AS English Language

Unit 1 - Language Today | Edexcel | AS English Language

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  • Created on: 07-05-12 12:45

Contextual Factors

Mode - What type of text is it? Is it spoken, written or electronic?

Field - Topic? What is the text about?

Function - What is the purpose of the text?

  • Transactional - To obtain something
  • Interactional - To maintain a relationship
  • Phatic - To build a relationship 
  • Referential - To inform/ provide information 
  • Expressive -To tell others how you feel 

Tenor - Relationship between speaker/writer and the audience?

  • Footing - Balance of power within the relationship. Is it equal or unequal?
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Key Constituents

Grammer - e.g. sentence mood/types, verbs nouns ect

Pragmatics - e.g. implicatures, pressuposition ect

Semantics - e.g. connotations, semantic field ect 

Discourse - e.g. cohesion, adjacency pairs, pre-sequences ect

Lexis - e.g. subject specific lexis, word formations, colloquialism

Graphology - e.g. emoticons, arrows, imagery ect 

Phonology - e.g. RP, regional, glottal stops, elision ect

Morphology - e.g. bound morphemes, derivational, inflectional 

Continuum - e.g.planned, message oriented, context dependant ect

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Theories, issues and concepts

Gender - e.g. Dominance/difference 

Accommodation - e.g. convergence, divergence

Face - e.g. positive face, negative face

Politeness - e.g. positive politeness, negative politeness

Grice's Maxims - e.g. manner, quantity, relation, quality 

Prestige - e.g. Overt, covert 

Power - e.g. Influential, instrumental

Joo's Formality - e.g. frozen, formal, consultative, casual, intimate 

Prescriptivist/descriptivist - e.g. writers use of non-standard against standard

Peter Trudgill - e.g. omission of the grapheme /g/ in present participle verbs 

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Free morpheme - The root morpheme that doesn't contain a prefix or a suffix

Bound morpheme - The function to change the purpose of the free morpheme

Prefix - Bound morpheme at the beginning of the word

  • Changes the meaning of the word e.g. group > re | group 

Suffix - Bound morpheme at the end of the word

  • Changes word class of the word e.g walked > walk | ed 

Derivational bound - Changes meaning and word class of free morpheme

  • e.g. in the word <joyful>, the free morpheme <joy> is a noun so when the suffix <ful> is added on it changes the word class to an adjective meaning <ful> is the derivational bound morpheme.

Inflectional bound - Changes/shows the tense of the word

  • e.g. walk . walked changes the tense <ed> is acting as the inflectional bound morpheme.
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Word Formation

Back formation - The process of changing a noun into a verb, for example:

  • twitter > tweet
  • writer > write
  • babysitter > babysit

Clipping - The removal of syllables from words

  • Back clipping - removes syllable from back e.g. television > tele 
  • Front clipping - removes syllable from front e.g. telephone > phone 
  • Middle clipping - removes syllable from either side e.g. influenza > flu 

Blending - Combining two words together to create new meaning (a form of neologism which means creating new word), for example:

  • breakfast and lunch > brunch

Compounding - Placing two free morphemes together, for example:

  • Skinhead, sleepwalk, bittersweet ect
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Word Class

Noun - Naming word

Verb - Doing word or state of being 

Adjective - Describing word

Adverb - Describing a verb

Pronoun - User noun

Connective - Conjoining words together 

Preposition - Shows place, time and direction

Determiner - Specifies noun 

Open class  - noun, adverb, verb, adjective
Closed class - preposition, determiner, connective, pronoun


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Proper noun - Specific nouns of people, places or publications, for example:

  • George, London or Oxford English Dictionary

Common noun - Every other type of noun, if it is not proper then it is common:

  • Television, person, or photograph

Mass noun- They cannot be counted using one, two, three ect. They must be counted using expressions, for example:

  • A pinch of..., a drop of... ect

Count noun- individual countable entries, can be counted using numbers:

  • One pencil, two pencils, three pencils ect

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Concrete noun - They have a physical form; can be touched, moved ect:

  • Elephant, table, fish ect

Abstract noun - They do not have a physical form; they can be emotions:

  • Love, hate, week, idea, music, student ect

Collective noun - Nouns used to identify groups of people or objects, some of which can also be collocations, for example:

  • Herd of cattle, gaggle of geese, team, government ect
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Tense and Aspect

Tense - Refers to time (only one verb is needed to show this)

  • Past - actions happened in the past e.g. by adding <ed> to the verb
  • Present - actions taking place e.g. adding <ing> or <s> to the verb

Aspect - Refers to the completion of the verb (two verbs needed to show this)

  • Progressive - its continuous/ongoing 
  • Perfect - it has a definitive end 

For example:

  • I was walking down the path - past progressive
  • i walked down the path - Past perfect
  • I am resigning tomorrow - Present progressive
  • i have seen that movie before - Present perfect 
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Comparative adjectives - Compares nouns by adding <er>, for example:

  • This coat is better than that one

Superlative adjectives - Describes nouns by adding <est>, for example:

  • This coat is the greatest 

- This is also known as hyperbole, a term used to describe exaggeration 

  • Monosyllabic - 1 Syllable 
  • Disyllabic - 2 Syllables
  • Polysyllabic - 3 + syllables  

- If the word is monosyllabic then we add <er> or <est

  • This coat is the greatest coat I've ever worn  

- if polysyllabic we add qualifiers like <most> or <more>

  • This coat is more expensive than that one
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Adverbs - Decribes time, place of manner of the verb action, for example:

  • Adverbial of place - e.g. Please sit there, <there> shows time
  • Adverbial of time - e.g. I went shopping yesterday <yesterday> shows time
  • Adverbial of manner - e.g. I ran frantically <franitcally shows manner

Intensifiers - These are adverbials of manner and are used to intensify the action of the verb, for example very, extremely - usually has <ly> bound morpheme.

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Pronouns - Allow us to refer to someone or something without the use of names i.e. proper nouns, in other words the user noun.

  • 1st person pronoun - I, me, my, myself, we, us, our, ourselves 
  • 2nd person pronoun - You, your, yourself, 
  • 3rd person pronoun - He/she, him/her, himself/herself,

Relative pronouns 

  • That
  • Who
  • Whom
  • Whose
  • Which 
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Preposition - All prepositions must be accompanied by a noun and they show:

  • Time - Before 12 o'clock
  • Place - Under the bed
  • DirectionAcross the road
  • Purpose - For you
  • source - From you 

Qualifier - Adding a qualifier will change the meaning when moved around a sentene, the qualifier comes after the headword in a noun phrase e.g. <The table in the middle of the room is empty>

Adverbial - Can be moved around a sentence without changing its meaning e.g. <it will rain in the morning

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Determiners and articles

Determiners - These always come before the noun but can also function as qualifiers in lexis like all, every and so on

Articles - There are several determiners but only two articles, these are a and the and they allow us to be more specific, for example <the black cat>

the is the definitive article

a is the indefinitive article  

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Connectives (conjunctions)

Coordinating conjunction - Allows us to conjoin a sentence of equal importance using and/or/but/neither/nor/either, for example:

  • I went to the cinema and the bowling alley

Ellipsis - Using ellipsis we remove semantically redundant words and use the connective. E.g. I went to the cinema and i went to the bowling alley - we remove the <i went to> in front of <the cinema> and just retain the connective and instead

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Sentence mood

Declarative - Subject is first, followed the predicator. A declarative is basically a statement, for example <i like cake

Interrogative - This is a question where the modal auxillery verb e.g. can or interrogative pronoun e.g. why comes first.

  • Rhetorical question - Where a response is not required
  • Tag question - A declarative accompanied by an interrogative, for example <The weathers nice today, isnt it?>

Imperative - A command, the predicator is first e.g. <close the door>, imperatives don't have subjects. A vocative can be used to direct an imperative, for example <Jack, shut the door>.

  • Mitigated imperative - Command disguised as a question, for example <Can you open the door?>, this can indicate the footing of the relationship. 

Exclamative - Sentences ending in an exclamation mark used to show an emphatic function, for example <help me!>

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Sentence types

Simple - Consists of one subject and one predicator e.g. <I ate the fish.>

Minor - No predicatior e.g <hello!>

Compound - Coordinating conjunction (and/or/but) comes after the predicator, used to conjoin two simple sentences  e.g. <I like Nando's and Pizza Express>

Complex - Subordinate clause (becuase/although/before/after ect) and a main clause (simple sentence) e.g. <although I was scared, i crossed the bridge.>

Compound-complex - Main clause (compound sentence) and a subordinate clause, <although i was scared, i crosssed the bridge and didn't look back>

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Continuum - Can be applied to contextual factors when making a point:

  • Planned - spontaneous
  • Permanent - ephemeral
  • Solitary - Interactive 
  • Private - public
  • Message oriented  - socially oriented
  • Context dependent - context independent 
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Voice - Helps establish where the focus is 

Active voice - Focuses on the subject e.g. <the slug ate the lettuce>

Passive voice - Focuses on the object e.g. <the lettuce was eaten by the slug>

From active to passive:

  • The subject becomes the object
  • The verb changes from past to past perfect
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Semantics and Lexis

Semantics - Meanings 

  • Denotations - The dictionary meaning, for example the denotation of a bachelor is an unmarried man
  • Connotations - Meanings associated with words, for example the connotations of a bachelor is young, rich, good looking and so on i.e. these associated words are referred to as the semantic field 

Lexis - Words

  • Formal - Polysyllabic, low frequency, archaic language, subject specific ect
  • Informal - Monosyllabic, high frequency, idiolect/sociolect 
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Spontaneous speech

Non-fluency features - Devices which interrupt the flow of speech. this can indicate the function of the text e.g. phatic as well as reveal the tenor.

  • Fillers: erm, er, urm
  • Overlaps: // //
  • Latch-ons: =
  • False starts: -
  • Repetitionthe the 

Back-channeling - Used to show that the listener is listening e.g. hmm,uhuh,yeah

Hedging - Softening language use e.g. not quite, nearly ect

Deixis/exophoric references - Shared knowledge

Ellipsis - Making unnecessary words semantically redundant e.g. <give it me>

Elision - Removing syllables/grapheme's from a word e.g. <your avin a laugh>  

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Adjacency pairs and discourse markers

Adjacency Pairs - A series of interrogatives where the speech turn of one speaker makes a particular response more likely, for example <How are you? - Fine, you?>

  • Preferred response - More likely to occur/What is expected
  • Dispreferred response - Less likely to occur/What is not expected
  • Delayed Adjacency pair - Where the second part of the adjacency pair is delayed, for example <Are you going to walk the dog - Where shall i take him? - The park - OK>

Discourse markers - Allows a speaker to signify they are ready to speak.or change the topic of the conversation, the following are discourse markers:

  • Pre-sequence - Draws attention, used to change topic or bring the conversation to an end, for example <right, so, anyway>
  • Side sequence - Where the delayed adjacency pair is not relevant to the original interrogative e.g. <Are you going to walk the dog - Did any mail come for me this morning? - No - Yeah I'll take him in a minute>
  • Insertion sequence - Where it is related to the original interrogative e.g.  <Are you going to walk the dog - Where shall i take him? - The park - OK>
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Pragmatics - Looks at what the speaker means/implied meaning 

Presupposition - What is known e.g. <Jane no longer writes fiction> Jane once wrote fiction is the presupposition, this relies on shared knowledge.

Inference - What is guessed e.g. <Hi! how's you? bet your holiday was good> It is being guessed that the holiday was good is the inference

Implicature -What is implied e.g. <I've been toilet-bound all week> the term toilet-bound is the implicature 

  • Euphemism - A softened term used to imply something, for example <toilet-bound, sleeping together> and so on.
  • Collocation - A set phrase that relies on pragmatics, for example <Fish and ships, salt and pepper, the war on terror> ect   
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Cohesion - The links that hold a text together and give it meaning.

Grammatical cohesion 

  • Exophoric cohesion - Refers to things that are context dependent
  • Anaphoric cohesion - Refers backwards in the the text
  • Cataphoric cohesion - Refers forwards in the text 

Lexical cohesion To join the text together using features such as conjunctions.

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Prestige theory

Overt - To adopt features of standard English and R.P. to increase social status, this can sometimes lead to hyper correction. 

Covert - Refusal to adopt standard English and R.P. to show loyalty and pride in the speakers accent/dialect so as to create social distance.

Prestige can only be applied to non-standard speakers

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Accommodation theory

Convergence - Adopting features of the desired accent and dialect to close social distance and fit it in.

  • Upwards convergence - Non-standard speakers incorporating R.P
  • Downwards convergence - R.P. speakers incorporating regional features

Divergence - Exaggerating own accent/dialect to show loyalty and pride and to create social distance.

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Face/politeness theory

Positive face - Getting others to like you e.g. convergence ect

Negative face - Getting others to leave you alone e.g. covert, divegence

Positive politeness - Adopting the same style of language in order to create positive face i.e. convergence shows positive face via positive politness

Negative Politeness - Enhancing your own language style in order to create negative face i.e. Divergence shows negative face via negative politeness 

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Grice's maxims theory

Grice's maxims theory - This theory is used to show how cooperative speakers are and can be used to analyse the presentation of self for each speaker. To flout  means that the speaker is not being cooperative to the particular maxim, to adhere means that the speaker is being cooperative to the particular maxim. There are four maxims consisting of the following:

  • Manner - How clear they are e.g. too much ellipsis, monosyllabic lexis
  • Quality - How genuine/truthful they are e.g. dispreferred responses
  • Quantity - How much information they provide e.g. high frequency lexeme's 
  • Relation - How relevant they are e.g. side sequences, pre-sequences 
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Gender theory

Gender - Gender is a social construction and in regards to the use of English we refer to gender in terms of the persona being presented and not the biological defention, for example a female can present themselves with a male persona.

