English Language Sample Essay Repository (2022)

Should put up my essays as well - I have them stashed in my computer from last year:

I don't remember entirely, but these essays I wrote close to the exam (except the very last one) and I was consistently getting 13-14/15.

“Language plays a powerful role in both contributing to and in eliminating discrimination.” (Commonwealth of Australia, Style Manual, 1994).
In what ways can language both contribute to and eliminate discrimination?

Writer Nathaniel Hawthorne summarised the potency of language in the following statement: “Words, so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Contributing to and eliminating discrimination are but two uses of language. Discriminatory language lowers the standing of one social group of people, whilst non-discriminatory language mitigates this effect. These uses of language in contemporary society can be found in various domains, including asylum seekers, gender and race. One can theorise the linguistic mechanism for discriminatory and non-discriminatory language – how language discriminates or does the opposite. One such model is that two groups of people are assigned different value judgements by association with lexemes with negative connotations, or reference to traits. On the other hand, non-discriminatory language either equates these connotations, or uses a single lexeme to refer to the two groups together.

Discriminatory language is highly prevalent in the discussion of asylum seekers, and is used in various ways. The deterioration of the value judgements of this group of people can be undertaken by assignment of lexemes with negative connotations to them. Examples include ‘illegals’ and ‘queue jumpers,’ with both suggest that the asylum seekers are intrinsically doing something wrong. The use of ‘air arrivals’ and ‘boat arrivals’ by the media to refer to asylum seekers dehumanises them, given that these lexemes make no reference to a living entity. Descriptive language can also be used to further demonise asylum seekers. For instance, Monash University lecturer Adrienne Millbank describes asylum seekers as those who ‘break in illegally’ and are ‘manipulating the system,’ which again implies that they have vested interests, and a Herald Sun article uses the verb phrase ‘flood in’ in reference to asylum seekers entering Australia, which dehumanises them by removing their individuality. Politicians such as Prime Minister Gillard referring to ‘processing asylum seekers’ also does this, given that the verb ‘process’ is generally associated with managing inanimate objects such as ‘processing meat,’ and their use of the noun phrase ‘the Malaysia solution’ and ‘the Pacific solution’ also suggests that the asylum seekers are simply a problem to society that needs to be solved, rather than people who genuinely need help. One can thus see how the above examples show the mechanism in which language can be used to discriminate against asylum seekers.

Discrimination against women is also undertaken through language, and the mechanisms are numerous. This type of language accentuates the erroneously assumed subordinate role of women in society, at worst as simply sex objects. For instance, IBM worker Susan Spiteri was told to ‘get her breasts out [to get sales]’ and Channel 9 presenter Christine Spiteri was told that female employees are hired based on their ‘f**kability.’ The above examples imply that the role of women in the workplace is simply to appear desirable, rather than use their skills. Another mechanism for gender discrimination is through the assignment of different lexemes to the two genders that describe the same trait. The lexemes assigned to women generally have more negative connotations than those assigned to men. For example, where a man is considered ‘assertive’ or a ‘player,’ a woman may be considered a ‘bitch’ or a ‘slut’ respectively. Gender-specific nouns for professions were once generic, for instance ‘chairman’ and ‘air hostess,’ which implies that particular jobs belong to particular genders, with the subordinate service allocated to females. The gender could also be specified in the pre-modifier of the noun phrase, for instance in ‘lady doctor’ and ‘male nurse.’ The examples imply that doctors are generally male and nurses generally female, hence the use of the pre-modifiers is required to clarify the gender of the doctor or nurse. It is quite evident that, although the methods vary, all of the above instances demean the status of women in society.

However, non-discriminatory language is also used in society, which effectively offsets the effects of discriminatory language. Non-discriminatory language simply elevates the status of a previously demeaned social group in various ways. One way is through the use of language that does not differentiate between the social groups, for instance the use of gender-neutral lexemes such as ‘chairperson’ and ‘flight attendant,’ instead of ‘chairman’ and ‘air hostess’ as generic terms. A second way is through the use of lexemes with elevated connotations; examples include the use of ‘Anglo-Australian’ in an article on The Age to refer to what would sometimes be called ‘white Australians’ and the use of ‘sex worker’ for a prostitute. A second way is through circumlocution of the noun phrase by replacing the pre-modifier with a qualifier. This yields noun phrases such as ‘students with Asian backgrounds’ (as used in an article entitled ‘White Flight’ in The Age) and ‘people with visual impairments,’ replacing ‘Asian students’ and ‘visually impaired people.’ The revised versions place focus on the head words ‘people’ and ‘students’ rather than their modifiers ‘visually impaired’ and ‘Asian.’ This mitigates the effect of the descriptions and value judgements assigned to these lexemes. These examples display the many methods by which language can alleviate discrimination.

Language can discriminate in various ways, including the use of lexemes with negative connotations and descriptive language that assigns negative value judgements on a social group of people. Language can do the opposite by removing those negative value judgements by various means, including the use of qualifiers instead of modifiers as descriptors and lexemes with higher connotations. Again, we see how powerful a tool language can be for many purposes - how ‘potent for good and evil [words] become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them,’ as aptly put by Hawthorne.

