Why are you looking to linguistically compare those two texts and what is your pedagogic rationale?

Feb 15, 2024

Why are you looking to linguistically compare those two texts and what is your pedagogic rationale?

Assignment task

Comparative Text Analysis: 90% 3800 words Deadline in handbook

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The main assignment will be a final essay of 3800 words. There is one question but it allows for variation both in the choice of approach you take (what kind of analysis you choose to do) and the kinds of text you choose. This will also allow you to look at texts that come from pedagogic contexts or focus on an area of language use in a particular social context. There is a discussion of the range of such choices later and examples of some previous assignment choices will be available online.

There will be some sample assignments on Moodle. (Please note that some of these assignments were specified at 3000 words). There will also be an in-class and online peer workshop which will be designed to enable you to work towards completing the assignment, giving you the opportunity to explore ideas and exchange information about your assignment. Further advice on how to approach the assignment will be given on the moodle site.

We will be working on some comparative text analyses during our classes and for the portfolio after class. For this, students share their responses to the tasks in Brookes Virtual. These are important as they will provide you with some first steps into text analysis. Further suggestions of possible topics for the text analysis and samples of previous assignments will be available on the Moodle site.

Orientation to the assignment
On this module, our main concern is to explore our own understanding of how language is used to do things in the world and how we can describe it ‘in use’. A crucial focus on the module is to describe and understand the link between the description of language structures and our use of language in context and to try to show that these two are not separate areas but two sides of the same coin. The key question is how we use the resources of language to make meanings in specific contexts. To understand this we need to look at language as it is used in the world around us and to understand that there is much variation but that this variation is not random – language is a purposeful and meaningful activity that both reflects the social contexts we use it in, the meanings we wish to make and which in turn helps to construct our social world.

We need as professionals in language teaching to be able to describe and explain the way we use language in our everyday lives to make meaning. The key focus of the assignment is to try to describe this predictable link between language structures and language use in social contexts. It is this predictability that is so useful to teachers.

The assignment is designed to provide as much flexibility as possible to study language in a wide range of contexts by allowing you to choose your own texts to analyse and to allow for a wide range of possible applications of such descriptions.

The Assignment Rubric:

Compare and contrast two related texts (they can be spoken or written) using relevant techniques of description and analysis that we have covered on the module. Identify the

key language choices that construe the particular communicative purposes of the texts and the social meanings that they make. How do these choices relate to the context in which the texts are situated and to the broader socio-cultural context? Comment briefly on the implications of your analysis of the texts for a pedagogic related context that you have experience of.

You must consult and gain the agreement of your tutor over the choice of texts and the methods that you will employ in your analysis. The main focus of the analysis should be on the text analysis, the methods of analysis and the theories of language in use that underpin such an approach. The implications may be very specific to your teaching context or more broadly applicable to applied linguistics but with a particular pedagogic oriented use in mind (e.g. text book writing, materials design, testing, teacher training etc.).

Appendices: you should include the two complete texts used in the analysis and label them so that you can refer to them in your assignment (i.e. add line numbers). Please consult with your tutor over further appendices that are required – such as coding schemes or substantial data sets.

Assessment criteria

A good assignment will show:

  • ·  a succinct rationale for the texts chosen to compare and contrast
  • ·  a relevant choice and exposition of analytical method/s to investigate the texts chosen for

the assignment

  • ·  an understanding of the theoretical basis of the analytical methods chosen
  • ·  accurate description of the language choices in the texts relevant to the comparison.
  • ·  A reasoned interpretation of the link between the language analysed and the context in

which the texts are situated.

  • ·  contrastive analysis of the language of the texts using relevant analytical frameworks

associated with this module

  • ·  an informed and critical awareness of how such a linguistic analysis might inform

syllabus/ materials development in a specific TESOL/ELT context.

The assignment includes the criteria listed above and in addition, the general assignment criteria from the MA ED handbook will apply – see appendix A..

Ideas for the comparative analysis assignment

The crucial element is to agree the texts and the choice of analysis with your tutor – explain your rationale. Why are you looking to linguistically compare those two texts and what is your pedagogic rationale?

