Draft an essay "Analyse language samples to identify and evaluate language development with reference to key theories."
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Model Assignment response for Assignment 1.
Please note that this essay is longer than the word limit as we want to illustrate how to explain each of the analyses. However for your assignment, you only needed to select the most useful analyses for your comparison.
Children’s language development in school involves progressively adding new uses of language to their repertoire, including writing. Writing is not just spoken language written down – it has its own features and is often used for very different purposes (Thomas & Thomas, 2022). Texts 1 and 2 illustrate this. Text 1 is a spoken text developed in dialogue between a Year 1/2 student and their teacher, while Text 2 is a written text jointly constructed on the board by the teacher and the whole class. Both texts are procedures that share a similar field – giving directions for how to get somewhere. They also have somewhat similar tenors explain further here – the child, Damien, is giving directions to the teacher, who is pretending not to know them. The written text is composed by an expert and is written to someone who does not know how to get to school. The two texts differ, however, in their mode (How?). To explore this, this essay will use the ‘mode continuum’, which is… Note : Make sure you define what you mean by specific terms!
The most obvious difference between the two texts is that one is a spoken dialogue, and one is a written monologue. The dialogic spoken text offers a degree of spontaneity, in which the teacher clarifies and ask questions about what the student is saying and the student is able to rework and change the things he is saying. For example, Damien begins by saying, “Umm so then there’s…”, before changing tack and saying, “You could go to that corner or the next corner or the next corner. You choose one then you go you go”. At this point the teacher interrupts to clarify what Damien is saying: “Right, just slow down. Tell me again”. The dialogic and spontaneous nature of this conversation therefore contributes to what Thomas and Thomas (2022: 41) describe as a ‘processlike’ text, where Damien works with the teacher to explore and clarify ideas and negotiate points of view. Damien and his teacher also use a number of oral features, including gestures, pauses, filler words and different types of intonation to suggest different emphases, which helps create meaning spoken text. For this reason, we can say that this text is ‘embedded in a context’. That is, to understand what Damien means, we need to be in the same context so we can pick up on a variety of verbal and active cues (Thomas and Thomas 2022: 41).
By contrast, the written text is a monologue that does not offer the same opportunities for clarification or negotiation. It is more ‘productlike’ (Thomas and Thomas 2021: page reference), with a very clear sequence through specific steps that suggests it has been pre-planned. The written text does not draw on oral features of language, like gestures or pauses because these are unknown; we are not seeing a dialogue but reading a monologue. As such, it needs to be much more explicit about its meanings. In terms of expression, this is done by drawing on written graphic features, including layout, such as the heading, “Going to School”, which is centred and underlined and makes explicit what the ultimate goal of the procedure is.
Similarly, each new step is written on a new line, with Step 1, Step 2, etc. aligned down the page one below the other. This helps the text to be very clear and helps guide the reader to specific pieces of contextual information. The process-like and product-like features of the spoken and written texts in question are built through different kinds of complexity related to both grammar and vocabulary. The spoken text’s reliance on gestures and oral features of language means it does not need to include the same degree of lexical specificity. Rather, it relies heavily on pronouns and general determiners for places such as that and there. In terms of lexical density, Damien’s spoken text has a relatively low ratio of lexical words to grammatical words, (~0.7), suggesting there are more grammatical words than lexical words. The ratio of lexical words to grammatical words in the written text, on the other hand, is ~1.8, meaning that there are almost double the number of lexical words to grammatical words. The written text relies on more explicit lexical items to give precise locations (using proper nouns “Ethyl’s” or nouns “road”, “crossing”) as well as more explicit directions through adverbs (“down”; “right”). The written text is thus more ‘lexically dense and can be understood outside the context in which it is written.
In addition, the spoken text is grammatically intricate (intricacy = 2.2). This is shown by the number of clauses linked together with conjunctions. The following example illustrates this: where one sentence includes four clauses (numbered) – some repeated and some including conjunctions (underlined): “Then you go… there’s three corners you can do… umm there’s three corners: one of them or if you want to go to this first one”. The written text on the other hand, is more pre-planned, and grammatical simpler (intricacy = 1.6) with each sentence having fewer clauses and conjunctions (three sentence have one clause, one sentence has two and one sentence has three).
Taken together, the two texts show considerable differences despite both being procedures giving directions about how to reach a destination. They differ considerably regarding the mode continuum, in terms of their [removed]oral and graphic features), their grammar (intricacy or simplicity), their lexis (sparseness or density) and the way they are produced (dialogic vs monologic, spontaneous vs planned, embedded in a context vs context independent). Understanding this difference is important for teachers in developing their metalinguistic awareness (Myhill 2018) as it will help to sensitise children to the intricacies of writing as they move from speaking texts as in Text 1 to writing texts as in Text 2.