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 Ling 131: Language & Style

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Self Assessment Instructions

Before beginning the self assessment activity proper, you need to complete your own analysis. But to simplify the task, we want you to look in detail at three language levels:

Please follow the instructions below:

  1. Firstly, read through the following extract several times so that your are familiar with it.
    We suggest that you print the printer friendly version of this page and do your work on the extract using a word processor. Then you can copy and paste your analysis into the self-assessment mechanism. Even if you do decide to work directly on the self-assessment page it will be important for you save your work to a disk or print it off, so that you do not lose it.

    [CONTEXT: The following extract takes place at Mr Ernest Worthing's country residence. Cecily lives in the country and Gwendolen, who lives in London, has come to visit. They are sitting in the garden. They both think that they are engaged to marry Ernest. Now they each discover that they have a competitor.]

    1. Cecily:

    [rather shyly and confidingly] Dearest Gwendolen, there is no reason why I should make a secret of it to you. Our little county newspaper is sure to chronicle the fact next week. Mr Ernest Worthing and I are engaged to be married.

    2. Gwendolen:

    [quite politely, rising] My darling Cecily, I think there must be some slight error. Mr Ernest Worthing is engaged to me. The announcement will appear in the Morning Post on Saturday at the latest.

    3. Cecily:

    [very politely, rising] I am afraid you must be under some misconception. Ernest proposed to me exactly ten minutes ago. [Shows diary.]

    4. Gwendolen:

    [examines diary through her lorgnette carefully] It is certainly very curious, for he asked me to be his wife yesterday afternoon at five-thirty. If you would care to verify the incident, pray do so. [Produces diary of her own.] I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in a train. I am so sorry, dear Cecily, if it is any disappointment to you, but I am afraid I have the prior claim.

    5. Cecily:

    It would distress me more than I can tell you, dear Gwendolen, if it caused you any mental or physical anguish, but I feel bound to point out that since Ernest proposed to you he clearly has changed his mind.

    6. Gwendolen:

    [meditatively] If the poor fellow has been entrapped into any foolish promise I will consider it my duty to rescue him at once, and with a firm hand.

    7. Cecily:

    [thoughtfully and sadly] Whatever unfortunate entanglement my dear boy may have got into, I will never reproach him with it after we are married.

    8. Gwendolen:

    Do you allude to me, Miss Cardew, as an entanglement? You are presumptuous. On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak ones mind. It becomes a pleasure.

    9. Cecily:

    Do you suggest, Miss Fairfax, that I entrapped Ernest into an engagement? How dare you? This is no time for wearing the shallow mask of manners. When I see a spade I call it a spade.

    10. Gwendolen:

    [satirically] I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.

    [Enter Merriman, followed by the footman. He carries a salver, tablecloth, and plate-stand. Cecily is about to retort. The presence of the Servants exercises a restraining influence, under which both girls chafe.]

    11. Merriman:

    Shall I lay tea here as usual, miss?

    12. Cecily:

    [sternly, in a calm voice] Yes, as usual.

    [Merriman begins to clear and lay cloth. A long pause. Cecily and Gwendolen glare at each other.]

    13. Gwendolen:

    Are there many interesting walks in the vicinity, Miss Cardew?

    14. Cecily:

    Oh, yes, a great many. From the top of one of the hills quite close one can see five counties.

    15. Gwendolen:

    Five counties! I don't think I should like that. I hate crowds.

    16. Cecily:

    [sweetly] I suppose that is why you live in town? [Gwendolen bites her lip, and beats her foot nervously with her parasol.]

    17. Gwendolen:

    [looking round] Quite a well-kept garden this is, Miss Cardew.

    18. Cecily:

    So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax.

    19. Gwendolen:

    I had no idea there were any flowers in the country.

    20. Cecily:

    Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.

    21. Gwendolen:

    Personally, I cannot understand how anybody manages to exist in the country, if anybody who is anybody does. The country always bores me to death.

    22. Cecily:

    Ah! This is what the newspapers call agricultural depression, is it not? I believe the aristocracy are suffering very much from it just at present. It is almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been told. May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax?

    23. Gwendolen:

    [with elaborate politeness] Thank you. [Aside] Detestable girl! But I require tea.

    24. Cecily:

    [sweetly] Sugar?

    25. Gwendolen:

    [superciliously] No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more.[Cecily looks angrily at her, takes up the tongs and puts four lumps of sugar into the cup]

    26. Cecily:

    [severely] Cake, or bread and butter?

    27. Gwendolen:

    [in a bored manner] Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.

    [Cecily cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the tray.]

    (Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act II)

    Note: The Morning Post was a national newspaper at the time when Oscar Wilde wrote the play

  2. Now write down for your future reference a brief account of your general understanding of the text, including its general topic, its style, or any specific overall effects you think the author wanted to produce. This intuitive statement then becomes the interpretative hypothesis that your later analysis will relate to. You can then keep comparing your analytical results to see how they relate to that hypothesis. You may find that you need to alter your hypothesis to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon what you find. Alternatively, you may find that you don’t need to alter your initial interpretative hypothesis very much, if at all. But you should find that your analysis will help to explain your interpretation in more detail and greater depth.

  3. If you were doing a complete stylistic analysis from scratch, your would need to look carefully and systematically at the sorts of linguistic features we have discussed on the course, at each linguistic level. You should also refer to relevant checksheets from the course and from the textbook in order to make sure that you don't miss anything significant.

  4. Now, having completed the analytical tasks, go back to your original interpretative
    comments from (2) above. Has your understanding of the text been affected in any way (e.g. changed, deepened, etc.)? If so, write down how. This will help you to understand the benefit of doing stylistic analysis.

  5. When you have completed the above tasks, you should write up a finished version. It is important that you structure your analysis by dividing it into sections. Start off with your own general interpretation of the text. Then proceed to the analysis proper, and structure it according to the three levels indicated above, linking your analysis at each stage back to your initial, general interpretation.

  6. Save your work to a floppy, so that you can copy and paste your analysis into the self-assessment exercise.

  7. You're now ready to (i) compare your analysis with responses from other students, (ii) check out the level that you are achieving, and (iii) see what improvements you can make.

    chuckle stop!


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