Projects for A-level (GCE) English Language

list compiled by Dick Hudson

last changed 24 October 2003

The following are some projects which have been carried out successfully as part of A-level English Language during the last few years. This list is in a provisional format with the projects simply listed as they reached me, in packets contributed by various members of the EngLang mailing list. Where possible, I've provided a mailing address for the contributor in case you want more information.

I haven't tried to standardise the format, or even to check for duplicates. I may organise them more helpfully by topic at some time in the future; if so, it would be helpful to know what headings might be helpful. Any comments below this line are from the contributor, not me.


Contributors:


From Andrew Moore

Comments

The examples below are outlines of tasks that were undertaken by students for the 2000 exam. In each case the student achieved a mark for the investigation in line with, or better than, the mark for other papers. You are welcome to adapt these tasks for future use. In each case there is some explicit general guidance, although the students received close personal supervision of their work.

See also the one I commend as a model.

Student A

  • Comparing commentaries: language features of two broadcast commentaries on the 1999 British Grand Prix.

Abstract: This investigation considers structural features of spoken English. The data are two broadcast commentaries (Radio 5 Live and Mach 1 for ITV). These are analysed in terms of:lexical choice, semantics, syntax and structures of short discourses. The investigator will look for special or restricted language uses and for evidence of differences that may arise from absence/presence of images. Appendices: Details of speakers and context; transcripts of spoken extracts, using appropriate conventions to show pauses - do not supply punctuation as for written data; acknowledgements. This worked very well. (See above)

Student B

  • Persuasive language features in election leaflets: structural and stylistic features of election leaflets produced for the May 1999 European and local elections.

Abstract: This investigation considers lexis, semantics and discourse structure, stylistic rhetorical devices and typography, if relevant. Introduction: you may need to look for a theoretical model or description of political advertising, against which to evaluate your data. You may find something in Crystal's encyclopedias, but very up-to-date stuff is harder to find. You really need guidelines from the parties themselves. For help in doing so, try writing to (names of local MPs). This should give you a starting point. You must also look for evidence of purpose - does the leaflet try to alter your party allegiance, or simply get already committed voters out to cast their vote? Evidence will be found in use of imperative (command forms).
Lexis - look for distinctive lexicon, such as terms peculiar to political context (if any). Compare incidence (frequency) in different leaflets. Look at frequency of use of party's name and of other party names.
Collocations - look at distinctive forms such as "New Labour".
Semantics - look at special meanings for political/electoral context. How are these used to support the leaflets' purposes?
Stylistics - look at things that you can quantify as well as explain (e.g.. incidence of metaphor, type of metaphor, colloquialism etc.)
Syntax - look at use of phrases and clauses outside complete sentences; look at use of different sentence types - declarative, interrogative, imperative and so on.
Conclusions: how far does each leaflet fulfil purposes or intentions identified in your introduction? Are they effective means of persuasion or used simply because canvassers expect to use them?
Appendices: Relevant documents with copyright and acknowledgements.
This task proved hard for the candidate.

Student C

  • Lexical, semantic and grammatical change in Bible translations in the King James tradition

Abstract: This investigation will look at a very few passages in a range of translations. These will be studied for examples of lexical and semantic change, for changes in syntax patterns and stylistic features (e.g. cultural or gender bias or neutrality in metaphor, pronouns, titles and so on). Introduction: The King James Version of the Bible was translated as a Bible for public worship, and for reading aloud. Subsequent revisions have been made within this tradition, using the KJ text where possible, but altering it where language change requires this. These are the Revised Version, Revised Standard Version and New Revised Standard Version. In this investigation, taking the KJV as the standard or reference point, you will study changes to the text, organizing these by appropriate language categories. To make the task manageable, you will study a relatively short sample of the text (initially the last two chapters of Acts, but this may be reduced). This book has been chosen as (according to the translators) St. Luke has better command of Greek than other New Testament writers. The chosen sections do not contain abstruse theological terms (such as grace), which may lead to widely differing translations (although there are some nautical terms not found elsewhere in scripture). For reference, you will look at other contemporary translations (e.g. J.B. Phillips, NEB, Good News) that have other intended purposes and audiences (private devotional use, readers in the UK etc.) to see how translation differs. At all times, you should be aware that you are studying translations made for spoken delivery in public worship.Headings under which you should organize your comment will be
Lexical change - nouns, proper nouns, pronouns (esp. 2nd person forms) verbs, conjunctions and prepositions
Verb forms, especially tenses to indicate sequence and chronology (important when read aloud)
Semantic change - explain lexical substitutions; use of archaic and literary forms in revised Version
S
yntax - phrase and clause structure; use of relative and subordinate clauses
Discourse structure and typography - use of verses/numbers, paragraphs, columns, typeface and size, maps and so on
Appendices: Relevant extracts with acknowledgements of copyright-protected sources.
This was an excellent task - the candidate (very modest ability) achieved a far higher mark than on any other module. It does, though, rather rely on the teacher's very extensive knowledge of the Bible in English translation.

