Projects for A-level (GCE) English
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,
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
See also the one I commend
as a model.
- 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)
- 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
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'
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
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
This task proved hard for the candidate.
- Lexical, semantic and grammatical change in
Bible translations in the King James
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
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
Syntax - 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.
(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
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
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?)
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
- 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
- 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
- ‘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
- ‘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
From Alan Thomas:
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
- 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
- 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.
Dr Paul Barnes, Bedford Modern School, Manton Lene, Bedford MK41 7NT.
- Has text messaging changed society, language
- How language varies with age and generation.
- The different linguistic features apparent in
radio and television rugby
- 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
- How different London attractions are sold by
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- What are the linguistic features of jokes which
aim to ridicule or stigmatise certain social groups?
- The representation of political leaders in broadsheet
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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
- Analysis of Internet language
- 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
- 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]
- 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
- 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