See Sample Responses: VCAA English Language Exams
It is critical to work with the meaning of the text. You will not achieve good marks for just transcribing the prosodic marks that are offered at the beginning of a spoken text.
According to the assessors, it is important to set up a “framework” to guide the discussion. They suggest including context, register and social purpose in the introduction. It is acknowledged that meaning must guide the discussion. So, too, must a broad focus on concepts.
For this reason, I tend to write a first body paragraph that elaborates upon this “framework”. This enables me to set up the discussion: what are the most significant discourse features in the text: how do they control and inform the meaning of the text? what is the coherent message or themes of the text; how is it structured? who is speaking and to whom? (cohesive ties/pronouns). These features, such as pronouns (audience etc) also influence the register of the text. (This is too much detail for the introduction; but detail that enables me, in Paragraphs 2 and 3, to be much more analytically precise.)
You must avoid just a dictionary-style listing of techniques without a connection to the text.
You will be assessed on how well you contextualise the factors.
There is no space for repetition. You must set up your paragraphs smartly in order to write efficiently – minimising repetition.
You must also aim for lexical density. You must curtail your explanations and aim for brevity. Keep your sentences short; analytical in focus and tied to the meaning of the text. For example, EA …. The purpose is to
Generally the more you isolate linguistic features and subsystems, the more generic your discussion.
The features overlap and intertwine. For example, prosodic features (how one speaks/intonation stress etc) must be tied to what the person is saying. In terms of conversational strategies, they are critical to the “discourse. They are also tied to the meaning and function/purpose of the text. The way some people talk and convey their message, might also be a stylistic feature. A conversation between two people, what they say and what they hold back, is critical to the negotiation of face needs/politeness codes and conventions.
In the following discussions, I include my reasons – which are always prompted by the question: how can I use the linguistic features to enhance the meaning of the text?
Rule of thumb
- In the following commentaries, my main aim is to analyse the text as precisely as possible, based on contextual factors, discourse features …
- Be guided by meaning – not subsystems. For this reason, it makes no sense to have a “coherence” (discourse features) paragraph at the end of your discussion. Coherence is critical to the meaning of the text and how it conveys its deeper purpose. However, in terms of cohesive features and information flow (discourse features) this may make sense.
- Make sure you focus first on broad concepts. Then move to specific linguistic details. You must prioritise the linguistic features that are critical to the author’s meaning; some enhance the meaning; but they may not be critical.
- I tend to split the text in two parts: and work with two main themes.
Or, if there are two speakers, speaker 1 and speaker 2. This is because the social purpose and therefore politeness conventions and prosodics and stylistic features will differ for each speaker.
- For spoken texts, I tend to do more on prosodics (woven through the discussion) and less on syntax. (Much also depends upon the formality. For written texts, style is important – both at a lexical and a syntactic level.
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