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Spoken Language Study - What we've covered

I know a lot of the preparation for the Spoken Language study has been disrupted by the mock exam fortnight. So here is a re-cap of what we've covered so far:

Assessment Objectives in a Nutshell:

1) You need to analyse / evaluate the use of Spoken Language.
2) You need to be aware of / analyse / evaluate attitudes to Spoken Language.
3) You need to be aware of the way you use language and why.

Focus - Chat Shows

Throughout the unit we have covered  the following topics:

1) The difference between accent and dialect and attitudes towards these.
2) Slang and Overt / Covert Prestige Language.
3) Grice's Maxims
4) Turn-Taking and Back Channeling Behaviour
5) Features of Spontaneous Speech.

Looking at the first two points - this video illustrates them perfectly.

Kevin and Perry

Here we have examples of Accent and Overt / Covert Prestige language.

Covert Prestige language is where you modify your language to associate yourself with an exclusive / secretive group. In the clip we see that Perry has been to Manchester to see Oasis and he has modified his language to associate himself with the band and their followers. He has also changed his accent to make himself sound like he is from Manchester.

You also have Kevin using a different type of Covert Prestige language in the beginning where he speaks in a way that identifies himself with teenage culture. As the sketch progresses, he tries to align himself with Perry by modifying his language to associate himself with Perry, but the humour is created as he ends up speaking like a Yorkshireman.

When Kevin's Mum appears Perry modifies his language to use Overt Prestige language to appear polite. Over Prestige language is the widely used dominant way of speaking and he associates himself with the idea of education / manners / good up bringing by using this.

If we apply this to our focus of Chat Shows, often the chat show hosts will modify their language to suit their guest as we will see with an example below. This could be to make the guest feel more comfortable or for a humorous effect.

So what is the point of a Chat show?

Purpose: To entertain and to Inform (For celebrities appearing on the show it is often to persuade the wider audience to take an interest in them / a product)

Audience: For the Chat Show Host it is a case of balancing two audience - The Guest and the Viewers.

Demograhics - Often Female in an age bracket of Twenties plus (some can be more specific depending on the show)

Format: Guests come on and they are interviewed.

Looking at these clips we can see evidence of Overt / Covert Prestige Language

Jonathan Ross with Jay Z

Jonathan Ross with Stephen Fry

With Jay Z, Jonathan Ross uses Covert Prestige language in such an awkward way it creates humour, whereas he uses Overt Prestige language for Stephen Fry again meeting the entertainment purpose of the show.

Grice's Maxims are the rules which govern polite conversation. We would expect these to be followed on a chat show but they can be FLOUTED for a specific effect or VIOLATED unintentionally.

The Maxims are:

Quantity: Give the right amount of information.
·Make your contribution as informative as is appropriate
·Do not make your contribution more informative than is appropriate.

Quality: Try to make your contribution one that is true.
·Do not say what you believe to be false
·Do not say that for which you lack  adequate evidence

Relevance: Be relevant.

Manner: Be clear.
·Avoid obscurity of expression
·Avoid ambiguity
·Be brief (avoid unnecessary wordiness)
·Be orderly

With Stephen Fry - Jonathan Ross flouts the Manner Maxim in an attempt to show his intelligence but self-consciously aware that this is humorous for the audience.

Jay-Z on the other hand flouts the Quantity Maxim, which makes the interview awkward but also serves to create an enigma around his persona developing the impression that he is mysterious and therefore deserves more attention.

Graham Norton Show is a perfect example of the importance of Back-Channeling and Turn-Taking behaviour. His show is unusual because all the guests are sat on the sofa at the same time and the interview doesn't necessarily focus specifically on one star. It is important for Norton to use turn-taking cues to manage the guests need to speak and promote themselves but also to back-channel to show interest in the guests ideas.

For the guests they have to be aware that they are on camera at all times and need to seem interested in what the others are saying to avoid appearing sulky or aloof.

