Analysing language

A woman reading a book to a man seated beside her

Language features

When analysing language you must show that you are aware of how it is written. This means identifying the language features used, and explaining their effect.

The following are some language features you may notice while reading.

Alliteration

This is where consecutive words begin with the same letter and, more importantly, the same sound.

An example is The rifles rapid rattle. The repetition of the 'r' sound echoes the sound of machine guns being fired.

What is alliteration? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from 'My Rival's House' by Liz Lochhead.

Allusion

An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, historical event or another literary work.

For example, if you call someone who helps others a Good Samiritan you are alluding to the Parable of the Good Samaritan from the Bible.

What is allusion? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘Assisi’ by Norman MacCaig.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is the deliberate use of exaggeration to emphasise a point.

For example I'm giving it two hundred per cent obviously isn't possible but the fact that it is impossible emphasises how much effort someone is willing to make.

What is hyperbole? Bitesize explains using "Sounds of the Day" by Norman MacCaig as an example.

Onomatopoeia

This is where a word makes the sound of the thing it describes.

An example is The ringmaster cracked his whip. This implies the whip making a sharp sound.

Another example is Stuttering rifles rapid rattle. The stuttering imitates the action of a machine-gun being fired.

What is onomatopoeia? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘In the Snack Bar’ by Edwin Morgan.

Simile

A simile is a comparison where one thing is described as something else, using 'like' or 'as'.

An example is He looked as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a cake. This really means he looked obvious and noticeable, he stood out, could not be missed.

A tarantula on a cake

Another example is She was like a snowflake. This implies she was light, delicate, pure, insubstantial, fragile.

What is a simile? How and why would you use one? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘George Square’ by Jackie Kay.

Metaphor

This is a comparison where one thing is described in terms of something else.

An example is His house was now his prison. The idea here is someone feels their house is a place where they feel trapped, imprisoned or locked in; a place where they lack freedom.

Another example is James launched himself at his opponent. This makes James sound like a missile, moving quickly and powerfully.

Shakespeare uses pathetic fallacy in Romeo and Juliet when Romeo compares Juliet to the moon: James launched himself at his opponent. This makes James sound like a missile, moving quickly and powerfully.

What is a metaphor? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘Valentine’ by Carol Ann Duffy.

Pathetic fallacy

This technique involves giving human emotions to non-human objects. It is often used to create atmosphere by suggesting that the weather or other natural phenomena have feelings - feelings that might reflect the emotions of the characters.

Shakespeare uses pathetic fallacy in Romeo and Juliet:

quote
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moonRomeo and Juliet (Act Two, Scene Two, Line Four

Here Romeo suggests that the moon is envious of Juliet's beauty.

What is pathetic fallcy? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘The Bargain’ by Liz Lochhead.

Personification

This is a comparison where something non-human (inanimate) is described in human terms.

An example is Death stalked the battlefield. Death is being portrayed as a figure or person hunting for someone.

What is personification? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘Home’ by Iain Crichton Smith.

Synaesthesia

Synaesthesia is a technique in which one sense is used to represent another, or where a sense is used to add meaning to an unrelated experience, eg:

  • "feeling blue" uses colour and the sense of sight to describe emotion
  • "bitter cold" uses the sense of taste (bitterness) to describe temperature and the sense of touch

What is synaesthesia? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘Havisham’ by Carol Ann Duffy.

Synecdoche

This means using part of something to represent the whole, eg:

  • referring to a 'set of wheels' to mean a car
  • referring to 'boots on the ground' to refer to soldiers in an army

It can also mean using a whole to represent a part, eg:

  • referring to "the whole world" to mean people generally or everyone in a group
  • referring to "Downing Street" to mean the Prime Minister or someone else who works for the PM

What is synecdoche? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘Visiting Hour’ by Norman MacCaig.

Transferred epithet

An epithet is an adjective used to describe a key characteristic of a person, place or thing. For example 'terrible' in Ivan the Terrible.

Transferred epithet is a technique where the epithet is used to describe something other than the person or thing it actually refers to.

For example in Happy Birthday, it is the person whose birthday it is who is happy, not the birthday itself.

What is transferred epithet? Bitesize explains using ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen as an example.