‘Jargon has two distinct functions: the primary function is to serve as a technical or specialist language. The other is to promote in-group solidarity: to exclude those people who do not use the jargon.’

How does jargon (professional or popular) create cohesiveness within a speech community? Support your response with specific examples.
As put by famous writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, ‘words, as powerless and innocent they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.’ This is a reference to the notion that language, mere words, is a powerful tool for many purposes. Jargon, a variety of language specific to a particular profession or interest group, has features that make it conducive for a variety of purposes, including creating cohesiveness within a speech community (the members of such an interest group or profession). This is achieved by enhancing communication within the speech community, marking group solidarity and marking group boundaries.

Jargon enhances communication within the speech community through its semantic precision and specificity. This feature ensures that lexical density is reduced, as the complex concepts within the profession can be expressed in fewer words. This is seen in medical jargon, where specific adverbials such as ‘proximal,’ ‘distal’ and ‘medial’ are used to precisely describe spatial relationships between different anatomical parts of the body, rather than the vague ‘next to,’ ‘above’ and ‘below.’ As a result, the utterance ‘the upper arm bone is closer to the trunk of the body than the lower arm bone that is further away from the trunk of the body when the palm of the corresponding hand is facing the front of the body’ can be replaced by the more concise ‘the humerus is proximal to the radius.’ Biology jargon is another example where this occurs; the jargon is so precise that biology students are often penalised in examinations in giving definitions of biology terms, because the definitions are not watertight. For instance, the terms ‘dominant’ and ‘recessive,’ whilst used in wider society in references to genes and alleles (specific forms of a gene) in the noun phrases ‘dominant gene’ and ‘recessive gene,’ only refer to the corresponding phenotypes (the physical characteristics exhibited by a person) in the jargon. This facilitates communication as the same two alleles can give rise to multiple pairs of phenotypes, which have different dominance relationships, and the terms ‘dominant’ and ‘recessive’ used in reference to genes do not take into account this fact. The above examples show how lexical density is reduced and precise meaning is conveyed through jargon, and through this, cohesiveness within the speech community is achieved.

This achievement could also be reached through the use of jargon as a marker of in-group solidarity. Jargon can only be used and understood by people familiar with it – those within the profession or interest group. This feature enables jargon to act as a marker of identity, and through the establishment of this common identity this solidarity is achieved (primarily through the spoken mode). This is seen in the use of the jargon of the card game “500.” The players use lexemes such as ‘renege,’ ‘void’ and ‘misere’ and they bask in the knowledge that only they understand such terms. Another instance of this is seen in the general public, who have been exposed this year to financial jargon through the media, or technological jargon through their extensive use of computers – instances of jargonistic terms being opened up to the populace. The populace is familiar with lexemes such as ‘dead cat bounce,’ ‘GFC’ and ‘recession,’ and they constantly talk about ‘networking’ and ‘interfacing’ with one another. Through the use of these lexemes the general public identifies itself with technology and finance, and through this cohesiveness is achieved throughout the populace as a speech community.

By extension of creating in-group solidarity, jargon can cement the speech community through exclusion of outsiders. The fact that the jargon is specific to this speech community implies that members outside this group will be excluded as the jargon is not within their lexicon, and therein lie the group boundaries. Medical practitioners, for instance, use a more informal version of jargon – ‘slargon’ – to one another in the presence of their patients. A paramedic would refer to a recent arrival of a patient with alcohol poisoning as having a ‘UBI’ (for ‘unexplained beer injury’) and if the patient was particularly rude, the paramedic would subtly remark to his/her colleague that he is treating a ‘CLL’ (for ‘complete low-life’) or a ‘FLK’ (for ‘funny-looking kid’). These three abbreviations are unknown to the patients, but are known to the medical practitioners, and on that basis the group boundary is drawn between the medics and the laypeople. Inside jokes, which only members of the in-group are able to appreciate the humour, may be achieved through the use of jargon. Mathematical jargon is used in the pun ‘I can’t think rationally with a log on my head’ and chemistry jargon in the utterance ‘chemists do it periodically on the table.’ The puns are on the jargonistic terms ‘rationally,’ ‘log’ (a shortening of ‘logarithm’) and ‘periodic table,’ and given that only members of those academic groups possess these lexemes, only they appreciate the joke, and in doing so they exclude outsiders who do not understand it, cementing their identity. In effect, these examples demonstrate the power of jargon in tightening the bonds between the members of the profession or interest group whilst excluding those outside it.

Jargon creates cohesiveness within a speech community through promoting effective communication within its members, enhancing in-group solidarity and finally cementing their identity and distinctiveness through exclusion of outsiders. It is a wonder and it must therefore be appreciated that mere words have the power to exert such a powerful sociological effect on people. It seems as though writer Nathaniel Hawthorne has perfectly described the sheer potency of language in one single, simple sentence.

Texts do not exist in a vacuum; they are created to be interpreted within a particular context. Discuss how context determines the register and the degree of formality of language use. By drawing on a range of subsystems of language, support your response with specific examples of Australian English.

