4 min read: this blog post will help you to:
- Understand how to analyse language used by a writer
- Think critically about language choices
When you analyse language, you are more likely to achieve better results by discussing the meanings (semantics) of words chosen by the writer and analysing their stylistic effects (linking them to how and why they have been used). Let’s take a look at this extract from Max Brooks’ World War Z:
I found “Patient Zero” behind the locked door of an abandoned house across town. He was twelve years old. His wrists and feet were bound with plastic packing twine. Although he’d rubbed off the skin around his bonds, there was no blood. There was also no blood on his other wounds, not on the gouges on his legs or arms, or from the large dry gap where his right big toe had been. He was writhing like an animal; a gag muffled his growls.
Four Basic Steps to language analysis:
- Topic statement outlining what you have identified in the text for analysis. Your topic sentence should link to the text’s topic, theme or message; ask yourself – what’s happening in the text that’s important?
- Evidence that proves your topic sentence
- Exploration of semantics: are there any specific words in your evidence that have significant meanings contributing to how the text may be interpreted by the reader?
- Analyse stylistic effects: how and why is your topic statement happening in the text in the way(s) that it is?
The four basic steps analysis works for any type of evidence that you analyse:
The opening of the chapter presents Patient Zero as being dangerous. The simile “writhing like an animal” uses the verb ‘writhing’ to describe movements that are painful, whilst the comparison to an ‘animal’ implies that Patient Zero is wild; his behaviour is out of control. The writer reinforces this image with another animal phrase ‘a gag muffled his growls’ to suggest that Patient Zero is intimidating, as angry dogs are said to ‘growl’. The writer has used animal imagery to imply that Patient Zero’s illness might not be treatable using normal methods.