Structure A2 English Language Essay

Monday, 18 March 2013

Tips from Students

Useful thread on student room discussion - tips from students

Semantic Change

 Semantic Change

Weakening - words losing over time some of their original strength - soon now means in the near future but used to mean immediately

Metaphorical extension - often acquire new meanings because they begin to be usedmetaphorically - hawks and doves now just birds but also politicians favouring war and peace - onion bag refers to the net of a goal as well as a bag containing onions

Idioms - always formed from previously existing words - in the doghouse - under the weather - over the moon - wake up and smell the coffee is a more recent example meaning get in touch with the real world

Euphemisms - mild or inoffensive way of describing something distasteful or unpleasant - in the world of business a lack of money can be described as a cashflow problem and the sacking of employees can be referred to as downsizing - bombing raids are surgical strikes and for civilian casualties - collateral damage

Broadening - meaning of a word broadens - retains its old meaning but also takes on new meanings - Holiday used to mean holy day but now it means any day of the week when people don’t have to work - dog used to mean a breed of dog and now means all breeds

Narrowing - a word becomes more specific in its meaning - meat originally meant food in general not just animal flesh - girl used to mean all young people not only females

Amelioration - change gives the word a more positive meaning - pretty used to mean sly or cunning but now means attractive - wicked still has its older meaning of evil but now used in slang which can mean superb/brilliant

Pejoration - change gives the word a more negative meaning - cowboy now often used to indicate incompetence or dishonesty 'cowboy builders' - impertinent once mean irrelevant and now means rude

Political correctness - some semantic change has arisen from the desire for political correctness - drive to replace words and expressions that are considered offensive or demeaning to disadvantaged or minority groups - people with learning difficulties instead of mentally handicapped or backward - mixed race replacing halfcast - words such as actor and sculptor which now refer to females as well as males

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Lexical Changes

Words formed from existing words 

Affixing - most common source of new words - adding prefixes or suffixes to existing words to form new words - prefixes -micro (microwave) -multi (multimedia) inter- super- mega-

Suffix -ism now used to indicate prejudice as in ageism sizeism, -gate become a suffix denoting scandal 

Compounding - when words are combined to form a new larger word or expression - blackbird and laptop are compounds - compounds sometimes divided by a hyphen blue-eyed and can be seperate words head waiter happy hour

Blends - only parts of each word are joined together to form a new word - smog from smoke and fog - motel from motor and hotel - computer term bit from binary and digit

Conversion - word class of an existing word changes creating a new use for the word - noun to a verb, verb to a noun, adjective to verb

Abbreviation/clipping - new word formed by shortening an existing word in some way - ad from advertisement - bus from omnibus - burger from hamburger

Back formation - a word of one type - usually a noun - is shortened to form a word of another type - usually a verb - edit from editor - donate from donation - burgle from burgular

Acronyms - words formed from the initial letters of existing words - radar from radio detection and ranging - scuba from self contained under water breathing apparatus - computer language BASIC from beginners all purpose symbollic instruction code

Completely new words 

Coinage - creation of completely new words that are not derived from any other words - very few words enter language like this - normally they are derived from words that already exist

Words from names 

Eponyms - words derive from the names of people or places - sandwich is named after the fourth earl of sandwich - denim was a material originally imported 'denimes' from Nimes in France -

Other words are trade names - Hoover, yo-yo

Words from other languages 

Borrowing + loan words - when words are taken from other languages
Soprano - italian
prince - french
lager - german
alcohol - arabic-

English absorbed a number of words from the French, Latin and Greeks
Borrowing can occur when a new idea or product is introduced into English life - Russian word 'vodka' entered english this way

Certain borrowings can also reflect power and prestige that language has at a particular time
- political and economic power of the US and the influence of american culture reflect in an  increasingly number of Americanisms e.g. 'gofer', 'off limits', 'pants'

Losing words from the Lexicon -

Archaisms and obsolete words - words and phrases that are no longer used at all are known as being obsolete - archaisms are words that are rarely used but do still exist

Latin and the Latinate

Latin has always been seen as the language of "education".

Many schools and tutors taught it (and still do). During the Renaissance classical texts in Latin regained interest and emergence - obviously remembering that we were invaded by the Romans also.

 Also, the language of the Church and Law was Latin and these were generally the areas where the most literacy was (most early writers were monks in England) - hence the heavy influence of the latinate in early texts.
 More than half of English is derived from Latin - particularly in our prefixes and suffixes

 Prefixes - ant- post- pre-
Suffixes -ate -ic -al
Latin origin words -magnificient emotion colossal history vacuum intellect monopoly nation

Lexical Change

Lexical change comes from various places.

From 18th century onwards, lexical change came from many avenues:

 Technology - inventions are single biggest source of lexical change, whilst most have Latinate/Greek roots - some are created in different ways.

 Travel - as travel has become easier - so to have our ways of picking up words. In Victorian times, Indian words came into our lexis from the Empire e.g. pyjamas, verandah, etc.

We now have more words from Eastern cultures e.g. Tsunami, kamikaze, karaoke. In 20th Century lexical change has come from influence of the US as a superpower - many Americanisms has come into our language.


Many of the rules of grammar we observe today began in 18th century when several influential books of grammar were written.

In particular Samuel Jonson developing his dictionary of English in 1755 which brought in standardisation to not just spellings but also definitions and meanings.

 It also confirmed the Midlands accents (Oxford and Cambridge) as the PREFERRED way of writing and spelling

The 18th century also had standardisation in the growth of education and literacy - many accepted regional expressions and phrases were replaced by standardised ones - particularly in writing.

The invention of printing with Caxton in 1476 created a requirement for standardisation as printers were competing with each other.

 Caxton himself chose to print texts in the East Midland dialect - London, Oxford, Cambridge as these were seen as the most prestigious and "correct" form of English Printing also impacted in that spelling and punctuation became more standardised and in the 17th century a modern punctuation system began to occur.

How to structure a comparison response

A comparison response still follows the basic essay structure:

  • an introduction
  • four or five main points supported by details
  • a conclusion - this must link back to the question, and mention both texts

When you compare texts, it’s important to talk about both texts all the way through. Don’t write all about one text, then all about the other.

In each paragraph, make sure you mention both, even if a point is mostly about one of them.

Sentence starters

Some key phrases can help you to compare texts.

Similarities Differences
Similarly…In contrast…
In the same wayOn the other hand…
Just as... so does....Alternatively…
Both... and...In a different way…

When comparing texts, you are making a point about two different texts, backing up ideas with evidence and explaining the idea. Then using a linking statement, you can connect the two ideas together.


Take a look at the structure of the following example, where the writer compares how their mother and father react to poor behaviour:

Both my Mum and Dad lose their temper sometimes when we misbehave, but in completely different ways.

My Mum usually reacts to everything by losing her temper really quickly and screaming in response to make sure everyone knows just how furious she is. The thing that causes her to react strictly is usually leaving lights on. The quotation, ‘If I have to tell you again to turn those lights off, I will take the bulb out of your bedroom!’ This shows that sometimes she can exaggerate in her reactions.

On the other hand, Dad will hardly ever lose his temper, or raise his voice. Instead, he will just stare at you silently, so you know instantly that you are in trouble. The quotation, ‘Well’ is the single word that he says once he has stared at you for a minute, and this shows that whilst he doesn’t scream and shout like Mum, he gives you a warning of the lecture that he is about to give you.


Notice how the writer makes a point about how each parent loses their temper, backs it up with evidence and then explains their idea. The linking sentence starting with ‘on the other hand’ shows how the two ideas are similar or different.

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