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Language Paper 1: Analysing Language

In language paper one, the second question you answer is about analysing language. It is only an 8 mark question, so you shouldn’t spend more than around 10-12 minutes writing, but it should be a question that anyone can get a really good mark on.

The exam will always ask you to focus on one smaller section of the extract, so you don’t need to analyse the whole source.

It will look like this:

Look in detail at this extract from lines 8 to 16 of the Source:

He saw it there, pushing through and twisting its head, saw the wet greasy fur and its mean red eyes. He kicked at it and missed. The rat scuttled out from the tiny gap between the slat supports and ran across the mud. Normally Alfred would have let it go. Rats were, after all, commonplace but something, whether pent-up anger… hate… loss… pain… boredom, whichever it was made him give chase after it. The creature appeared sluggish, as if it were weighed down with overeating. It had most likely been feeding on what was caught, left behind, in the lines and coils of barbed wire which stretched for miles beyond the trench. The terrible sad debris of dead soldiers. The remains that were left behind after a 6am push.

How does the writer use language here to describe the rat? You could include the writer’s choice of:

  • words and phrases

  • language features and techniques

  • sentence forms.                                [8 marks]

     

     

Firstly, read the question really carefully. It tells you to focus on language and the rat, so make sure you link all your ideas back to the language used to describe the rat.

You should use the bullet points to help you annotate / highlight interesting parts of the passage. My thinking would be like this:

words and phrases: 

What interesting words can I spot? Are there any words which you wouldn’t normally link to a rat? Why has the writer chosen them? Are these verbs, adjectives, adverbs? What ideas do these give me about the rat?

language features and techniques: 

Is there any figurative (non-literal) language? Has the writer used simile, metaphor, or personification? Why? What images are they trying to conjure? Are there any other interesting images suggested? Is exaggeration, alliteration or onomatopoeia used to emphasis the ideas, feelings or sounds in the text?

sentence forms: 

Are there short sentences for drama and suspense, or for abrupt pauses? Are there long lists or longer descriptive sentences? Why? Are questions used? Has the writer used listing or repetition to emphasise a particular idea or feeling? Are there any sentence patterns I could discuss?

In this particular extract, I’ve noticed the following:

words and phrase: 

Lots of the words and phrases contribute to making the rat seem nasty and evil and like it’s out to get Alfred. The verbs ‘pushing’ and ‘twisting’ to describe the movement could show its desire and determination to get through the trench. The verb ‘scuttled’ could also be associated with the movement of vermin. The words make the rat seem disgusting and repulsive – like the stereotypical presentation of rats. Also, the adjectives ‘wet’ and ‘greasy’ and ‘mean’ contribute to this disgusting character.

language features and techniques:

There is a sense of imagery in ‘mean, red eyes’ which suggests a very devilish appearance. The rat is given a demonic appearance through the connotations of ‘red eyes.

Also, ‘wet, greasy fury’ could be part of a metaphor. The word ‘greasy’ can also mean sly and untrustworthy. Again the rat is made to seem sly and sinister.

There’s also a building symbol of the rat as a representation of the evils of war. Alfred begins to hate it – for him it reminds him of the horrors he has experience.

Sentence forms:

I don’t think there’s much to comment on here. The short sentence ‘He kicked at it and missed’ helps portray how angry and frustrated the rat makes Alfred feel. As mentioned, the rat seems to represent the enemy and could be a symbol for Alfred’s emotions – which are listed in a sentence ‘pent-up anger… hate… loss… pain… boredom,’ This listing helps represent how Alfred’s emotions are how represented by the rat

Writing up your answer:

Be concise – try to use embedded quotations so you can cover lots of ideas. Use technical terminology when you can, but don’t feature spot. Make sure everything you say links back to the key words in the question, language and the rat.

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