Appraisal (Overview)

Here are two sentences:

Luton Town nearly won.

Luton Town were on the verge of what would’ve been a giant-killing act.

In terms of the meaning, the two seem to be the same. Yet there is some fundamental difference between them. The first sentence is merely describing the action, a factual statement, while the second is adding something of our opinion of the event. The second sentence comes from a Guardian newspaper sports report. The sports “report” is a bit of a misnomer really as we generally already know the result. It actually functions to evaluate various aspects of the the game: Was it exciting? Did the better team win? How were the players? As such, it uses a lot of language to provide the writer’s opinion. According to Martin & White, we can call this the ‘language of evaluation’, or appraisal.

Appraisal can be looked at from three perspectives. The first of these is what is termed ENGAGEMENT. As I said above, we can make a fundamental distinction in language between facts and opinion. We present some piece of information as either an agreed-upon fact of the world, a monogloss, or open to interpretation from different points of view, a heterogloss. Martin & White give the example of the difference between the following:

Francis Bacon was the author of The Tempest. (monogloss)

They say Francis Bacon was the author of The Tempest. (heterogloss)

It is important to remember that a monogloss is not necessarily true but is being presented as such while heterogloss can be used to cast doubts upon something, for example President Trump’s comments on global warming casting doubt on the scientific consensus  (“But I don’t know that it’s man-made”) while presenting an alternate hypothesis as fact (“Something’s changing and it’ll change back again”).

The second perspective is our ATTITUDE towards something, which itself can be expressed in two ways. Firstly, we can give an emotional response to something, in what can be termed AFFECT. This can be done in one of three ways: Mental Processes (e.g. I love Liverpool FC), nouns (e.g. My passion is for Liverpoool FC) or adjectives (e.g. Liverpool FC is great!). Secondly we can make a distinction between human or non-human participants. For human entities, we can pass JUDGEMENT in terms of positive or negative behaviors or attributes, while for non-human entities we can pass APPRECIATION. For example, this headline has an example of both:

  • He is proof god exists (JUDGEMENT)
  • Messi Fans Respond…After Ridiculous Freekick Goal (APPRECIATION)

The third perspective of Appraisal is GRADATION, whereby we can make our opinions toward something stronger or softer through FORCE and sharper or softer through FOCUS. For example, in sports reporting we might want to compare a team that wins 6-0 easily against one that struggles to win 1-0, as in an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper that talks about “thumping wins” (FORCE:raise) and “not so pretty ones” (FORCE:lower). Additionally, we might want to consider something in terms of how it conforms to our notions of class membership, for example the same Guardian opinion piece characterizes Eddie McGuire’s apology as a “qualified apology ” (FOCUS:soft) and the “acute embarrassment” (FOCUS:sharpen) his comments brought to the AFL. 

The system of Appraisal can thus be represented as:

Appraisal Network

This is not to say that it is one or the other, as there is often overlap between them and one item can simultaneously function in different ways. For example the phrase ” a giant-killing act” could be analysed as:

  • ATTITUDE: positive appreciation
  • GRADATION: raised force

As ever, please look here for a clearer explanation!

References:

J. R. Martin and P. R. R. White (2005) The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in English. Palgrave, London.

The Appraisal Website

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Activity: Jobs – have to/get to and appraisal

For Elementary and pre-Intermediate students, ‘jobs’ are often used to introduce various grammatical structures, especially, to compare ‘have to’ (A police officer has to arrest people) with ‘must’ (A police officer must be brave). This comparison, to me, doesn’t seem to make sense as the two language items belong to two separate systems (one is verbal expansion and the other is modality). A better comparison it seems to me, and one that is not often highlighted, is that between ‘have to’ and ‘get to’ and a way to introduce the concept of appraisal in a simple way.

Materials: a set of ‘jobs’ cards (about 10 cards – I’ve found that the cards from Let’s Go 3 work well) and some A4 paper.

Stage 1: Group

First, go through the ‘jobs’ cards and ask “What’s this?”/”What’s he/she doing?”-type questions. At the same time, on a piece of paper, write down any vocabulary that students don’t know, concentrating in particular on collocations. This is the list we made:

do an experiment (scientist)
put flowers in a vase (florist)
deliver packages (postal worker)
a briefcase (businesswoman)
a stethoscope (doctor)
a cash register (shop clerk)
a drill (dentist)
take/make an appointment (secretary)
an assembly line (factory workers)

This list forms a mini classroom corpus.

Stage 2: content plane – lexico-grammar

In Stage 1, the language used was mostly relational processes (He is a researcher). Here, we can expand this into a clause including experiential Process + Circumstance:

He is working + as a researcher
He is working + in a lab
He is working + with equipment
He is working + on an experiment
He is working + at Sony

This can be done for each card, incorporating the language items from the classroom corpus if appropriate.

Next, a game can be played using the langauge items from the classroom corpus – lay the cards on the table and ask “Who…?”-questions (Who is doing an experiment?). The first student to answer gets the card.

Stage 3 – content plane – semantics

Thus far, we have been merely describing the jobs but we may also wish to add some of our own opinion about the jobs. First, on an A4 piece of paper, draw two faces as such:

Then, discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of each job for you personally (She gets to be creative, he has to stand up all day).

Stage 4 – content plane – textual semantics

Once we have discussed all the jobs cards, have the students choose their dream job, which may or may not be from the jobs listed. After some preparation time to look up any vocabulary they might need, the students justify to the class why their dream job is best. This might take the form of a discussion genre:

  1. Introduction: State the dream job
  2. Statement: Describe the job in general terms
  3. Arguments for: Give the advantages of the job
  4. Arguments against: Give possible disadvantages of the job
  5. Concluding statement: Give the best reason for deciding on this job.