IB DP Language A Language and Literature – sample text analysis – non-fiction book extract

Source: Extract from Adolphs, Svenja, et al. Introducing Electronic Text Analysis: A Practical Guide for Language and Literary Studies. Routledge, London, 2006. 65

Before you read the “spoiler” bullet points take a careful look at the text. Imagine it is a text you are using for one of your DP Language A Language and Literature assessments: the individual oral, the HL essay, or Paper 1 and analyze it accordingly. (This text would not be appropriate for Paper 2).

“Most corpus stylistics studies are designed to either test or facilitate interpretations of a literary text or collection of texts. Existing interpretations tend to be based on analytical concepts and frameworks that have emerged outside the realm of electronic text analysis, such as the analysis of speech and thought presentation for example, a key framework in the area of literary linguistics which we will return to later. Thus, the things we ask the computer to do, and the way in which we prepare or annotate our electronic text, is often influenced by a previous discussion of a literary text or by an existing approach to it. In a corpus stylistic analysis of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Stubbs (2005) illustrates how this approach can provide added evidence for themes already identified by literary critics. One of the themes Stubbs considers is that of vagueness and uncertainty, which has been linked to only a limited number of content words in previous interpretations (such as the words vague and indistinct). He shows that a concordance search of the text for other lexical items that denote vagueness and uncertainty, such as something andsome sort, supports the status of vagueness as a core theme in this text. In the same paper, Stubbs also illustrates how a comparison of frequently used phrases in Heart of Darkness with those that occur in the 100-million word British National Corpus, reveals further evidence of the theme of vagueness. He analyses the most frequent five-word sequences in the British National Corpus, which all include spatial references, such as at the end of the and in the centre of the (Stubbs 2005: 20). When comparing these with Conrad’s place expression, Stubbs notes that there is a marked difference between the two in that the expressions in Heart of Darkness are all ‘abstract and extremely vague’ and ‘acquire evaluative connotations’ (ibid). Stubbs’ study is a good example of the different techniques available for text internal exploration, as well as for comparative analyses with reference to other corpora.”

Some elements of the text to consider:

  • The very limited audience for the text
  • The way sources are used and cited indicates are common in academia
  • The evaluation of Stubbs’ research, also common in academia
  • The fairly sophisticated language usage such as “concordance,” “lexical,” and “corpora”
  • The complexity of some sentences such as the second paragraph

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