Language use is highly variable and depends on a variety of sociolinguistic variables including audience, purpose and mode, which together comprise the context. The audience must be considered in a two-dimensional manner; one must consider their social distance and their social status relative with their audience, which are both positively correlated with formality. The registers themselves have linguistic features which may be conducive or deleterious to one’s purpose, depending on the context, and hence their use needs to be regulated for the speaker or writer to fulfil the purpose. Three registers widely used in Australia – slang, jargon and varieties of Australian English – are no exception; their use is also determined by context.

The causative relationship between the context and the register can be explained through an examination of the use of the non-standard varieties of Australian English, which include the Broad and ethnocultural varieties. The non-standard linguistic features of these varieties are correlated with informality – a decreased social distance. These varieties are highly distinctive, and hence can serve as powerful identity markers. The above features are suited for particular purposes. For instance, Julia Gillard utilises the distinctively Australian lexeme ‘g’day’ in greeting New Zealand rugby players (the audience). Her purpose was to identify herself as Australian to a foreign group of people. Kevin Rudd’s purpose was to instil in-group solidarity with his audience, his Australian citizens, in his usage of the characteristic Australian noun phrases ‘happy little Vegemite’ and ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle (sic).’ Sports commentary also sees the use of the Broad variety for the purpose of creating solidarity with the Australian audience. Cricket commentator Ian Healy often utters the Australian phrase ‘you little beauty,’ even accentuating his Australian accent with the tapping of the [t], pronouncing the phrase as /ju lɪdəl bjudɪ/. Another prime example is seen in the language of second-generation Sri-Lankan Australians. When speaking with their contemporaries, they utilise a General Australian accent. However, when their audience changes to their Sri Lankan parents (for instance through a phone call), they code-switch and immediately adopt the linguistic features of the Sri Lankan ethnolect, including the monophthongisation of [eɪ] to [e:]. In effect, the above examples all exemplify the consideration of audience and purpose in selecting a distinctively Australian informal register.

This context-register relationship can also be examined through slang and its features. It possesses non-standard features of English, making it an informal register that is only used when the social distance with the audience is low. This informality also makes it more prevalent in the spoken rather than the written mode. It is also a register used only by a specific group of people, and hence can also act as an identity marker. If the purpose were to create in-group solidarity and the audience were from the specific social group, slang may be used. This idea is prevalent in teenage slang, where teenagers often use ‘so’ as an intensifier and ‘sick,’ ‘awesome’ and ‘fail’ as adjectives. Even the EMC-derived acronym ‘LOL’ is incorporated into their spoken language. Medical slang (as distinct from medical jargon) is also used amongst doctors (whose peers are the audience) only in an informal context. A patient could be admitted with a ‘UBI’ (for ‘unexplained beer injury’) and if they were rude, they were labelled with the abbreviation ‘CLL’ (for ‘complete low life’). Olympiad slang can also be used amongst Olympiad mathematicians (again in an informal context), where lexemes such as ‘coord-bash’ (a clumsy, inelegant solution to a problem that exclusively uses coordinate geometry) are used. In all of these cases, the lexemes involved are only found within the lexicons of the members of the group; this is conducive to the purpose of fostering a sense of harmony and cohesiveness within the group and decreasing the social distance between its members.

However, a more formal register such as jargon may be adopted in certain contexts. Jargon is a register specific to a profession or area of knowledge, and its formality derives from a variety of linguistic features, including the lack of non-standard features. Given that those knowledgeable in a discipline would be competent users of the jargon, it is also associated with credibility. This feature is observed in the UK, where the rather dubious Brain Gym concept was deemed credible by school teachers, who were impressed by the jargonistic terms ‘reticular formation’ and ‘increased oxidation’ in its promotional material. Jargon also possesses semantic precision and specificity, and this is seen in medical jargon, where precise adverbials such as ‘proximal’ and ‘lateral’ are used to describe the spatial relationships between the anatomical parts of the human body. In addition, specific jargons have specific linguistic features that facilitate individual requirements of the profession. For instance, legal jargon is designed to fulfil the primary requirement of precision. Hence, it is devoid of pronouns as anaphoric references (the full noun phrase is repeated instead) and it is rife with subordinate clauses, which unambiguously identify the exact relationships between the clauses. Academic jargon fulfils the discourse requirement of uncertainty through hedging expressions such as ‘it can be deduced that’ or ‘one may assume that.’ These features would make jargon a highly appropriate register to utilise within the context of the specific profession. More generally, the aforementioned linguistic features of jargon are suited to specific purposes and audiences. Firstly, being a formal register, jargon would be appropriate if the social distance with the audience is high. Furthermore, if the context entails a referential purpose and a familiarity of the audience with the jargon, then jargon would be the register of choice, given this semantic precision. However, if the audience were outside the profession or interest group, the jargon cannot be used for a communicative purpose – but it may be used to establish credibility within the audience, if that were the purpose. This demonstrates that the appropriateness of jargon is dependent upon context.

The dependence of the register used on the audience and purpose, which are part of the context, has been established through an examination of Australian English, slang and jargon. This is due to the fact that registers have linguistic features that may be conducive or pernicious to the purpose, and this is itself dependent upon the audience. The dependence of register on the context is based on a simple idea – the principle of appropriateness.

