Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Using Corpus Linguistics

TamaraJonesTamara Jones is an ESL Instructor at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I am a conference junkie. While there are plenty of great local and national conferences for me to choose from, I love going to the TESOL International Convention the best. I love flipping through the program, attending the sessions, wandering through the publishers’ exhibits, and seeing colleagues from all over the world. Every year, I try to choose to attend at least one session on a topic about which I know absolutely nothing. Sometimes I don’t even know the key words in the description.

Corpus What?

This was the case many years ago, at my first ever TESOL Conference, when I attended a session on Corpus Linguistics. The speaker was Victoria Clark, and at the risk of being overly dramatic, it was life changing. Or, at least, it was work changing. She talked about how text books (back in those days, anyways) rarely contained language that reflected how people really use language. She gave the example of the most basic and common of turns, “Thank you.” and “You’re welcome.” Nothing too controversial, right? Except, when we use Corpus Linguistics research to analyze what we actually say in response to “Thank you”, we learn that we are more likely to say things like “No problem.” “Have a good day.” and “Sure.” In fact, “You’re welcome.” is really low on the list, even below “no response”! As I walked out of the session, I resolved to start to think more critically about language and whether or not what I think I say is actually what I say.

Resources for Teachers and Students

Basically, Corpus Linguistics is the study of language by analyzing a large database of naturally occurring language. The good news is that the actual collection of data has been done for us. There are wonderful existing collections of language. The Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE), for example, is an excellent collection of spoken language from transcripts of academic speech events that were recorded at the University of Michigan. The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) is a 520,000,000 word corpus of written and spoken language from TV, radio, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts. The Academic Corpus was developed in New Zealand and it contains approximately 3,500,000 words from four subject areas.

Linguists and teachers can use concordancers to sift through the collections and highlight patterns in language. In other words, you can use a concordancer to find out what words are most common before and after a given word. This can come in handy when students ask those really tough questions to which we are inclined to respond, “We just say it that way.” For instance, sometimes words like “become” and “turn” are virtually synonymous. The only real difference is the words that come before or after.

For instance, if a student wants to know when we use “become” and when we use “turn,” you can go online to the corpus of your choice, say COCA, type in the two words that you want to compare, hit enter and watch the magic happen.

COCA

Practical Suggestions

You might be thinking, “Well, this is all well and good, but aside from seeing words in about a billion different contexts, how useful is this for me?” My supervisor presented on this very topic at an in-house PD session she presented a few years ago (Woo, 2012) and she had several good suggestions.

Comparing Similar Words – Students are justifiably confused about the many near-synonyms in English. For instance, what’s the difference between “request” and “ask”? What about “hope” and “wish”? They have pretty much the same meaning, really. But, the words that precede and follow them are different. You can ask a favor, but we don’t really request a favor. You can make a request, but you can’t make an ask. Teachers can use a concordancer to provide students with a list of words that are commonly associated with synonyms. Now, I probably wouldn’t send students off with an internet link and expect them to discern the patterns themselves, but I might refer to a corpus to create a lists of the most common phrases containing each of the words, so students can compare them.

Mastering Collocations – This is a biggie for intermediate students. As I detailed in a previous blog, The Flat Bits in the Middle, Richards (2008) argues that one of the major hurdles for students who want to be fluent speakers of English is mastering collocations. Sometimes words just go together in English. An example of a collocation is “winding road”. We don’t usually say “twisty road” or “curly road,” though our students might. To help students learn these challenging collocations and set phrases, teachers can use the concordancer results to compile a list of common collocations for students to learn when they learn vocabulary words. A few years after my eye opening experience at Clark’s (2001) TESOL presentation, I attended a great session at an IATEFL conference in which the speaker, Ken Lackman, described some fun games to help students learn collocations (Lackman, 2010). Rather than describe them here, I suggest, if you are interested in helping students learn collocations, you check out his wonderful resource, Classroom Games from Corpora.

