The Big 5

At the heart of the English A: Language and Literature course is textual analysis. In order to prepare for Paper 1 and the individual oral commentary, you will want to learn how to analyze various texts. This lesson introduces you to a method of analysis that we call the 'Big 5'. It presents five lenses through which you can look at texts. Since not all texts are the same in nature, you will find some lenses more useful than others when analyzing different texts. Since analyzing texts is a skill, the more you practice, the better you will become and the more you will see! 

The Big 5

There are several questions that you can ask of any text. Here are five major questions that apply to almost all types of texts:

  1. Audience / purpose - Who does the text target? What does the author wish to achieve through the text?

  2. Content / theme - What is literally ‘happening’ in the text? What is it about? What are the main ideas of the text?

  3. Tone / mood - How does the text make you and/or the target audience feel? Describe the atmosphere of the text.

  4. Stylistic devices - How does the author use language to convey a sentiment or message? What kinds of linguistic tools does he/she employ?

  5. Structure - How is the text organized, literally (i.e. layout/formatting)? What kinds of structural elements of a particular text type do you see?

Applying this method

Try applying the 'Big 5' to the text below. Fill in the right column of the table below.

Change the burden
Tata Motors
2010

 

 Big 5 analysis

Audience / purpose - Who does the text target? What does the author wish to achieve through the text?
This text targets Malaysian families who do not have a lot of money. The purpose of this ad is to sell cheap, small cars to those who, until now, could only afford motorcycles. The writer uses a non-standardized form of English, which is most likely understood by Malaysians and contains influences from the Malaysian language.
Content / theme - What is literally ‘happening’ in the text? What is it about? What are the main ideas of the text?
Content-wise, the ad depicts an unsafe situation with 5 people on one motorcycle. It shows the  safe alternative mode of transportation, a Tata Nano, along with some persuasive text. Thematically speaking, one could say that the ad is about the importance and affordability of safe transportation.
Tone / mood - How does the text make you and/or the target audience feel? Describe the atmosphere of the text.
At first the tone of the text is quite ominous, reminding the reader of Malaysian traffic laws and the dangers of the road. This could put the reader in a wary mood. However, later the reader comes away with a sense of empowerment, as he/she is reminded of how affordable the solution to this problem is.
Stylistic devices - How does the author use language to convey a sentiment or message? What kinds of linguistic tools does he/she employ?
The text is very direct, as it refers to 'you'.  Lines like "You can afford it" activate the reader. It makes use of the problem / benefit device often found in ads. Although the image makes use of bright, uplifting colors, the expression on the woman's face is rather disconcerting. This juxtaposition might capture the audience's attention.
Structure - How is the text organized, literally (i.e. layout/formatting)? What kinds of structural elements of a particular text type do you see?
The text has all of the common structural devices of an ad. It has a heading ('Change the burden'), a copy (the main text), a prominent image (the 5 people on a motorcycle), and a signature (the Tata Nano in the lower right hand corner).
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