Lexis

Lexis

The lexical field employed in ‘Life on Earth’ is not overly complex; and when lexemes which might otherwise be problematic occur, they tend to occupy a syntactic position which renders comprehension of them optional, or heavily ‘pre-glossed’-the narrator will fully explain the meaning of a term before revealing the term itself. This method of glossing is, in a very limited and rudimentary way, an entertaining device; it creates a kind of basic suspense- the entertainment is derived from learning, rather than the other way around. There is limited use of catachrestic items, such as referring to the fish’s fins as ‘legs’ for want of a better word- these instances tend to build personification for didactic purposes; a layman doesn’t understand how a ‘jointed fin’ works, but he does understand how a leg works. There are several further lexical devices employed to further this effect- referring to fish ‘browsing’, for instance, bringing to mind images of familiar pastoral animals, calling a coelacanth a ‘stray’; or, more prominently, the use of lexemes borrowed from the field of manual labour- ‘haul’, ‘mechanical’ and ‘lever’, for example. All of these uses bring scientific understanding to the level of the intended audience- the working class home. Aside from these trends, lexis is kept relatively sophisticated, to create a formal, authoritative tone- despite measures to appeal to the audience’s imagination, the relationship is fairly austere; a narrator imparting knowledge to those wishing to learn, a teacher if you will. It seems worthy of note, also, that here we see use of deictic reference, in ‘this’, ‘here’ and ‘these’- a feature unique in the four texts under analysis; this is probably because with increasing technological advancement, there has been declining need for a narrator to actually be in the vicinity of his subject.
The tone of ‘Realm of the Alligator’, and indeed the author-audience relationship, are similar to those of ‘Life on Earth’, and equally constructed through use of lexis. Again, the narrator is a ‘teacher’, and the audience are ‘students’; lexis is sophisticated to maintain an authoritative tone. The text chooses to open on a special lexeme which will be central to the program, didactic from the outset- and interestingly there follows a sequence in which verbs are used to personify the swamp- suggesting a certain entertainment value in coming to know the ‘character’ of the swamp better, through watching the program. Interestingly, lexis is covertly used here in order to support specific viewpoints- the use of the word ‘intended’ in the third utterance suggests a divine overseer, and therefore subtly infers a religious view as standard, and later on historical terms remain glossed or unglossed, depending on political norms; ‘Seminole Indians’, for example, is unglossed, whereas ‘Swampers’ is glossed in detail. This may be because of the producing company, ‘National Geographic’, which is based in America- where cultural assumptions may be different to our own. There is limited use of more dramatic lexical items- ‘threatened’ ‘destroy’ and ‘invasion’- which are more commonly associated with the military; these convey a sense of tension and conflict which is integral to entertainment, though here it is not a major feature. The use of lexis during unplanned speech is much less effective; special lexis vital to cognition is left unglossed, and choices- apparently made extempore- are usually poor, and fall short of the effects they seem to aim for.
Interestingly, in ‘In the Wild’, there is very little to no use of special lexis- apart from specific reference to locations, such as ‘Churchill’ or ‘Hudson Bay’; this implies that a certain didactic element has been lost. Indeed, we can also see the increase in lexemes which suggest conflict and drama, especially in the explicit reference of ‘battleground’- and later on, in the extended period of ‘unplanned speech’, the idea of danger is clearly brought to the fore; ‘careful, ‘dangerous’, ‘run’ and ‘scream’. There are isolated uses of lexis to personify, for example:
“Polar bears are strict carnivores”
Where the adjective ‘strict’ cannot truly apply to animals, except in pathetic fallacy; rather, it is used here, perhaps, as a parody of ‘strict vegetarians’- a term applied to people. Similarly, the bears are referred to as eating a given amount in a single ‘sitting’- a term clearly more applicable to humans. Although personification is not overwhelmingly frequent in the text, it is only by the time of this piece that the device has really found its feet in the genre; as such, its part here is significant. Aside from the above, lexis is relatively simplistic- here, as we have seen, the audience-narrator relationship becomes much more balanced in knowledge, the program centres on the narrator learning, and the audience learning via their attachment to the narrator- hence our window into the narrator’s thought process, as in ‘I suppose’. Although the tone is not omniscient, there is a slight knowledge gap between narrator and audience which allows for the occasional impartation of information- usually more in the form of ‘fun facts’ than comprehensive detail. Lexical use to inform, therefore, is rather minimal but undoubtedly still present.
Four main lexical fields make an appearance during the course of ‘Meerkat Manor’; first and foremost is its field of lexical items borrowed from the field of conflict- including elements of militaristic language, and even the language of crime- the word ‘gang’ is used repeatedly, as well as ‘arena’ and ‘rival’. Personification is used here not to create an effective learning atmosphere, but to imitate the human conflicts that compose the majority of popular entertainment. The second field comes into this effect also- it is the field of language more commonly associated with television in general, but more specifically reality programs- a general emphasis on the animals’ discomfort, and choices such as ‘eviction’ are supported by the third field, lexemes associated with social structure- nouns such as ‘matriarch’ and ‘boss’, and verbs such as ‘supervise’ and ‘indulge’ encourage a view of a strict social order and power-play. These shifts in social balance, and a chance to view another’s discomfort in unfamiliar surroundings, are the two strongest aspects of entertainment in popular programs such as ‘Big Brother’. This text also sees the strongest presence yet of lexis used to dramatise- lexemes such as ‘critical’ and ‘concern’ playing frequent roles. These fields together create a very strong personification of the meerkats, which is even furthered by other instances of lexical personification; even the animals’ surroundings are made familiar to us- words such as ‘neighbours’ and ‘upstairs/downstairs’ fit human surroundings to the anthropomorphic creatures. There are no instances of special lexis- the program treats animals entirely as it would humans, and hence there is no informative element at all.

Lexis

Fyfe

Joined February 2008

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10% off

for joining the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.