In spite of these wonderful resources and teaching ideas, however, I’ll admit that I am a bit intimidated about the prospect of using Corpus Linguistics in my classroom. It just seems too labor intensive to create all these materials myself. So, that’s why I am very excited that ESL authors are increasingly providing corpus-based vocabulary lists and activities in their books.

Clark, V. (2001). Corpus Linguistics for Teachers and Material Writers. Paper presented at the 35th TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo, St. Louis, MI.
Richards, J. (2008). Moving Beyond the Plateau: From Intermediate to Advanced Levels in Language Learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lackman, K. (2010). Classroom Games from Corpora. Paper presented at the 44th Annual International IATEL Conference and Exhibition, Harrogate, UK.
Woo, M. (2012). Using Corpus Linguistics in the Classroom. [PowerPoint Presentation].

Comments

Comment from Alex John
February 7, 2020 at 2:55 am

I am feeling happy after visiting your blog and I really have found a lot of information here. Today music becomes a psion for many people if you are one of them and you need an instrument for music like Guitar so I know a site Best Tremolo Pedals which provides as you need.

Comment from daniel mike anderson
February 8, 2020 at 5:27 am

your article is informational for us thanks for sharing such article with us i want to tell a site of you want to celebrate you birthaday part with fun i suggest you to hire this service “laser tag birthday party” I hope you like thanks

Comment from burkkevin
February 11, 2020 at 10:59 pm

Fantastic blog i have never ever read this type of amazing information. Squall Leonhart Jacket

Comment from alex0
February 15, 2020 at 4:55 am

Tadalafil, for the most part, is a drug used to loosen up the muscles of the veins and it builds the progression of blood that rushes to explicit zones of the body.

Comment from jimmi
February 17, 2020 at 1:27 am

This article is very attractive anyone can understand easily.Keep It up.this Site about facebook tricks and tips.

Comment from coddy daniel
February 17, 2020 at 1:37 am

This site is informationaly and its tell that how to loss muscles.This site about cell phone tricks and tips

Comment from alex0
February 17, 2020 at 3:09 am

well! They look at the information you shared here! this article has such a confounding mean offer, that vivifies my referencing! I should respect your effort Thank you!

Comment from alex0
February 18, 2020 at 2:36 am

your site has such an amazing mean offer yet this article this the key course of this confusing buffet! I have considered this post and found such a focal number of lighting up focus premiums! this is something that I have been checking for a long time! at long last, you have completed my stunning appraisal thank you for that!

Comment from Alex
February 22, 2020 at 4:01 am

I am reading your article and this has a lot of information about buying things. I like your work. If you love to read baby’s names so I know a site where you discover new girl names of babies. I must sure you will enjoy it.

Comment from Mysteadygist.com
February 24, 2020 at 10:18 pm

You are very happy to publish, and it is amazing to keep your post. I’ve never stopped to say something about it. You work decisively.

Comment from alex0
February 25, 2020 at 5:23 am

Here you share the remarkable information with and I have to share a site on super visa security that site is key for you and others and I believe you like this grateful for offering such post to us.

Comment from Rex
February 25, 2020 at 10:46 pm

This site about Azar grammar. I appreciate this site. I inspire by your hardworking. As you know some people having dogs and cats in their homes.I know one site which having dogs calming begs in different colour and different variety.

Comment from William
February 26, 2020 at 2:55 am

I like this post. I want more information about this topic and now, I got all the information from your post. Everything defines in this post is awesome. I think you should make more post which helps us. I also share a resource relevant to your topic.

Comment from Alex
February 26, 2020 at 6:31 am

I am reading your article is favorable for me here I share a site on Eyebrow Embroidery Singapore. As we know ladies are more conscious about their skin or many problems with the skin. So, in this case, I know a site Best Facials Singapore which will be helpful for you.

Comment from Smith
February 28, 2020 at 3:09 am

An elegantly composed substance which has numerous things that identify with information. I obliged to you for imparting this to us. Everybody realizes that Bad wellbeing badly affects this world. In the event that you are enduring any medical issue so this site causes you.