“How is language used to confuse, mislead or obfuscate in the twenty-first century? Discuss in relation to public language.”

In the words of famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne, “words, so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” This is a reference to the sheer power of words, mere symbols or sounds, to exert such a strong effect on people. This effect can even be devastating, if the purpose of ‘those who know how to combine them’ is to confuse, mislead or obfuscate a public audience, and this can be done in a myriad of ways. One can carefully select lexemes that have the intended connotations (euphemism or dysphemism), a register associated with credibility may be used (jargon), or the syntax can be carefully crafted.

Euphemism can be used to mislead by mitigating meaning through indirect reference. This indirect reference means that meaning is inferential rather than direct, so the connotations associated with the euphemistic lexemes are elevated. Hence, the public can be misled through euphemism into accepting potentially inflammatory concepts as their senses are not aggravated to such a high degree. This device is used to great effect by the military, which refers to a lethal operation as ‘kinetic military action’ and the practice of taking suspects outside the country with its legal rights and brutally torturing them as ‘rendition.’ Although both terms refer to the torture and killing of human beings, they are palatable to the public as the derivation of meaning requires inference, allowing the military to kill and torture with little opposition. The hospital system has used ‘serious diagnostic misadventure’ as a reference to an anaesthetist killing a patient through administering a fatal dose of anaesthetic, in order to prevent prosecution. The term has no denotative suggestion of killing, and therein lies its euphemistic nature.

The euphemism tactic can even be coupled with the use of dysphemism to create a false dichotomy between two sets of people. The euphemistic term is assigned to one set, elevating its standing through elevated connotations, whilst the dysphemistic term is assigned to the other set, lowering its standing through negative connotations. The military, for instance, discriminates between two types of fighters who use guerrilla warfare. Those who fight with US interests are termed ‘freedom fighters’ or ‘rebels,’ whilst those who fight against US interests are labelled ‘terrorists.’ The ‘freedom fighters’ are viewed as intrinsically good, whilst the ‘terrorists’ are viewed as intrinsically evil, despite the fact that they undertake the same practices. A similar idea occurs with the description of entering a country without its members’ permission; the euphemistic ‘liberation’ is used for the US military, whilst the dysphemistic analogue ‘invasion’ is used for enemy military. Even Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has used this tactic, distinguishing between instances of untruths (itself a euphemism!). He terms his own lying as a ‘misconsistency’ whilst he described climate change using the expletive dysphemism ‘absolute crap.’ Here he aims to portray some untruths as so, and others as less so, according to his purpose. The above shows how the careful use of euphemism and dysphemism can be used to obfuscate.

The careful manipulation of syntax can also be used to obfuscate, as well as mislead the public. Lengthy sentences with subordinate clauses are highly effective, as people process each sentence as one unit, and they have to determine the complex relationship between the clauses. Former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile used this method in his utterance “they are moving things around the different baskets, and it will be the end game in terms of putting numbers in square brackets in terms of tariff reductions, if there are significant requests on time frames in terms of phase-in.” Confusion lies in the use of three clauses, including the subordinate clause “if there are...,” along with the repeated use of the vague prepositional phrase ‘in terms of.’ The agentless passive voice may be used in order to hide the agent whilst maintaining authority and credibility. The police, for example, utilised this in its statement regarding the Occupy Melbourne protests – “several protesters were injured,” – misleading the public by not acknowledging that the police (the agent) were responsible. The double-negative may be used to confuse, as the audience needs to process two negatives that negate one another. A prime example is Gillard’s response to an attack on her proposal on asylum seekers, which was “I will not leave undisturbed the impression that I made an announcement about a specific location.” The negating lexeme ‘not’ and the prefix ‘un-,’ needed to be computed by the audience as cancelling out. As displayed by the above examples, the syntax can be manipulated in vast number of ways to create confusion.

Besides manipulating individual subsystems of language, a whole new register can be adopted to mislead – jargon. Being the specialised register of a specific profession or interest group, jargon is highly effective in misleading as a public audience does not possess the lexemes in the jargon, and will thus not understand the language. In addition, jargon can be used to convey credibility, as the audience assumes that because those knowledgeable in the field are well versed with jargon, the converse is true. These two features of jargon make it highly useful for appearing to communicate information whilst communicating nothing, or in the words of Orwell, “to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Examples of jargon use in advertising are numerous, and are described in detail by journalist Ben Goldacre in his book “Bad Science.” He describes how a detox patch was described by its producers as being ‘hygroscopic’ and containing ‘hydrolysed carbohydrate,’ which mean ‘absorbs water’ and ‘sugar’ respectively. The audience recognises that the two lexemes are derived from chemistry jargon, and thus believes that the producers are credible and can be believed. Goldacre goes on to explain how schoolteachers in the UK were misled by the promoters of the rather dubious ‘Brain Gym’ concept through the use of ‘reticular formation’ and ‘increased oxidation,’ derived from neuroscience and chemistry jargon respectively. The use of jargon simply evoked sophistication, and the schoolteachers were duly persuaded, even despite the fact that ‘increased oxidation’ was actually a misnomer. The producers were discussing oxygen in the blood, so the correct term was ‘oxygenation,’ and ‘oxidation’ of blood would actually be lethal. These uses of jargon show just how potent a tool it can be to bypass reason and mislead the public audience simply through credibility.