Turn-Taking Cues:

  • Completed grammatical structure. 'I have had a very tiring day'.
  • A rising intonation at the end of the sentence. (brought in from Australian 'soaps').
  • Asking a question. 'How are you?'
  • Naming another person.
  • Seizing a turn by interrupting an unfinished sentence.(marked in transcripts by '......')
  • When one speaker overlaps the other and one stops speaking.(marked in transcripts with '/')
Back Channeling:

Continuers: Hand the floor back to the speaker. 'mmm', 'uh-huh'

Acknowledgers: Express agreement/understanding 'mm'. 'yeah'

Assessors: Express appreciation. 'wonderful', 'how awful'

Newsmarkers: Mark the speaker's turn as news. 'really!' , 'Is it?'

Questioners:  Ask for further details. 'and then?'

Collaborators: Finish another person's utterance.

Non-Verbal: Laughter, sighs, frowns' etc.

Graham Norton - Will Smith, Bradley Cooper, Jaden Smith, Heather Graham

Finally - though chat shows are heavily researched and questions carefully planned and evaluated, they need to have an air of spontaneity to them to have a natural feel and to put the audience / guests at ease.

In this Letterman clip a spontaneous question about Boris Johnson's hair creates humour and in this clip from Graham Norton an unexpected question for Salma Hayek becomes initially awkward as Hayek displays elements of spontaneous speech which indicate she feels slightly uncomfortable.

Boris Johnson on Letterman

Salma Hayek on Graham Norton Show

Overall - your job is to look at how the host and guests manage the chat show experience and analyse the effect they are trying to have in their use of language. As a higher level candidate you will also cover what the audience are likely to think about this and how successful you think the Chat Show host has been in creating an effective interview.

This isn't just about finding the techniques it is about being able to analyse their effect and evaluate success.

Good luck planning and keep watching Chat Shows to build your data from.


Question 1 Exemplar

This question seems the easiest on paper but the subtleties of achieving Band 3 and Band 4 answers aren't always as obvious from the wording of the question as is required in the mark scheme.

The common mistake is:

Writing only what you find out from the article.

This question requires the skill of inference. Inference means you need to read between the lines of the articles e.g.

An article about safety at the seaside for inner city children - Inference: children from inner city areas are becoming more involved in rescues at the seaside.

Look at Source 1 (Your exam source would be shorter than this)

The question would be - What do you understand about teenager's use of social media from the article?

The obvious thing to do here would be to dive straight in and find things you find out about how Teenager's are using Social Medial. You might list things like:

1) Not using Facebook as much
2) Using WhatsApp
3) Using Snapchat
4) Creating Digital Stickers instead of using words.

But the subtleties of achieving Band 3 and Band 4 answers need some inference -some focus on the issues that are driving teenager's use of social media.

1) Not using Facebook as much because now relatives / older users can see their content.
2) Using WhatsApp to regain privacy that they have lost from Facebook.
3) Using Snapchat as it doesn't store embarrassing content for fun.
4) Creating Digital Stickers for identities as more of their life takes place online.

You then need to write this up using quotations to support your answer.

The articles shows that teenagers are now not using Facebook as much reporting on the 'decrease in daily users, specifically among teens' reported by the company. This seems to be down to the idea that 'dad's' and 'uncles' are using Facebook more therefore teenagers are losing the privacy to post about their 'pub antics'. The fact that the older generation can monitor their lives has driven them to carry out their 'private chatting' on platforms such as WhatsApp which allows you to talk and allow people you actually know to access the content you want them to rather than 'passively stalking people you barely know'.

Teenagers are also using Snapchat to send pictures without leaving a 'digital footprint' allowing them to send 'inane' photographs knowing that they won't be stored. This again gives the teenager more control over who sees their content the issue that is moving them away from Facebook. Digital stickers are also becoming a 'decent moneyspinner' and are being used to create digital emotions especially helping 'couples get over fights'.

