Topic: Standards and variation

These resources take an exploratory approach to the nature of English in use, in real-world contexts.

Clause types in context

Exploring how different clause types help to construct social meaning

The four clause types are a central part of English grammar. An understanding of declarative, imperative, interrogative and exclamative clause types can help students recognise how writers use these structures to create meaning in different ways, and can help them develop a better repertoire of structures in their own writing.

Clause types in context: Activity

You’re visiting a friend’s house. You’re in a cold room and the window is open. What can you say to each of the following to get the window shut?

  1. your friend
  2. your friend’s grandmother
  3. your friend’s annoying little brother

You’re carrying several boxes of DVDs and books. Then you drop one, spilling its contents all over the floor. You need help and there are people around who could be of assistance. What do you say to each of the following?

Regional vocabulary

In the work you’ve done so far on ways to identify word classes, you have seen that many words can be identified by form, function and distribution.

In this activity, we’ll look at how you might use these ideas to identify some words which appear in regional varieties of English. You’ll see examples of regional dialect terms in the context which they were used, and your task will be to work out what grammatical role the word is performing.

Word frequency in speech and writing

Comparing word frequencies is an interesting way to think about some of the differences between speech and writing. Which are the most frequent words in speech, and how do they compare with the most frequent words in writing?

Word frequency in speech and writing: Activity

Spoken English

the

I

you

and

it

a

’s*

to

of

that

Written English

the

of

Attitudes to new modes

In this lesson, students will explore new modes of communication such as texting, online chat, and Facebook, which often come in for criticism from people who believe that they are damaging the way we use language.

Comparing different modes

Students compare examples of English in use, including various written and spoken examples, and analyse them according to a scale.

Comparing different modes: Activity

Facebook message

How u doing??

Just wondering if u could be my referee, yr gonna be surprised at what the job consists of... its teaching SQUIRTS... yh I know dirty lil freaky children looool

Hope yr good though??

Later

Dizzee Rascal and the textbook

The way we use language can differ dramatically according to context. This creative lesson asks students to translate from one context into another. This is a great approach that allows students to apply their implicit knowledge of language, and to analyse linguistic features naturally and implicitly, based on their intuitive language skills.

Dizzee Rascal and the textbook: Activity

Stress on the brain, complain, too da fool. Stress on the brain, complain, too da max.

I'm gonna search for big money stacks, top tens and platinum whacks.

Ain't got no need for a chain of a chaks. I'm a rude boi, I ain't gotta relax.

I got this game in my head like dax. Got this game in my hand, be cool.

Unstoppable, make a boi relax. I'll take teeth for the money and jaks.

We make money off album tracks. Come on, I'll face it, let's all face facts.

Formal and informal

This lesson resource is designed to draw attention to how we use different registers in a variety of written contexts. When we use language, we make a number of different lexical and grammatical choices, depending on the context, or 'situation of usage'.

Language and context

Sometimes great humour is born from taking language out of context. This lesson explores that fact with some examples, and asks students to think of some of their own.

Linguistics of lies

In this lesson, students explore the features of lies, from a linguistic perspective.

Goals

  • Discuss the features of lies from a linguistic perspective.
  • Identify pronouns, negative emotional terms, sense terms and causal phrases.
  • Discuss the role of context in interpretation.
  • Present evidence to support an argument.

Lesson Plan

Background

Linguistics of lies: Activity

Extract 1

Hi Paul

I’m not going to be able to make it in today as the boiler’s broken down and I need to wait for the repair man to come round.

I’ll do what work I can here and email you the report for Thursday’s meeting.

Mark

Extract 2

Dear Paul

Sorry about this but I can’t make it in today. I’ve got a stinking cold and I’m feeling really rough. It came on over the weekend and the kids have been feeling pretty bad too.

Pragmatics in a political interview

Goals

  • Identify some elements of spoken dialogue in an interview setting.
  • Analyse some features of colloquial language, specifically the kinds of words and phrases that are used.

Lesson Plan

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. It includes a video of an interview between Russell Brand and Ed Miliband, recorded just before the UK General Election in May 2015.

Speech and writing

Students get a sense of how spoken and written language vary by looking at short extracts of each, on various topics. 

Goals

  • Identify features of speech and writing.
  • Compare and contrast speech and writing.
  • Recognise the importance of genre in anlaysing language.

Lesson Plan

This lesson includes 3 handouts, which can be downloaded below and printed for distribution to students.

Standards and variation in Singapore English

English is used in remarkably different ways around the world. Exploring that variation is an extremely effective tool towards understanding our own use of English. This lesson looks at some features of colloquial Singapore English.

Texting language

In this lesson, students explore the features of texting language, from a linguistic perspective.

Goals

  • Discuss texting language from a linguistic perspective.
  • Define some key linguistic terms relevant to texting language.

Lesson Plan

Part 1

Texting language: Activity

Text 1 Text 2

Hey Gems,how ru?How was last nite?Hope u had a gd time..;)I herd the party was rele bad…ppl had an awful time!I guess I shud b glad I didn’t go afta all…tbXx

Free Msg; Our records indicate you may be entitled to £3750 for the accident you had. To apply free reply CLAIM to this message. To opt out text STOP

Variation and standards

In this lesson we ask students to think about variation in language - including reflections on their own language and the language around them.

Variation and standards: Activity

  • How is the way you speak English different from the way your parents speak English?
  • How is it different from the way your teachers speak English?
  • How is it different from the way the Queen speaks English?
  • How is it different from the English of the BBC?
  • How is it different from the English of Eastenders, Coronation Street, or Rastamouse?
  • How is it different from the English of Hollywood movies?

Word frequency

What are the most frequently used words in English? And could we do without them?

Word frequency: Activity

The 10 most common English words are:

the

of

and

a

in

to

it

is/was

I

for

Can you answer the following questions without using these 10 words?

»

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