As shown, language used for confusion and obfuscation is a craft, whose masters effectively control the public’s mind. Through semantics, it can mitigate the effects of a potentially inflammatory concept or create a false distinction between two identical sets of people, as per the language users’ purpose. Through syntax, the public’s minds can be tied up by the careful crafting of clauses and prepositional phrases. The use of jargon can be used to sell a dubious concept whilst simultaneously instilling credibility with the audience. These are only some of a vast expanse of techniques that can be used for a confusing and obfuscating effect. In reference to Hawthorne’s statement, language is highly ‘potent,’ and in this case, it is potent for ‘evil.’

Starting with the examples above, discuss some of the linguistic features of the language of SMS. Refer to at least two of the subsystems in your response.

How is the language of SMS a valid and important variety of Australian English?

The recent advent of the short message service (SMS) available on mobile phones brings with it a unique variety of language. The language of SMS even blurs the distinction between the spoken and the written mode as, whilst it is a written mode, contains features common to both modes. Some attitudes towards SMS language are highly negative, for instance that of John Humphrys who laments that ‘texters savage our sentences, pillage our punctuation and [rape] our vocabulary.’ This is a reference to the non-standard features of SMS, but these are not implicative of its invalidity. SMS is a valid variety of Australian English through its effectiveness in concise communication and its potential for conveying identity.

The linguistic features of SMS reflect its nature as a melting pot of the spoken and the written language features, despite it being a written mode. Elision and assimilation, phonological features normally found in the spoken mode, are featured in SMS language, for instance in the lexemes ‘wanna’ and ‘coz’ (for ‘want to’ and ‘because’). The lexicon is rife with acronyms such as ‘LOL’ and ‘ROFL’ that attempt to ape prosodic and paralinguistic features of the spoken mode, in this case laughing and rolling on the floor. Ellipsis, a syntactic feature, is often found in SMS messages, for instance in the clause ‘coming to oz’ where the subject is omitted. Discourse particles such as ‘well’ and ‘yeah’ can be used in SMS conversations, even though they are generally confined to spoken language. However, despite its spoken language features, it still remains a written mode with characteristics such as permanence and potential for editing.

These characteristics of SMS actually make it highly advantageous, and hence valid, as a language variety. Firstly, SMS is an effective medium by which messages can be conveyed between people cheaply and concisely. The linguistic features of SMS arose through the struggle for brevity, as only a limited number of characters per text is allowed. For instance, ellipsis is prevalent as it is an omission of sentence elements, so fewer characters are used. This desire for brevity leads to concise but effective communication, relying on an appropriate level of inference to account for the omission of sentence elements. As a non-standard and hence informal register, SMS language is also effective in decreasing the social distance between the interlocutors. This is because non-standard features of language are associated with intimacy and a disinterest in maintaining face. The above are practical advantages of SMS language; this register also has a higher-order function.

Given its distinctiveness as a language variety and prevalence in Australian society, SMS language is a marker of Australia’s identity as a technological nation. The aforementioned linguistic characteristics of SMS language are found in few other registers; in few other written registers would the acronyms and abbreviations that characterise SMS language be found. Users of this register can hence be identified as technologically savvy. In addition, these linguistic features are also found in social networking media, a technological entity, accentuating the connection between this register and technology. Such is the potency of SMS language as a marker of identity that teenagers have even started using acronyms and abbreviations (particularly ‘LOL’) in the spoken mode for this very purpose. SMS language is one of many varieties of Australian English that convey an aspect of Australian identity.

Whilst SMS language is a register with non-standard linguistic features normally found in the spoken mode, it is indeed a valid and important variety of Australian English. Not only do its features make it conducive for practical functions such as concise communication, SMS language also contributes to Australia’s identity as a technological nation. Irrespective of the notion that ‘texters are savaging our sentences, pillaging our punctuation and raping our vocabulary,’ SMS language has a different role in society to Standard English. Society should look at SMS language, not as a defilation of the English language, rather as a contributor to the diversity, richness and potential of our mother tongue.

‘We borrow, we adapt, we interpret, we bend things to our use … it’s probably Australian culture. The end result is still a unique Australian blend and a unique Australian view.’
Susan Butler, The Weekend Australian, November 24–25 2001.

Do you agree that, despite the influence of international, popular and technological cultures, Australian English is still distinctive?

One could talk about Australian English as a single national variety. However, in actuality, it is a melting pot of a myriad of language varieties including the aggregation of the Broad, General and Cultural varieties, the ethnocultural varieties and Indigenous Australian English. Throughout its role as the national variety Australian English has been subjected to a wide range of influences, including American popular culture, the waves of immigration into Australia and the advent of electronic-mediated communication through mobile phones and computers. As a result, Australian English has undergone some changes in its linguistic features. Nevertheless, this influence does not preclude the distinctiveness of Australian English; the Australian phonology has largely been unaffected, and Indigenous Australian English has been relatively resistant to such influences.