The key issue with all this is that teenagers seek greater privacy in their use of social media, something which other platforms are able to give more than Facebook can.

Look how the quotations here are embedded so they don't interrupt the flow of the answer. The quotations are also not analysed, they are used as support from the text.

Essentially you are writing about what you understand of the issues or ideas contained within the text whilst using quotations to show where you made your inferences from.


  1. Write down 3-4 issues / ideas the article discusses.
  2. Match your ideas to quotations from the text.
  3. Write in flowing prose embedding your quotations so as not to interrupt your focus on the ideas / issues.

Writing MOT

Theory and Reflection

You will soon be receiving a writing MOT from me.

This is not just based on your Controlled Assessment results but also on the work you are able to carry out spontaneously in class.

I'm really pleased with the results of your Controlled Assessments but now we need to focus on replicating these great results in your exam writing.

The exam is a separate beast. You don't know what you are going to be asked to write about, you don't have a note sheet to help you plan and you are writing in a more pressured environment against the clock.

Before we move on to the next steps, we need to reflect on how we got to your excellent Controlled Assessment results.

I knew the end point of the task (though I wasn't allowed to fully share it with you until closer to the assessment).

I set a number of lessons which enabled you to do two things:

1) Look at examples of expert writing and work out why they were considered 'expert'.

2) Practise writing in a number of distorted situations moving towards the real assessment.

As I've said in class, your revision starts now. We've covered all the writing and reading skills you need to develop: you need to practise using these skills in exam conditions. Like everything in life, you will get better with practice and the more you practice the better you will get.

I will be basing my projected grades on how much I feel you have been practising and are prepared to practise.

I wrote a blog posting in March last year after the previous Year 11 got their examination results - this talked about 'Visible Revision'. You can read it here. The short principle of 'Visible Revision' is that if you keep your revision between yourself and your bedroom walls, how do you know what you are doing is right? Make your revision visible to your teacher and you get consistent feedback and can know what you are doing is right.

In class this was straightforward - we were all working on the same topic, you showed me your work and I gave you feedback. In revision the onus is on you. You work on your strengths and weaknesses and present them to me.

Case Study

Before you say 'Sir  - this sounds like an awful lot of work without immediate rewards', I present to you two case studies:

Student A -

Finished Year 10 with a Literature B grade and a Year 10 mock of a C grade.
Carried out weekly visible revision from November and gained an A* grade by the end of Year 11. 2 to 3 grades improvement.

Student B -

Was strong at varying her five key areas of writing but her ability to use appropriate written expression meant that she was consistently getting D grades in her writing. She read two articles from the list of writers below and wrote one article a week on a topic of her choice trying to mimic the writer's styles. In 6 weeks her writing had progressed from a D grade to a B grade. 2 Grades improvement in 6 weeks.


Caitlin Moran
Grace Dent
Charlie Brooker
Stewart Lee
Sophie Heawood
Cal Flynn
David Mitchell

The importance here is the pathos. Try to move seamlessly between serious and humorous points.

The Writing MOT

You will receive a feedback sheet with skills that are key for your writing graded to give you a complete picture of your strengths and weaknesses.

Theses are your five key areas to vary:

Sentence Structures



You will be graded A*, A , B, C, Below C for each of these skills.

You will be also rated on a scale showing your ability to use English flexibly. This will fall on a scale of:

Only being able to write using informal everyday language.

Some of your work being informal everyday with parts of it also showing expert academic use of language but not always in the correct context.

Having a mastery of expert academic language and informal everyday language and always using it in the correct context.

I will give you a target and then in a separate box you need to write down what you are going to do to actually work on this target.

We will then review this as the term goes on.

Now if you are serious about your revision you should rate yourself objectively and work out what you think you need to work on.

If you set yourself a target I will tell you what you need to do to meet it. Then we can see if it matches my impression of your writing next week.

Post your own rating in the comments box.
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