English Language Units 3 & 4
VCE English Language explores the ways in which language is used by individuals and groups and reflects our thinking and values. Learning about language helps us to understand ourselves, the groups with which we identify and the society we inhabit.
English Language builds on students’ previous learning about the conventions and codes used by speakers and writers of English. Informed by the discipline of linguistics, it provides students with metalinguistic tools to understand and analyse language use, variation and change. Students studying English Language examine how uses and interpretations of language are nuanced and complex rather than a series of fixed conventions. Students explore how people use spoken and written English to communicate, to think and innovate, to construct identities, to build and interrogate attitudes and assumptions and to create and disrupt social cohesion.
The study of English Language enables students to understand the structures, features and discourses of written and spoken texts through the systematic and objective deconstruction of language in use.
Unit 3: Language variation and social purpose
In this unit students investigate English language in contemporary Australian social settings, along a continuum of informal and formal registers. They consider language as a means of social interaction, exploring how through written and spoken texts we communicate information, ideas, attitudes, prejudices and ideological stances.
Students examine the stylistic features of formal and informal language in both spoken and written modes: the grammatical and discourse structure of language; the choice and meanings of words within texts; how words are combined to convey a message; the purpose in conveying a message; and the particular context in which a message is conveyed. Students learn how to describe the interrelationship between words, sentences and text as a means of exploring how texts construct message and meaning.
Students consider how texts are influenced by the situational and cultural contexts in which they occur. They examine how function, field, mode, setting and the relationships between participants all contribute to a person’s language choices, as do the values, attitudes and beliefs held by participants and the wider community. Students learn how speakers and writers select features from within particular stylistic variants, or registers, and this in turn establishes the degree of formality within a discourse. They learn how language can be indicative of relationships, power structures and purpose through the choice of a particular variety of language and through the ways in which language varieties are used in processes of inclusion and exclusion.
Area of study 1: Informal language
In this area of study students consider the way speakers and writers choose from a repertoire of language to vary the style of their language to suit a particular social purpose. They consider the features and functions of informal language in written, spoken and electronic interactions, understanding that the situational and cultural context of an exchange determines the language used.
Students examine the features that distinguish informal language from more formal language. They understand that informal language often lacks the carefully planned structure of formal texts and may play an important role in building rapport. They examine how users of informal language may be idiosyncratic in their linguistic choices and structure texts in a non-linear way, and they explore the role of colloquialisms and non-Standard English in establishing informal registers. Students study texts in which speakers use informal language including conversations, narratives, monologues, interviews and unscripted commentaries. They also examine informal texts produced by writers, including narratives, advertisements, journals, notes, and electronic or other written interactions involving one or more participants. Students consider features of ‘chat’ associated with both speaking and writing, such as a reliance on sequencing, cooperation and turn-taking, as well as features that are particular to each mode. Students learn that speakers have at their disposal a support system of prosodic and paralinguistic cues that they can use to organise and present information. They explore how writers may choose to rely on abbreviations, spellings which reflect pronunciation and prosodic patterns, emoticons and context-specific graphemes. Both written and spoken informal texts may contain non-fluency features, ellipses, shortened lexical forms and syntactic complexity.
Students investigate how informal language can be used to meet and challenge others’ face needs, both positive (the need to be liked, respected and treated as a member of a group) and negative (the need to be autonomous and act without imposition from others); how informal language choices can build rapport by encouraging inclusiveness, intimacy, solidarity and equality; and how informal language features such as slang and swearing patterns are important in encouraging linguistic innovation and in-group membership.
On completion of this unit the student should be able to identify and analyse distinctive features of informal language in written and spoken texts.
Area of study 2: Formal language
In this area of study students consider the way speakers and writers choose from a repertoire of language to achieve a particular purpose. As with informal language, the situational and cultural context determines whether people use formal language and in which mode they choose to communicate.
Students examine the features and functions of formal language, particularly in literature and the public domain. They understand that formal language, in all modes, tends to be less ambiguous, more cohesive, and is more likely to make explicit aspects of the presumed context. They examine formal texts, exploring how writers and speakers are more likely to consider how their audience might interpret their message, packaging it appropriately with attention to the art of rhetoric, including the use of figurative language. Students learn that formal written texts are more likely to have been edited while formal spoken texts may have been rehearsed. They examine such formal written texts as legal documents, bureaucratic policy and procedures, official documents, informational prose, and literature. They also examine formal language in spoken texts such as speeches, lectures, oaths, liturgies
performances, and monologues. Formal speech has many of the organisational and stylistic features of written language, but also draws on paralinguistic features such as gesture and eye contact and prosodic cues such as pitch, stress and intonation.