In recent decades Australians have been exposed to an enormous amount of American popular culture (through music, film and TV), and this has brought with it the adoption of American lexemes to Australian English. Examples include ‘buddy’ (plus its shortening ‘bud’) and ‘man’ as informal greetings of acquaintances, often used instead of the quintessential Australian ‘mate.’ The American phrase ‘no problem’ is often used to accept apologies in replacement of the Australian equivalent ‘no worries.’ The highly versatile discourse particle ‘like’ is another import from America, as is the interjection ‘whatever.’ However, the influence of American popular culture on Australian English is largely limited to the lexicon of Australian English, and does not pervade the other subsystems (apart from perhaps discourse). Hence, its influence on Australian English is minimal.

Electronically-mediated communication (EMC), derived through the use of social networking media and mobile phones, has brought with it a whole new language variety that is widely used in Australian society, and is thus a component of Australian English. This language variety, whilst used in the written mode, contains a range of spoken language features. Prosodic and paralinguistic features may be represented using acronyms and abbreviations such as ‘ROFL’ (for ‘rolling on the floor laughing’) or ‘LMAO’ for (‘laugh my ass off’), or through non-standard orthography such as repetition of a letter (for instance in ‘heeeeeey’) to indicate elongation of a syllable. Also, the use of social networking media has led to the creative formation of words, for instance ‘friend’ and ‘facebook’ through conversion, ‘unfriend’ through affixation and the previously mentioned acronyms and abbreviations. Such is the pervasion of EMC into Australian society that lexemes normally specific to EMC in the written mode are being used in the spoken mode. For example, conversations between Australian teenagers are peppered with interjections such as ‘LOL.’ These linguistic features of EMC have been integrated into Australian English via technology, and the presence of such features in a different (spoken) mode is indicative of its entrenchment in the national variety.

International influences, namely waves of immigration in the late 20th century, have brought with them the ethnocultural varieties of Australian English. Also known as ethnolects, these cultural varieties of English have also entrenched themselves into Australian society. Their linguistic features derive primarily from their speakers’ first language. For instance, the South Asian ethnolect is primarily characterised by the monophthongisation of the phonemes [oʊ] and [eɪ] to [ɔ:] and [e:] respectively, given that the South Asian languages are devoid of diphthongs. Interrogative tags such as ‘isn’t it’ are present, whilst the subject and auxiliary are often swapped in interrogatives, so that a South Asian would utter ‘Why you are going to school today?’ Whilst these ethnolects are used primarily by first-generation immigrants who speak English as a second language, ethnolects are also sometimes used by second-generation immigrants in certain contexts, despite their fluency in Standard Australian English. A prime example is the Lebanese ethnolect, which is sometimes spoken amongst students of Lebanese or even European origin in schools of the northern suburbs. This transcends into the non-Lebanese students at the same school; they adopt this ethnolect at times to be part of the in-group at school, given that these ethnic groups comprise a relative majority within these schools. Lexemes like ‘habib’ (a term for ‘friend’) are uttered, and the word ‘doing’ may be pronounced as [dʊən] instead of [duɪŋ]. The prevalence of ethnolects within Australia, and their use even amongst second-generation immigrants, points to the fact that immigration has had a high impact on Australian English. Also, given that immigration patterns are different for different Western countries, and that a South Asian ethnolect in Australia would most likely be different to one in another Western country, it can be argued that international influences actually increased the distinctiveness of Australian English.

Nevertheless, many identifying features of the aggregation of the Broad, General and Cultivated varieties remained in the variety and maintained the unique nature of Australian English. In particular, the Australian accent, described as ‘bulletproof’ by linguist Dr Felicity Cox, has been largely unaffected by the previously mentioned influences. The all-too-familiar nasalisation of back vowels, the epenthetic [r] in words such as ‘drawing’ (pronounced [dʒrɔ:rɪŋ]) and the lowering of front phones such as [e] to [æ] (so that ‘today’ would be pronounced as [tudæɪ]) remain characteristic features of Australian phonology. Its morphology has never lost its hypochoristic nature, with the vast amount of diminutives such as ‘povo’ (for ‘poverty’) and ‘arvo’ (for ‘afternoon’). Lexemes and phrases unique to Australia are still used widely. Even Prime Minister Gillard recently greeted New Zealand rugby players with the archetypal Australian greeting ‘g’day’ whilst Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd proclaimed himself as a ‘happy little Vegemite.’ The common discourse particle ‘yeah-no’ is also actually unique to Australia. Finally, the semantic nature of the variety has not changed; ‘thongs’ are still a type of footwear (not a female bathing suit). These are only some of the many linguistic features that maintain the distinctiveness of Australian English.

Indigenous Australian English, also resistant to such influences, is also involved in maintaining the individuality of Australian English. The combination of its various linguistic features across the subsystems is not found in any other English variety. Phonological features include the use of the alveolar stop [d] instead of its dental analogue [ð] and the dropping of the [h]. Lexemes unique to Aboriginal English include ‘monatj’ and ‘booliman’ (both terms for ‘policeman’). A syntactic feature is the omission of the copulative verb in subject – predicate complement constructions, for instance in the utterance ‘he good,’ where the copula verb ‘is’ is not used. Even lexemes such as ‘sorry’ and ‘mother’ have different semantic meanings in this English variety; ‘sorry’ is a reference to mourning whilst ‘mother’ is a reference to the maternal parent and also her sisters. These features, as an aggregation, ensure that Aboriginal English remains a unique variety and in doing so, ascertains that Australian English retains its distinctiveness.

