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Informalization of written language. Ling 206 UP/November 2004. Literacy Studies. The role of written language in everyday life Texts Practices. Critical textual analysis. Talking about texts in a new way: shifting away from the ordinary experience of texts

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Informalization of written language

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informalization of written language

Informalization of written language

Ling 206

UP/November 2004

literacy studies
Literacy Studies

The role of written language in everyday life



critical textual analysis
Critical textual analysis

Talking about texts in a new way: shifting away from the ordinary experience of texts

Reflecting on the way we make meaning from texts

Critical: question social life in moral and political terms (social justice and power)

textual analysis and ethnography
Textual analysis and ethnography

Limits of textual analysis

What ethnography can bring to textual analysis: practices, settings, contexts (macro); causal effects of texts, how texts a read by particular people in particular events


Discourses can be described as themes, attitudes and values - expressed through written and oral statements, images and behaviour - which at a given time and place, within a certain institutional or non-institutional context are deemed meaningful (adapted from Gee 1999: 37).

discourse as an abstract noun
Discourse as an abstract noun

Extended stretches of text (spoken or written)

Registers and genres

discourse as a count noun
Discourse as a count noun

Discourses represent or describe particular aspects of the physical, social and psychological world (see Fairclough 2003: 26).


The acceptance of statements as being obvious and inherently ‘true’ (Foucault 1980).


An example of border crossing

Genres are associated with particular domains of social practices, but the boundaries between domains are permeable.

Colonization (Habermas)

universities job adverts
Universities: job adverts

Context: increasing privatisation of public services and the incursion of market principles into the public domain

Border crossing between informative and promotional language – new hybrid genre

example 1 bath university 2002
Example 1: Bath University (2002)
  • Personalization of the reader (conversational genre)
  • Narrative style
  • Specific identities are created both for the institution and the prospective candidate
  • An impression of equality and solidarity?
example 2 newcastle nottingham 1992
Example 2: Newcastle/Nottingham (1992)
  • No personalization
  • Frequent use of passives (agentless)
  • Nominalizations (‘applications are invited…’)
  • Institution behind the advert remains anonymous (no discursive creation of identity)
public information brochures
Public information brochures
  • An example of colonization?
  • What is the main purpose of the leaflet: to inform parents about the scheme or to convince them to sign up for it?
  • Choice of photographs: a marker of informalization?
further examples
Further examples
  • A brief government report on a recent survey: informative or promotional?
“I am determined to ensure that today’s young people will no longer endure the decades of neglect in literacy and numeracy education which is reflected so starkly in this survey. Our recruitment of 50% more maths teachers in just four years and dedicated literacy and numeracy strategies in primary schools are already delivering significant improvements in maths attainment at secondary level. ”
a leaflet on pain management
A leaflet on pain management

Making the text more accessible by using a conversational style (question-answer sequences)?

Written communication at the workplace: manipulation of the interpersonal for instrumental reasons? (Use of the inclusive ‘we’)
  • Textmessaging: from informal language to invented spellings

Written language is not static – it is changing in much the same way as spoken language is.

Boundaries between spoken and written language are becoming less prominent.