Student D

(Note - this investigation was chosen by a very able student, much to his teacher's alarm. The task would not be suitable for many candidates.)

  • The "F-word" in film: derivational morphology of obscene words in popular feature films.

Abstract: Beginning with compounds of the F-word the investigator will look at the morphology of new and variant forms, studying these in context, with regard to pragmatics, metaphor and implication.Introduction: You need some theoretical model here. Clearly there are multiple derivatives and compounds of the F-word, as well as grammatical conversion (use in word class other than verb). You may wish to consider how these developments are not only evidence of change, but signal gradual shift in social implication - a lessening over recent time of taboo value. This can be "measured" (loosely) by reference to wider publication in mainstream spoken and written media. Look at
Inflection of verb to produce "F-er", "F-ing" and so on
Derivation (morphology) using "F-word" as root, prefix and suffix
Compounding of "F-word"
Conversion - use of "F-word" as noun or attributive adjective, and so on
Semantic shift or widening - less restricted or precise meaning (e.g. vague pejorative rather than denoting sexual congress)
Contexts of use and publication - broadcast spoken and print contexts.
Conclusion: is the F-word becoming less of a taboo? Give reasons for your view.
Data: what language data have you used? How can you ensure that these are used objectively? You may need, for example, to use Word to produce document statistics on a range of texts - total word count and frequency of use of F-word (use other taboo words as reference?)
Appendices: Language data with acknowledgements of copyright-protected sources entries in contemporary dictionary to indicate earliest recorded usage (to check for degree of invention or borrowing)
statistical information in tables or graphs.
This produced an excellent response - but is not suitable for many candidates


From Lesley

  • An Investigation into the ways in which male and female writers covertly use gendered language in writing their ‘Dream Journey’ Original Writing.
  • ‘Bush for Brains’ An Investigation into how George Bush uses language to justify military action on Afghanistan.
  • ‘Transformers…Robots in Disguise’ An Investigation into the changes within children’s television programming over ten years.
  • ‘The writers and illustrators [of comics and books] portray their own ideas of the real or an ideal world, showing implicit discrimination by sex’ – Just Like a Girl, Sue Sharpe, Penguin, 1976. To what extent do the differences in language used in two children’s annuals written in 1963 portray such gender bias?
  • ‘Notorious Nanny in Child Death Shocker’ – An Investigation into how Judge Hiller Zobel’s summing up speech could have influenced the jury’s final verdict in the case of Louise Woodward.
  • An Investigation into the content of teen magazines. Do they inform of the risks involved in sex or do they use sex as an entertainment strategy.
  • An Investigation into the use of Politically Correct language. A comparison of Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling.
  • An Investigation into whether the presentation of the Royal Family in the press has changed from the 1950’s to the present day.
  • ‘Those Who Can…Teach’ – How do teachers use different linguistic techniques to command authority in the classroom.
  • An Investigation into how the Middle East Crisis was reported in a Lebanese as opposed to an English newspaper on June 21st 2002.
  • ‘The Thatchill Speech’ – An Investigation into Margaret Thatcher’s 1982 Falkland and Winston Churchill’s June 1940 Battle of Dunkirk speeches.
  • ‘Ooh er…Missus…No!’How has Political Correctness changed language use in comedy movies, with reference to the ‘Carry On’ films from 1968 and 1992.
  • How does Tony Soprano use language to try to retain power with the women in his life and gain power over his psychiatrist?
  • ‘Kung Fu Fighting in Saipan’ – How does the tabloid press attempt to influence public opinion when writing about national football teams?
  • Graham Norton: Comedian or Chat Show Host? How does Graham Norton use language to create comedy within the chat show framework?

From Alan Thomas:

  • Grandparents' language.

They were born in Jamaica, are black and speak BVE. Grandmother's job in UK involved more talking with British people; grandfather worked in a mill. Aim was to look at style change, i.e. choices from speech repertoire as they both spoke about childhood. Assumption was that they were more self-conscious at the start of the taping, and more relaxed at the end. To what extent did they style-shift, how, and were there differences between them that might be linked to gender?

  • 1908 news feature on the future of the monarchy; comparable text published at the time of the Queen Mother's death. Similarities and differences?Why?
  • Teachers' comments on A-Level work from Humanities and Sciences. Treated as the final part of IRF exchanges. Differences and similarities? Why? (Gender angle considered but poor data for this, so abandoned.)
  • (For weak student): agony aunts' replies in a range of female magazines, in the context of creating a persona appropriate for the target readership.
  • Football commentating: professional treatment of parts of a match, contrasted with amateurs covering the same events (BSky B, I think.)
  • The ability of a four, five and six-year old to re-tell the story of The Lion King video.
  • Asian family talking at home: code switching and mixing - individual repertoires related to social history, triggers for choice of main language (defined as underlying grammar), nature of switching and mixing.

From Paul Barnes

Dr Paul Barnes, Bedford Modern School, Manton Lene, Bedford MK41 7NT.