Whilst Australian English has been subject to changes to its lexicon and incorporation of other varieties of English due to various influences, Australian English retains its distinctiveness as it has retained features that characterise it. The phonology of the Broad variety has not been altered measurably, and Australian morphology and semantics have remained relatively constant over time. International influences have also increased the distinctiveness of the national variety. Finally, Indigenous Australian English has maintained its status as a unique language variety; it therefore ensures that Australian English will not converge to any other language variety. In maintaining its individuality, Australian English retains its capacity to act as a marker of national identity.

Should the community be concerned that technology is replacing traditional forms of oral communication, such as face-to-face conversation? Provide linguistic evidence to support your response.

The recent decades have brought with them a multitude of new avenues of communication. Initially, dialogues were only possible in the spoken mode, and restricted to face-to-face conversations. The advent of the telephone removed the latter criterion, and the appearance of SMS messaging, social networking sites, forums and chat rooms allowed for dialogues to be held in the written mode. The spoken and written modes have distinctive features, meaning that dialogues in the two modes will be of a different nature. Telephone and face-to-face conversations have access to prosodics (and paralinguistics for face-to-face), whereas electronically-mediated communication (EMC) generally does not have access to these features. Nevertheless, this should not concern the community as EMC has developed different methods for conversational strategies that fulfil the requirements of discourse, and both EMC and traditional methods have similarities with one another. Also, one should not forget Skype, which allows face-to-face conversation through technology.

EMC and traditional forms of communication have differences as types of spoken and written mode, but this does not imply that EMC is significantly less effective. Whilst it does not have access to prosodic and paralinguistic features, it uses morphology and lexicology to emulate these features. For instance, the prosodic features of volume and syllable elongation can be represented in EMC with capital letters and repetition of the same letter; to represent a lengthened and loud version of ‘hey’ the expression ‘HEEEEEEY’ may be used. Paralinguistic facial expressions can be emulated in EMC with emoticons such as ‘: )’ or even ‘=)’ for happy and ‘>English Language Sample Essay Repository (1)‘ for angry. Body language can be conveyed through the uses of lexemes such as ‘facepalm’ or ‘headdesk.’ It is, however, true that intonation cannot be easily conveyed in EMC, which means tones such as sarcasm may be harder to detect in EMC and need to be derived through context. Also, whilst EMC has equivalents to these features of the spoken mode, they are not as acute, which increases the risk of misunderstandings. Nevertheless, EMC has many practical advantages over traditional forms of communication, such as facilitating cheap long-distance communication (which is handy in maintaining long-distance relationships). The lack of paralinguistics can also be an advantage; Nathan Rosenberg explains in The Age that ‘text allows [people] to have a bit of fun and flirt and say things they wouldn’t normally say.’ Hence, given the fact that EMC has numerous advantages over traditional forms, and it can emulate features of the spoken mode relatively effectively, EMC can be said to be an effective avenue for communication.

Although differences exist between these two varieties of communication, EMC and traditional forms also have similarities with one another which should preclude alarm over the use of EMC. Both of these varieties prioritise communicative efficiency, although traditional forms use phonology whilst EMC uses lexicology. The spoken mode generally is rife with elided and assimilated forms such as ‘wanna’ and ‘gonna’ whilst acronyms and abbreviations such as ‘ttyl’ and ‘sup’ are the analogues for EMC. Discourse markers and non-fluency features, which allow for the effective functioning of a dialogue, are also found in both modes. Particles such as ‘well,’ ‘anyway’ and ‘so’ are uttered in the spoken mode and written in EMC to establish and focus topics, facilitate in turn taking and hedge. Voiced fillers such as ‘um’ and ‘err’ (spelt that way too!) are used both in EMC and the spoken mode to hold the floor whilst thinking about what to say. In addition, backchannels and adjacency pairs feature in both modes, which convey cooperation. In essentials, both forms of communication have similar discourse features which enable cooperative conversation to be undertaken among others. They are not too dissimilar to one another; either form has access to communicative efficiency and conversational strategies, so the question of EMC becoming too prevalent in society is effectively a moot point.

Notwithstanding, technology has been able to combine long-distance communication and face-to-face-to-face communication, where the two were previously mutually exclusive. The advent of Skype, MSN video chat and webcams has allowed people access to paralinguistic features and the advantages that come with it. Emotions and attitudes can be conveyed more acutely through facial expressions and body language, although emoticons and lexemes such as ‘facepalm’ can do so sufficiently. Hence, not only is technology quite similar in discourse to the spoken mode, but technology can also facilitate communication through the spoken mode. Therefore, those concerned about the decline of face-to-face communication should embrace technology as facilitators of such communication.