Below I will discuss some examples of texts but the basic principle here is a ‘motivated comparison’. Let me give a brief example of what I mean by a motivated comparison: in my office I could compare the chair that I am sitting on with the printer on my desk. I could carefully describe the attributes of both (size, materials, shape, purpose etc.) and put the descriptions side by side and compare them … but for what purpose, what would it tell me? Very little indeed – the rationale for the comparison is not clear at all. However, if I were to make a similar descriptive comparison of the two printers in my office, the Inkjet printer with the Laser printer then I can say something interesting and useful about printers just by a careful description and comparison of the two. This would then have clear potential implications that I could draw out – which is cheaper to buy, to run, which will deal better with the kind of printing tasks that I use my office printer for. In this case of a motivated comparison, the comparison itself tells me something more about both objects than a simple description of each by itself. The comparison of the chair and the printer would just be confusing.

· Think carefully about why you setting up a comparison or contrast between two texts. Try to control or be aware of what contextual variables you are wanting to foreground with the comparison. The think through what kind of implications you might be able to draw from this for a teaching context. So here are some ideas from previous students or from the research literature:

o Distinct Modes i.e. identify features of written versus spoken English. There are clear and regular differences in grammatical, lexical, pragmatic and text structure between the modes that we need to be aware of in TESOL.

§ A lecture versus a text book on the same topic. Identify different features of academic language (see Law texts task week 3

§ spoken news versus a newspaper on the same story

  • §  An interview with say a sports person and the reporting of that interview in

the paper (also a genre chain)

  • §  A spoken discussion versus an online discussion. Do students have more

time to consider their language. Is one more ‘complex’ / accurate / intricate in its turn taking than the other (implications for online learning)

o Distinct genres: this is a very important aspect according to Feez (and other writers) for students to understand – it brings together the language resources with social meanings/ conventions to allow us to operate in society successfully.

§ say an academic journal article versus a more popular science magazine. To do that randomly would be rather strange – but a comparison on the same or similar topic would be very interesting. (e.g. compare an academic research paper with a newspaper report of that paper)

o Distinct goals/ purposes

  • §  a comparison of an ‘authentic’ text with a pedagogic text e.g. a dialogue in

an EFL textbook compared to an authentic one (e.g. booking a hotel on the

telephone, greetings etc).

  • §  an original novel/ story with a graded EFL reader – what changes /

simplification has occurred (grammatical, lexical, text structure) and why? Do the changes affect the meanings created?

o Distinct audiences or authors–

  • §  Comparison of an IELTS short essay answer written by a NNS and a

‘model’ answer.

  • §  comparison of two newspaper articles on the same story from two different

newspapers – with their differing political persuasions and readerships. Possibly different countries e.g. UK Times versus Japan Times (Eng. lang. newspaper in Japan)

  • §  comparison of advertisements in Men’s’ and Women’s’ magazines (e.g. Cosmopolitan .v. GQ) (gendered language). Is there a distinct set of language choices and if so in what ways does this construct gendered identities.

o Distinct contexts of ‘culture’:

  • §  comparison of research articles (perhaps select abstracts or introductions to

keep it workable) in different disciplines. Do texts in the hard sciences use

a different set of language choices than say a text in the humanities. Why?

  • §  Comparisons of similar genres in different cultures / varieties of English.

Are service encounters the same in say UK, America and Malaysia – even if they are all in English. What linguistic/ generic differences are there and what might be the cultural, social reasons for any similarity / difference?

Don’t chose texts which are too long – on the other hand of course, 10 word texts won’t leave much room for analysis! You may sample sections of texts as long as it is a motivated sampling and makes sense in terms of the comparison. Put the texts you use in appendices – it may be useful to have the original texts with layout/ images etc and a simplified copy of the text with line numbers on that you refer to in your essay.

Some further reading in specialist areas of text types / Registers that student have previously looked at:


Coffin, C., & O’Halloran, K. (2010). Describing English. In J. Maybin & J. Swann (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to English Language Studies (pp. 11-42). London: Routledge. ebook Chp 1 (see also Chp 2)

Flowerdew, J. (2013) Discourse in English Language Education. London: Routledge. Ebook Paltridge, B. (2012) Discourse Analysis: An Introduction. 2nd Ed London: Continuum. ebook

see Chp 1

Register and Genre (SFL oriented)

Martin, J. R. (2010). Language, Register and Genre. In C. Coffin, Lillis T & K. O’Halloran (Eds.), Applied Linguistics Methods: A reader. (pp. 12-32). London Routledge. Scanned Moodle text Week 8

Eggins, S. and Martin, J. (1997). Genres and registers of discourse. In T. van Dijk (ed.), Discourse as Structure and Process. London: Sage. pp.230-56. e-book

The language of specific Registers:
Delin, J. (2000) The language of everyday life: an introduction. London: Sage ebook

A good range of registers described: News Reporting; Advertising; Sports Commentary; Magazine Features; Instructions (see idea about recipes).

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