  • Has text messaging changed society, language and communication?
  • How language varies with age and generation.
  • The different linguistic features apparent in radio and television rugby
  • commentaries.
  • A study of Estuary English.
  • The language of 'Only Fools and Horses.'
  • The language of the Sixth Form Common Room.
  • The 'opening language' of women's magazine advertising.
  • A study of the Luton accent and dialect.
  • Language differences between football reports in 1932, 1952, 2001.
  • Drama's debt to Greece for its technical terms.
  • Three pieces of military oratory from three wars.
  • How different London attractions are sold by their publicity.

From Norman Madden

Head of English, Myton School, Warwick

  • Talking Text: A study of emerging language forms in text messages and on Internet Relay Chat [a highly technical and detailed study by a very able student]
  • Teacher-pupil interaction: a study of two English teachers taking lessons with year 7 and year 11 classes – the student investigated the different language strategies used by the teachers to deal with students of different ages.
  • Has there been a change in female conversational behaviour since the studies carried out in the seventies and eighties?
  • Gender differences: investigating the social conversation of small mixed groups of five year olds and fifteen year olds.
  • The use of regional accents in television advertisements.
  • How does the language of 6th formers vary between the common-room and classroom situations?
  • Who actually interrupts more in conversations, males or females?
  • An investigation into the use of minimal responses and interruptions in male and female conversational behaviour.
  • Speech and language disorders and the effect they have on children’s interaction skills and behaviour.
  • An investigation into the language differences between males and females in Year 7
  • Do male 4 or 5 year olds show more authority in their speech than female 4 or 5 year olds?
  • An investigation into gender differences in caretaker/caregiver speech.
  • Comparing persuasive and rhetorical features in the speeches of two party leaders: Tony Blair and John Major at their party conferences in 1996.
  • The language of TV weather reports [a weak project in the end]
  • Comparing the language used in feature articles in magazines aimed at women and magazines aimed at teenage girls.
  • How is power displayed in the language of political interviews on radio?
  • The language of sports articles in the tabloid and broadsheet press.
  • What the language of articles in New Musical Express and The Melody Maker tells us about the target audience for these papers.
  • How language varies in the coverage of the same news story in the press and in radio and TV journalism.
  • A comparison of narrative writing by year 7 and year 10 pupils.
  • The balance of spoken and written features in text messages.
  • The conversational nature of chat room exchanges
  • A comparison of the conversational behaviour of young adult speakers in single-sex and mixed-sex conversations.
  • Investigation of contemporary attitudes and responses to swearing: are there gender differences in the use of and responses to swearing?
  • How a male teacher modifies his language to suit classes of different ages in order to maintain authority and power in the classroom.
  • How do two stand-up comedians exploit language to make us laugh? [study of routines by Jasper Carrott and Eddie Izzard]
  • What are the linguistic features of jokes which aim to ridicule or stigmatise certain social groups?
  • The representation of political leaders in broadsheet newspapers.
  • The language of charity advertising.

 


From AQA, via Norman Madden

Every year, the exam board makes all staff teaching the course assess a sample of previous coursework investigations. Below I list the topics covered in the last few years. WARNING: some of these topics are too generalised and lack a specific language focus so the final marks were low but they do indicate some of the range of possible things to investigate.

2003

  • Investigation into the Language of Radio Telephony in General Aviation
  • The Writer’s Bench – an investigation into the jargon and mannerisms within a subculture (study of an internet forum created for graffiti artists)
  • Investigating gender differences in male and female text messages
  • An Investigation of the Development of Children’s Writing between Year 3 and Year 6

2001

  • An Investigation exploring the language features in female single-sex conversations
  • The Language of Romance: a comparison of the language of romance in Pride and Prejudice (1813), At the Villa Massina (1958), The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous (1993)
  • Comparison of the language devices used to create humour in Pulp Fiction and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • What evidence is there to show that gender differences in language are present at an early age? A study of the language of two 3 year olds, one boy and one girl.

2000

  • An investigation into the Child Language Acquisition of a Three Year Old and a Five Year Old
  • How do speakers adapt their language when speaking to an adult with learning difficulties?
  • Language Use in Internet Chat Rooms
  • Yorkshire Dialect – Are We Running Out of Time to Save It?

1999

  • Social class as portrayed through the language of popular soaps
  • The command styles of the four Star Trek captains
  • Fresh legs here! An examination of my own market stall patter
  • Analysis of Internet language

1998

  • Comparison of two TV adaptations of Pride and Prejudice with the original
  • Is playground talk in 8 year olds different from classroom language and how far does teacher talk affect classroom language?
  • Translation – comparison of different translations of the same text by two people with different levels of expertise in the two languages
  • A comparison of the language of Pride and Prejudice and Pemberley [ a ‘sequel’ to the Jane Austen book written by a modern novelist]

1997

  • Analysis of language use in children’s books – comparing how the language of two books is targeted at the child audience
  • The language of A Clockwork Orange
  • The Language of Teenage Girls’ Magazines
  • Ideology and the Sun newspaper

1996

  • Deafness [ a very poor project!]
  • The language of protest songs
  • How "said" words are used to portray character – a study of verbs of saying in two texts in the same genre but written at different periods