English Language

What is an analytical commentary and how do I structure one?

Lisa Tran

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Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...

As a VCE English Language tutor, students often ask me about how to structure an analytical commentary for their SACs. Well, today I am here to walk you through the process! It's actually quite simple, however, sometimes the structure hasn't been well-explained to students, and so I decode this process for you today.

What is an analytical commentary?

An analytical commentary is essentially an extended analysis that looks at the various linguistic features in the discourse (either written or spoken). The student then decodes these language features with the use of appropriate metalinguistic terms to describe what is occurring within the discourse. For example, you may see a lexeme 'Davo' for David in a Facebook conversation. After that we then apply a metalinguistic term to describe this feature. In this case, the appropriate metalinguistic term would be a 'diminutive' under the subsystem of morphology.

Why is it relevant?

An analytical commentary is relevant as you will undoubtedly be writing one up for you SAC, and it is also on the end of year exam! On the end of year exam, it is worth 30/75 marks, which is 40% of your exam result!

How do I ace an analytical commentary?

It's really quite simple. You MUST (I really can't stress that enough) know your metalanguage and know which metalinguistic term comes under which subsystem. For example, which subsystem would ellipsis come under? Syntax, of course, as it deals with the sentence structures. The reason for this is that you will be writing your commentary generally be subsystem, and without knowledge of this, you will incorrectly categorise these metalinguistic terms and therefore lose marks.

Secondly, you must also follow a clear structure within each paragraph. Clarity of expression will help you achieve this, so I would recommend you look at past A+ analytical commentaries and look at how these have been structured and expressed.

Finally, you MUST, where appropriate, link back to the informality/formality and the social purpose. For example, it wouldn't be enough to say that a swear term, under the subsystem of lexicology, has been used in this Facebook conversation, which is informal. Instead, you must state HOW this is informal (e.g. does it build solidarity with group members, does it decrease social distance), and then link that back to the social purpose of the text (e.g. how does it help serve the phatic function or the entertainment function). That will allow you to get a much higher mark.

How do I structure each paragraph?

Within each paragraph, you must follow the following structure:

  1. Topic sentence (mention the subsystem and the link to to informality and/or social purpose)
  2. Point (mention the subsystem (if applicable) and/or the metalinguistic term)
  3. Give an example with the line number(s)
  4. Elaborate on this piece of evidence: how does it relate to informality and/or the social purpose of the discourse?
  5. Rinse and repeat 2-4 above at least 3 times per paragraph!

So, how do I structure my analytical commentary?

Due to the amount of explanation, I have created two convenient documents outlining the structure for both formal/informal written and spoken modes.

Formal Analytical Commentary Structure: CLICK HERE

Informal Analytical Commentary Structure: CLICK HERE

If you'd like to see a complete analytical commentary, then I highly recommend you visit my online course!

Well, there you have it. I really hope this helps you out! Feel free to leave comments below with any questions you may have! :)

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