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Guide to Linguistic Theories, Research and Concepts | Introduction

Beth Kemp | Thursday August 04, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Linguistics Theory & Study, Linguistic Theory, Using Theory

This series is written to outline the principal conceptual aspects needed for the study of English Language at A Level.  These guides are not exhaustive – no such guide could be.

Each guide seeks to cluster and organise the relevant ideas and theories, and to explain the most important (or most commonly-taught) research studies and case studies for that topic.

Some of the ideas here and even some of the topics in the series may not be relevant to your specification, as they are all quite different.  We recommend checking against specification documents and indicative content in examiners’ reports and mark schemes, both for which particular theories and studies seem to be expected, and for the balance of theoretical material to engagement with data that is expected by the awarding body. 

In most (if not all) cases, students are expected to be able to apply their conceptual knowledge to the data and texts they are presented with, rather than simply regurgitate it.  Students who can critically use such knowledge tend to be more highly rewarded, with the top bands of mark schemes making frequent use of words such as ‘evaluates’ and ‘critically applies’, contrasting with the ‘explains’ and ‘describes’ which feature further down.

Although theory is often something which newer teachers of Language at first find intimidating and often then exciting, there can be a danger of going overboard on it and giving students the impression that this knowledge is the key to high marks.  Students frequently only read data as confirming the research studies and theories that they have learnt, whereas often they are provided with data which could be used to question the established ‘norms’ in areas like gender and interaction, or to explore the values in a range of theories in topics such as initial language acquisition.  Practice in looking for these subtleties is therefore invaluable.

For ideas on working with theory in the...

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