Students investigate the range of ways formal language can be used to perform various social purposes. They investigate how formal language can be used to meet and challenge others’ face needs, both positive and negative. Formal language choices, particularly politeness strategies, can also reinforce social distance and relationship hierarchies, or build rapport. Similarly, varieties such as jargon can reinforce the user’s authority and expertise or promote in-group solidarity.
Students examine texts in which speakers and writers use formal language to celebrate and commemorate, and they explore how formal language can be used to clarify, manipulate or obfuscate, particularly in public language – the language of politics, media, the law and bureaucracy. Students learn that formal language enables users to carefully negotiate social taboos through the employment of euphemisms, non-discriminatory language, and political correctness. They explore how variations in style reveal much about the intentions and values of speakers or writers, as well as the situational and social contexts in which formal texts are created.
On completion of this unit the student should be able to identify and analyse distinctive features of formal language in written and spoken texts.
Unit 4: Language variation and identity
In this unit students focus on the role of language in establishing and challenging different identities. There are many varieties of English used in contemporary Australian society, including national, regional, cultural and social variations. Standard Australian English is the variety that is granted prestige in contemporary Australian society and it has a role in establishing national identity. However, non-Standard English varieties also play a role in constructing users’ social and cultural identities. Students examine a range of texts to explore the ways different identities are constructed. These texts include extracts from novels, films or television programs, poetry, letters and emails, transcripts of spoken interaction, songs, advertisements, speeches and bureaucratic or official documents.
Students explore how our sense of identity evolves in response to situations and experiences and are influenced by how we see ourselves and how others see us. Through our language we express ourselves as individuals and signal our membership of particular groups. Students explore how language can distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’, creating solidarity and reinforcing social distance.
Area of study 1: Language variation in Australia society
This area of study enables students to examine the range of language varieties that exist in contemporary Australian society and the contributions these varieties make to a construction of shared national identity. Australian English has much in common with Englishes from other continents, but the language has also developed features across all subsystems of language that distinguish it from other Englishes.
Students explore how the Broad, General and Cultivated Australian accents reflect the society from which they emerged and the forms that achieved social prestige over time. However, Australia is not linguistically uniform, and contemporary texts in both written and spoken modes both challenge and construct notions of what it means to be Australian and what might be meant by ‘national identity’. Increasing global contact, the influence of modern technologies and other social changes are shaping contemporary Australian English, and attitudes towards Australian language continue to evolve.
Students examine how Standard Australian English, as the variety of Australian English afforded prestige by public institutions, has played a pivotal role in establishing the legitimacy of Australian English in comparison to other national varieties of English. They explore how the non-Standard English varieties operating in Australia provide further dimensions to Australian English. They consider variation between regions, a range of migrant ethnolects, and Aboriginal Englishes, in addition to exploring how the language features associated with stereotypes may be adopted subconsciously or deliberately employed to establish or challenge identities.
On completion of this unit the student should be able to investigate and analyse varieties of Australian English and attitudes towards them.
Area of study 2: Individual and group identities
In this area of study students focus on the role of language in reflecting and constructing individual and group identities. They examine how language users are able to play different roles within speech communities and to construct their identities through subconscious and conscious language variation, according to age, gender, occupation, interests, aspiration and education. While individual identity can be derived from the character traits that make us unique, our social identities are drawn from membership of particular groups. Students investigate how, as individuals, we make language choices that draw on our understanding of social expectations and community attitudes.
Students examine overt and covert norms in speech communities. They consider how knowing and being able to exploit overt norms – which are typically associated with Standard English – allows users to construct a prestigious identity associated with their class, education, occupation, social status and aspirations. They also consider how covert norms – those that are given prestige by local groups and are typically associated with non- Standard English – can be powerful in constructing identities, establishing those who use them as members of the ‘in’ group, while those who are unable to conform are cast as outsiders. The language features associated with jargon and slang also provide a powerful basis for inclusion and exclusion.
Students learn how societal attitudes, personal associations and individual prejudices can lead to social disadvantage and discrimination against use of non-Standard English dialects and accents.
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse how people’s choice of language reflects and constructs their identities.
The VCAA will report the student’s level of achievement on each assessment component as a grade from A+ to E or UG (ungraded). To receive a study score the student must achieve two or more graded assessments and receive S for both Units 3 and 4.
Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE English Language are as follows:
• Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework 25 per cent
• Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework 25 per cent
• End of year examination 50 per cent