “Swinburne University of Technology is to become completely smoke free” — which announces Swinburne’s smoke-free policy.
The editor uses several complex sentences throughout the editorial in order to give detailed information about the circumstances and the implementation of the ban. For example, the Editor’s complex sentence at Lines 4 – 6 contains 3 dependent clauses that announce Swinburne’s momentous ban. “While this is not as much a bold move as an inevitable one, Swinburne can claim to its credit that it is the first Victorian university to ban smoking entirely.”
Furthermore, from a stylistic perspective, the editor uses parallel non-finite clauses to emphasise Swinburne’s virtuous leadership qualities. The clause — “for imposing the smoking ban” — is parallel with “for offering appropriate support to students”. These clauses repeat the preposition “for” with the present participle, “imposing” and “offering”– their purpose is to highlight the principled moved. The use of a modal verb at lines 8 — “Swinburne should be praised” — highlights the necessity of conferring praise where it is due.
The Editor uses antithetical adjectives – “this is not as much a bold move as an inevitable one” (Line 5) – to highlight the social consequences; namely the fact that most organisations will eventually move to smoke-free workplaces.
(Syntax and style) The editor uses antithesis in lines 22, juxtaposing the adjective “outright” with the adjective, “partial” in the interrogative sentence – “why not, an outright, rather than partial, ban..?” — which is a subtle way of prompting the Minister to take a bolder political stance.
(Syntax and style) Another stylistic and syntactic feature is the use of the passive voice in lines 1 to 3. The simple and declarative sentence announces the ban: “From August 12, smoking will be banned anywhere on its four suburban campuses”. The purpose of the passive is to emphasise the significance of the smoking ban. Beginning with the emphasis on an adverbial of time, “from August 12”, the passive construction also helps to place the ban in a time sequence to emphasise the new reality.
Other discourse features that aid coherence, information flow and precision are anaphoric references — the students will “quit before it becomes a lifelong habit”: the third person pronoun “it” refers back to the smoking ban. (Lines 11-12). Likewise, in line 5, the pronoun “it” refers back to the proper noun, Swinburne, to highlight its role. (“Swinburne can claim to its credit that it is the first Victorian university to ban smoking entirely”.
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