VCE English Language - Obfuscation in Action!

March 30, 2021Klein E

In today's post, I want to show you a MODERN example of how formal language can be used to obfuscate the truth. And how it can be used in the business context to deflect blame and manipulate the truth. Many organisations don't really take the direct blame when a mass sacking occurs - rather they explain it with public language.

First, read the article here from December 2016:

It's still relatively recent which means that you can use it in your exam and SAC and still be awarded high marks for originality!

Before I explain what is formal, have a read of the article and think to yourself: why would the company spokesperson use such formal language? Have a deep think about this. To give some context, sacking and firing are often taboo subjects (much like death, but not as severe), so when talking about it, one may often use euphemisms. Try and spot the euphemisms in the quotes from the spokesperson.

"Following a recent operational review, Australia's largest private education provider of vocational education and training, Careers Australia, will move to consolidate its tele-sales function in 2017," a company statement said.

This was the company's official statement in response to the mass sacking. A few things to notice immediately:

  • Immense amount of public language such as 'operational', 'function', 'provider' etc. This helps to elevate the credibility and authority of the author
  • 'Review' as a syntactic nominalisation - in this case, the lexeme 'review' has been used as a noun instead of a verb, therefore making the text impersonal, distant and unclear. WHO conducted the review? Combine this with the adjective 'operational' to form 'operational review' and we have no idea what this actually means.
  • 'Largest' is an abstract euphemism - largest is in comparison to what? What defines large? Staff numbers, revenue, locations etc. It's quite unclear, but definite exaggerates and makes it appear larger than it may be (but again in comparison to what - we're not sure!).
  • 'Consolidate' is also a euphemism commonly used throughout the business domain to mean 'sack'. But of course, in that context, businesses would rarely ever say the direct lexeme 'sack'. This could be a positive face strategy, but in my opinion, it makes them seem insincere or unapologetic in their decision.

This sentence has a few other features that are peculiar to the obfuscatory function of formal language - what else can you identify? Think of elevated lexis of French/Latin origin etc...

I hope this helps you begin to SEE as opposed to just learning content. To do well in EL, you MUST SEE AND BE OBSERVANT and not just read the textbook. 

About Learnmate

Learnmate is a trusted Australian community platform that connects students who want 1:1 or small group study support, with tutors who are looking to share their knowledge and earn an income. From primary school to high school subjects — from science and maths to niche subjects like visual communication — Learnmate can help you improve academic performance or boost confidence, at your pace with the tutor that you choose.

We pride ourselves in offering a reliable and positive experience for both our students and tutors. Every tutor that joins the platform is vetted to meet a level of academic excellence, teaching qualification or relevant experience. All tutors are provided the opportunity to complete professional training.

Students and parents can easily find and screen for tutors based on their location, their subject results or skill level, and whether they provide in-person or online sessions. Learnmate is proud to provide tutors in Melbourne, Sydney, Geelong, Brisbane, Hobart, Canberra, Perth & Adelaide, and other locations.

Go online and let Learnmate help you get ahead. Start your search today.

Share this post
Article Author

Klein E

Background Divider
© Copyright Learnmate 2024
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram