Language in social contexts

language and technology, media, adverts and language in occupational groups for AQA English Language A

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Language and the Media

media can be biased

  • newspaper reports show bias through the writer's word choices. the purpose of particular word choices is to shape the readers perception
  • bias is shown in different ways, coverage may be selective, only present 1 viewpoint or use loaded and emotive language to present factual information

can show prejudice towards social groups

  • prejudice= preconceived opinion of a person or a group, that isn't based on experience or reason
  • it often includes negative judgements about different ethnic, religious, gender or ability groups
  • can create or reinforce negative emotions
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Tabloid newspapers

tabloid newspapers= the sun- tabloids tend to make there viewpoint on a story very clear and use straightforward language

features of tabloid newspapers:

  • short paragraphs with large font that's spread out
  • large print with sensational headlines
  • lots of large photographs
  • short, anglo-saxon words
  • simple sentences with few clauses, 
  • simple punctuation, exclamation marks
  • first names or nicknames
  • sensationalised news stories with one-sided point of view
  • emotive vocabulary
  • personal tone
  • use of phonological features like alliteration and rhyme
  • phonetic spelling
  • use of puns
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Broadsheet papers

broadsheets are newspapers such as the guardian and the daily telegraph- they are aimed at professional, mostly middle class readership

features of broadsheet newspapers

  • longer paragraphs
  • smaller font, compact
  • smaller print, factual headlines
  • fewer, smaller photographs
  • long, latinate words
  • complex sentences with more subordinate clauses
  • complex punctuation, few exclamation marks
  • full names or surnames
  • fact-based news stories, often more objective stance
  • neutral vocabulary
  • impersonal tone
  • fewer phonological features
  • no puns
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designed to persuade

basic things which need to be thought about:

  • subject matter- advert will focus on a product, service or cause
  • purpose- designed to persuade, usually to buy a product or service, this can be done in different approaches e.g. showing how attractive this lifestyle is
  • form- written adverts come in different forms e.g. in newspapers and magazines, appeal letters, leaflets, emails, posters, emails
  • the target audience is the group the advert is aimed at, could be broad or specific
  • the hook is the device used to get the audience's attention
  • in paper-based adverts the text is referred to as copy and the people who write adverts are known as copywriters
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Specific language use in adverts


  • designed to be persuasive- comparatives (better, larger) and superlatives (best, largest) makes their product sound better than their competitors'
  • often use hi-tech targon to make the product seem state-of-the-art
  • compound words are common in lots of adverts


  • different sentence functions as hooks e.g. exclamatives (it's your life!) declaratives (it's all you'll ever need) imperatives (come in from the cold) and interrogatives (why not have what you've always wanted?)
  • imperatives without subjects are often hooks because they are short and snappy
  • the syntax is often simple with few subordinate clauses
  • sentences are often disjunctive rather than discursive so message is clear
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Specific language use in adverts


  • immediate visual impression attracts audience e.g. colour, visual images, size, type and colour of typeface
  • larger text tends to be more persuasive, smaller text tends to focus on giving information
  • unconventional spelling is somtimes used to make a product stand out


  • phonetic features of language are often used to keep the audience intrested: alitteration e.g. local, live and loud, onomatopoeia e.g. crash! and rhyme e.g. try before you buy
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Specific language use in adverts


  • the tone varies depending on subject matter, audience and purpose
  • often try ot engage with consumer by addressing them directly e.g. second person pronouns, imperatives and interrogatives


  • adverts have a discourse structure which is made up of different elements
    • the hook
    • further persuasion and/or information
    • instruction on what the reader should do next
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engaging with the audience

creative language is more likely to grab the audience's attention for example:

  • semantic puns, phonetic puns, and figurative language

adverts can create and reinforce stereotypes

  • usually very short so have a limited amount of space and time to get their message across
  • adverts often show simplified images of people and events- stereotypes
  • for example adverts can show gender stereotypes
  • some adverts parody the stereotypes of traditional adverts for humour

intertextuality is the relationship between different texts

  • relating to other texts references well known texts are accessible to many people and will be easily remembered 
  • also if appealing to specific audience it assumes they are knowledgable suggesting the product only for the elite few
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occupational language and jargon

all occupational groups have their own specialist vocabulary known as jargon, the purpose is to allow members to communicate quickly and it's often highly technical and difficult for non-specialists to understand

jargon is useful-allows people to exchange specific, precise information very quickly which is important in lots of jobs

  • e.g. air traffic controllers use a wide range of technical terms to make sure aircraft land and take off safely terms are more precise and quic
  • legal language contains lots of jargon because it has to be unambiguous
  • new technologies need new words to describe it

jargon can be confusing- if people use it in situations where everyday language would be more appropriate

  • sometimes complex vocabulary is used in place of simple language on purpose, because it sounds more impressive making it harder to understand
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can be used to hide harsh realities

  • jargon can be used as a substitute for harsher-sounding words and phrases this is euphemistic
  • these euphemisms might be used in connection with making people redundant 
    • e.g. release, restructuring, workforce adjustment, decruit
  • euphemisms might be used to play down what happens in wartime:
    • collateral damage- civilians killed by mistake
    • friendly fire0 attack from allied forces
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occupational language

goes in and out of fashion and often changes over time- partly due to advances in technology but also due to what's in fashion

words that are fashionable in the workplace are known as 'buzz words' e.g. client focus, touch base, incentivise

'management speak' is sometimes used as a derogatory term because people think it's overly complex, confusing and pretentious

management speak has distinctive language features:

  • long noun phrases affecting syntax of sentences
  • reflexive pronouns instead of non-reflexive pronuns
  • use of the passive voice

the aim of management speak is to impress people by sounding formal and complex however it often ends up sounding vague and confusing

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Paul Dutton

A detailed and informative revision guide on language in the media. Useful.

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