Comment from Johns
March 12, 2020 at 11:56 pm

Importance of Payroll Management Whether you are an established business or a startup, making sure your employees are paid properly is your foremost responsibility.

Comment from JillStabenow4353
March 13, 2020 at 2:50 am

I like your blog and I like survey blog in light of the fact that here we can share our emotions I use modafinil on the grounds that I make them rest issues. modafinil is a manufactured substance, it has a particular impact on the human body and with pretty much every engineered prescription, modafinil has reactions including low potential for habit.

Comment from Rex007
March 13, 2020 at 4:19 am

This site is much impressive. I am thankful for this sharing. Some people worried about health SO I know a site which provides health tips and tricks.

Comment from Coddy Daniel
March 13, 2020 at 5:04 am

This site is much attractive. I am glad for this sharing. Some people week and wanna make strong muscles if you wanna make strong muscles.

Comment from alex0
March 17, 2020 at 3:19 am

You’ve made an extraordinary article. You’re working phenomenally. I trust if you keep doing in like manner, you’ll go far and people will like you.

Comment from David
March 19, 2020 at 5:43 am

I just hate your article why don’t you start writing stories for children instead of writing articles

Comment from David John
March 26, 2020 at 3:19 am

It’s my pleasure to visit your site and got a lot of informational things from here. I am here to tell you about a site which has a lot of information and tips about the Patent Agent Exam Course Which helps out to qualify for this exam.

Comment from WENNY
March 29, 2020 at 4:59 am

I like the grateful information with us, on this topic you shared with us,it is not valuable for me it’s also valuable for us here I share an office fitouts if you cannot fit you can write a great article with us Thanks author for sharing a good article with us.

Comment from Cratossporting
April 2, 2020 at 9:12 am

Canlı bahis sitesi Cratossporting

Comment from Anna
May 5, 2020 at 1:44 am

This is a fantastic performance done by the team work.Many events are held in the last year.

Comment from OSINT Consulting
May 31, 2020 at 4:15 am

Articles like this are always inspiring and I like to read good articles and I am happy to find good points in this article.

Comment from mical coddy
June 6, 2020 at 10:40 am

This site is very attractive to grammar. I much inspired by your hardworking. If you worried about the fat body. I know a site which provides health tips and tricks.

Comment from sermed havuz
June 6, 2020 at 2:55 pm

sermed havuz liner havuz kaplama sistemleri

Comment from alex0
June 7, 2020 at 3:50 am

well! They take a gander at the data you shared here! this article has such a stunning mean offer, that vivifies my referencing! I should regard your exertion Thank you!

Comment from Alex
June 22, 2020 at 12:23 am

I really enjoy reading your article.This blog has useful content. it’s very difficult to find a high-quality wine coolers but it solve this main problem and bring you the finest quality wine coolers in very affordable price.

Comment from alex0
June 30, 2020 at 2:04 am

your post isn’t astoundingly standard paying little character to how this subject isn’t all around scrambling at any rate you have made it look especially stunning. on any occasion for me, it is! keep achieving this work and spread understanding the best course to this world!

Comment from alex0
June 30, 2020 at 3:33 am

your post isn’t astoundingly standard paying little character to how this subject isn’t all around scrambling at any rate you have made it look particularly shocking. on any event for me, it is! continue accomplishing this work and spread understanding the best course to this world!

Comment from Yellowstone Merchandise Vest
July 21, 2020 at 2:57 am

The great website and information shared are also very appreciable.

Comment from Bellelily
July 30, 2020 at 12:29 am

Thank you for sharing this. And your site si amazing!

Comment from Fairyseason
July 30, 2020 at 12:30 am

I am reading your article and this has a lot of information about buying things. I like your work.

Comment from Fairyseason
July 30, 2020 at 12:31 am

I like your work. I am glad I came across your blog

Leave a comment on this post