Practice Essay: formal language and social harmony

Practice Essay- Section C
Write a sustained expository response. 700-800 words

a. ‘Extra-Visibility or Emphasis on Difference: In many contexts it is quite unnecessary to mention a person’s sex, race, ethnic background or other characteristics, yet such characteristics are often mentioned even at the expense of information that would have benn more relevant to the context. This is particularly true for members of minority groups. Unnecessary references of this nature should be avoided.’
Inclusive Language Policy, University of Western Sydney
b. When people talk, they lay lines on each other, do a lot of role playing, sidestep, shilly-shally and engage in all manner of vagueness and innuendo. We do this an expect others to do it, yet at the same time we profess to long for the plain truth, for people to say what they mean, simple as that. Such hypocrisy is a human universal.’
Steven Pinker, ‘Words Don’t Mean What They Mean’, Time, 6 September 2007
c. ‘(M)odern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning an inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.’
George Orwell, Politics and the English language, Horizon, April 1946
d. ‘It’s an uphill battle to get broadcasters to recognise and avoid bureaucratese, jargon, clichés and sheer pomposity. Media releases are often the source of such language but reporters who use them should weed out and replace any stilted or unidiomatic expressions that they wouldn’t normally use themselves…A politician may say, “We expect to see more ships going in and out of Sydney harbour going forward.” But journalists should be aware of how silly this cliché can make them sound, and realise that it’s redundant anyway.’
Irene Poinkin, ‘SCOSE notes’, Australian Style, April 2009

Formal language can both promote and prevent social harmony. Discuss, referring to at least two subsystems of language in your response.
This essay is a sample from Insight Publications, 2013

14 thoughts on “Practice Essay: formal language and social harmony

  1. I would use B, as there are a lot of examples recently of the public getting offended when people try to use direct language instead of covering up what they really mean.

  2. B; I’d like to talk about occasions when people misjudge the formality of a conversation, and when it prevents social harmony. *meow*

  3. Goooooooood morning Vietnam, I think I shall embark on a jounrney using stimulus C and my ‘wit’ to write this essay. I believe it will be easy to find examples of Orwell’s ideas, allowing me to construct a better essay using a wide variety of examples….

  4. D for Jack, I would use this because there are plenty of examples where political language causes an upset in the media

  5. I’m thinking B. I think that it is something that we can all relate to, we dislike politically correct language, think its excessive and becoming ridiculous, however we still become offended when someone fails to use language which is ‘correct’

  6. B: I like the idea that while most people want to be told the plain truth, in essence politeness or political correctness is the lubricant in maintaining social harmony. People are offend when things are said without insensitivity, but often this sensitivity requires vagueness and political correct speech, thus making simplicity of language unattainable.

  7. B for Jackie. I want to discuss the natural instinct of humans to use double speak and formal language, but then also talk about how some people don’t approve of this language and attempt to steer away from it whilst others are offended if it is not used.

  8. I am going to choose b) because I feel that at the current time and especially in the media, we have the attitude that we should say how we feel but the minute someone does and it is classed as socially unacceptable, there is uproar.

  9. B, because this can think deeper in to formal language, and support the stimulus of formal language can both promote and prevent social harmony by different meanings of words.

  10. Wasn’t sure where to put this, so I’ll just leave it here 🙂 here is our essay paragraph on politeness 🙂


    The misjudgment of the level of formality in an everyday situation can lead to the use of politeness strategies that may ultimately hinder social harmony. John Paul Davidson of ‘Planet Word’ cites modern-day speakers as being “masters in the arts of supplication, gratitude and apology.” While this may be a good attribute, misjudgment of the formality of a situation can hinder the rapport between speakers as an interlocutor may use such politeness strategies where it is not required, therefore alienating the other speaker who doesn’t feel the need to speak as formally. Phrases such as ‘I just wanted to ask if I could’ and ‘I’m sorry to be asking you this’ can minimize the imposition placed upon the other person, but if one has misjudged the formality of the situation as being too formal, no personal rapport is being developed and there is little confidence in the speaker. It’s is also a result of the use of indirect speech and impersonal statements that alienate the other speaker. When formality is misjudged and negative face is inappropriately used, social harmony is prevented.

  11. Thanks for sharing your practcie paragraph Kate, a really good discuusion of the impact of negative politeness on preventing social harmony, dependent on context.
    Remember to avoid those subjective statements…

  12. The utilisation of jargonistic lexis; particular expressions typical of a specific profession which are sometimes difficult for others to understand, can act to both promote or prevent social harmony, dependant on situational context. Through the speaker judging the context correctly and applying jargon, it can install confidence of the topic to the audience. This is evident when doctors use medical specific lexemes; ‘myocardial infraction’ to describe the doctors prognosis to the audience to coney expertise in their field. However, juxtaposing this is jargon included in an inappropriate sense which may act in an exclusive manner. Therefore, the use of jargon can either promote or prevent social cohesion dependant on how it is applied in the public domain.

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