Dominance theory - This suggests that males are more likely to interrupt the female in a mixed sex conversation, males interrupt to dominate the conversation, this is illustrated by non-fluency features such as latch ons, overlaps ect

Difference theory - This see's the interaction of male and female as being different rather than better or worse e.g. women emphasis/men will complain, women suggest ( e.g. tag questions, mitigated imperatives) Men command (e.g. imperatives, declarative's) 

Feminine features - Hedging, emotive adjectives, tag questions, preffered responses, mitigated imperatives, politeness markers, intensifiers, standard English, overt prestige, interrogatives ect

Masculine features - Taboo, covert prestige, imperatives, overlapping, latch ons, sociolect, idiolect, declarative's, glottal stops, omission of <g> ect 

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Joo's formality scale

Joo's formality scale - Consists of 5 levels which demonstrates what the tenor between the two speakers/writers is within the text. 

  • Frozen - Has a planned continuum, archaic language. This theory suggests that level 1 - frozen is the most formal form of communication.
  • Formal - This is one way communication and contains jargon and subject specific lexis from a occupational semantic field. Has a referential function. 
  • Consultative - Two way communication, this is a mix of both formal and casual and is message oriented e.g. <Please stay in your seats>
  • Casual - Language used between friends, contains colloquialism and non-standard English, informal features such as ellipsis are also evident 
  • Intimate - Most informal level of formality is level 5, this consists of sociolect, idiolect, exophoric references and a lack of cohesion between speakers 
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Power - Looks at how power can be identified between two recipient, this is closely linked to the tenor of the text, in particular it's footing, there are two types of power.

Influential power - Used to persuade and encourage without the use of force, this is mostly commonly found in the form of advertisements and uses direct imperatives and second person pronouns are used to create direct address, for example <Get your's now!> Features such as vocatives i.e. <Jack, get here now!> and mitigated imperatives like <Can you open the door> show influential power. Furthermore morphologically complex and polysyllabic lexis can also be used to show influential power via negative face.

Instrumental power - This refers to power that is enforced by law, this consists of monosyllabic and disyllabic lexis, imperatives and the use of capitalisation can also be features used to gain instrumental power, for example <NO SMOKING>.

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Peter Trudgill and William Labov

Peter Trudgill - Studied the omission of the grapheme <g> in present particple verbs and found it was more common in lower class males e.g. <are you comin?>

William Labov - Studied the past vocative <r> and found middle class women are more likely to over use the grapheme in speech, thus hyper-correcting. 

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Assessment objectives

Assessment objectives

  • AO1 - Written expression and terminology
  • AO2 - Theories, issues and concepts 
  • AO3 - Key constituents and contextual factors 

Questions (100 marks)

Section A (50 marks)

  • Q.1 - (AO1:15 marks)
  • Q.2 - (AO3:10 marks)
  • Q.3 - (AO3:5 marks, AO2:5 marks = 10 marks)
  • Q.4 - (AO3:10 marks, AO2: 5 marks = 15 marks)

Section B (50 marks)

  • Q.5 - (AO1:10 marks, AO2:15 marks, AO3:25 marks = 50 marks)
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Question 1 | (AO1 15 marks - 15%) - A question that requires you to describe the underlined extracts using linguistic terminology and to then provide another example of that linguistic feature from the the texts in section A.

Question 2 | (AO3 10 marks - 10%) - This question will always ask you to explore the influence of the contextual factors on the language of texts in section A. Discuss the mode,field, function and tenor of the texts, using the continuum so as to create links to these. 

Question 3 | (AO2,AO3 10 marks - 10%) - This question will focus on one of the groups and one or two of the contextual factors. Use key constituents and theories.

Question 4 | (AO2,AO3 15 marks - 15%) - This question will provide you with a mystery text or a series of mystery texts and will ask you to find which one does it belong to from the texts in section A. Key constituents and theories are needed. 

Question 5 | (AO1,AO2,AO3 50 marks - 50%) - Referred to as the presentation of self, this question requires you to investigate how the use of language presents the speakers/writers in section B. Begin answer with <the speakers/writers present themselves as being>.

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Tilly Peck

Very helpful,thankyou :)!!


This is great, thanks!


Thank you! :) 

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