The increasing prevalence of technology in society should be no cause for alarm. EMC does have its advantages over the spoken mode, and is able to emulate the prosodics and paralinguistics unique to the spoken mode sufficiently. Even then, it is not particularly different to the spoken mode; the two share very similar discourse features. Finally, it may even interact constructively with the spoken mode in the form of Skype. Essentially, EMC should not be considered a travesty to society, rather a rich and powerful combination of the spoken and written mode.

“Who upholds the standards of language in modern Australian society? Discuss with reference to the use of Standard Australian English and other varieties.”

The standards of language refer to the notion of each feature of language to hold the same meaning to its users. In terms of phonology, the pronunciation of each word is standardised; there are very few variants of pronunciations of each word, and these variants are known universally by society. There is a standardised spelling system; there is only one way (sometimes two) to spell a word. Society uses the same basic rules for syntax. For instance, when a noun is placed at the start of the sentence, it is known universally as the subject of that sentence. In the semantic domain, the meaning of each word is also standardised. For example, the word ‘dog’ is known to all speakers as a four-legged animal of the canine family. The primary factor that maintains standards of language is the requirement of mutual intelligibility in society. However, there are other factors that maintain these standards, which include society’s attitude towards non-standard forms of English, the action of educational institutions such as schools and the dictionary.

Standards of language are upheld by the fact that mutual intelligibility is essential for any function of language. In order to communicate information effectively, the communicator must use language in a way such that the audience receives the ideas that were to be communicated. For instance, if an Australian wanted to refer to a friend, the word ‘mate’ would be used; the audience must interpret the lexeme ‘mate’ to mean ‘one’s friend.’ Suppose that the communicator believes that the lexeme ‘hate’ to mean ‘to like someone,’ and that the audience takes it to mean ‘to dislike someone.’ Suppose the communicator likes the audience and wants to convey this, so ‘I hate you’ is uttered. As the audience associates the word ‘hate’ with dislike, they assume that the communicator dislikes them. This is an example of how mutual unintelligibility is deleterious to the function of language users – to communicate and convey information and ideas. If both the communicator and the audience associate the word ‘hate’ with liking someone, then the phrase ‘I hate you’ could be used in this scenario without any form of miscommunication. This principle applies to all forms of language, whether it be Standard Australian English or Aboriginal English or ethnocultural varieties of Australian English. For instance, the Aboriginal lexeme ‘monatj’ is taken to mean ‘policeman’ by all Aboriginal English speakers in Western Australia. One could not use another lexeme that was not associated with ‘policeman’ by wider society, or miscommunication would result. Finally, in society there is a struggle for mutual intelligibility as the conveying of information and ideas is essential for the normal functioning of society; this societal struggle leads to standardisation of language.

Aside from mutual intelligibility, society upholds language standards through its attitude towards non-standard forms. This applies particularly to Standard English, where deviations from it are looked down upon by society in certain contexts as Standard English is seen as a benchmark of credibility. This attitude is seen particularly in the context of job applications, where establishing one’s competence for an occupation is essential. The use of any deviation from Standard English is associated with a lack thereof. An article from The Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Mistakes can Spell Disaster” quotes a study in which when CVs with only one typographical error (interpreted as a spelling mistake and hence a digression from Standard English) were sent into potential employers, it ‘reduced the applicants’ chances of being shortlisted by 50 per cent.’ The employers here assume that scripts with typographical errors (and non-standard syntax for that matter) are those from incompetent or careless applicants, and hence those scripts are unceremoniously thrown into the bin. Every individual in modern Australian society is required to at some point establish their credibility, whether it be in an academic paper, a job application or a formal letter. In order to not be associated with a lack of reliability there is a pressure for all of these individuals to write according to the same set of rules – those as dictated in Standard English. This is another way society holds language standards – in this case Standard English.

Educational institutions, including schools and universities, also play a hand in maintaining the standards of Australian English. Individuals in society learn the rules of syntax, orthography and punctuation in schools, and each individual learns the same rules. Educational institutions dictate what correct use of language is and what incorrect use of language is. In addition, students at schools and universities generally desire high scores in their written work. In order to attain that goal, students need to write according to what their examiners deem correct. There is hence a struggle to adopt the rules of the examiner in order to score highly. This is partly responsible for the standardisation of syntax and orthography. For instance, orthography in Australia follows the British model, with very few American spellings. Teachers in schools deem the spellings ‘organize,’ ‘omelet’ and ‘color’ as incorrect, and ‘organise,’ ‘omelette’ and ‘colour’ as the only correct ways of spelling these words. Students are pressured to follow this model due to the desire for high scores. The breaking of specific rules of syntax are penalised by examiners, so students write according to these rules. Since they are communicating according to the same rules, this leads to standardisation of the language.

There are various forces which maintain and uphold language standards in modern Australian society. The most potent forces come from society itself. One way is through its struggle for mutual intelligibility, which is essential for the functions of language, including communication of ideas and information. The other way society does this is through its judging of non-standard language, and the association of such language with a lack of competency. Educational institutions also have a hand in upholding the standards of language in teaching young Australians correct usage of Standard English. Standardisation of language is essential for the functioning of society; if the language were not standardised, miscommunication between individuals would be rife and society could not function properly!

This last essay I did at the start of the year. It received a score of 13/15.

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