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pergamon JournalsLtd.

~v~rem, vol. I-I. NO. 2, pp. 151-16:.1986


Primed in Great Britain

MICRO-CONCORD:

A LANGUAGE

LEARNERS

RESEARCH

TOOL

TIM JOHNS

English for Overseas Students Unit, Department of English, University of Birmingham,


Birmingham BI5 2TT
Micro-concord
is a simple interactive KWIC (keyword-in-context)
concordancing
program that runs under a variety of configurations
on the Spectrum home
microcomputer.
Based on the proposition that CALL (computer-assisted
language
learning) should, if it is to make maximum use of the possibilities
opened up by
the new technology,
involve more than simply making the computer
a sort of
surrogate teacher or trainer (Higgins, J. and Johns, T. Computers
in Language
Learning,
Collins 1984), it offers both language learners and language teachers
a research tool for investigating
the company that words keep that has hitherto
usually been available only on mainframe
computers to academic researchers in
such fields as computational
linguistics, lexicography, and stylistics (Hockey 1980).
SOFTWARE
The program is tiny, in its current version comprisin, 0 a shell in BASIC of approximately
1K that is responsible
for input (word to be concordanced,
loading of text files) and a
machine-code
routine 390 bytes long that identifies occurrences of the key word in the text
file, and prints out citations on an Epson-compatible
printer in 74- or 130-column format
according to the specification
of the user:
0

1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)
9)
10)
11)
12)

41
5;
bi
7)
8!

91

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Ill
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i ?

Purer.

process

ssing

plants.

depends
An

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improvement

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on

centrifugal
separator
mounted
They designed
the plant
nium.
this time based
essing
plant,
0 tons of spent
fuel per year
on of the chain-reacting
pile

on
on
on
on

bomb

on

located
at standard
positions
led the length
of the canyons
5 all the uranium.
This play
raction
process
to be applied

on
on
on
on

of

the

first

plutonium

on

solvent-extraction
aPPa
column
and the mixerTypic
the
same
shaft
as
the
mixing
vanes
the principle
that the equipment
inside
t
Purex
solvent
instead
of Butex.
With
a ca
a site owned
by the state
of New York
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the

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design
the

December

of

the

extraction

2,

1942,

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the

explosion

of

th

The important
legacy
o+ H
July
16, 1945.
the inside
and near the top of the canyon
rails.
The crane
operator,
protected
by h
oxidation
states
gave rise to the name Re
a large
scale.
The Redox
process,
with He

TI.LI JOHNS

132

The machine code for the program was written in the Spring term of 1985 to illustrate
text-handling
techniques in 280 assembler for a group of Algerian students following an
English for Science in Engineering
course at Birmingham
University in preparation
for
postgraduate
courses and research at universities
in the UK. Instead of employing the
traditional
strategy in ESP of teaching the English of technology,
I adopted the alternative
approach of teaching a specific area of technology-in
this case computing-through
the
medium of English using a handout-based
workshop approach similar to what the students
could expect in their eventual departments.
For most of them, computational
methods using
a high-level language such as FORTRAN
or PASCAL would form an important
research
tool, and a course in FORTRAN
was provided by the Department
of Computing
of the
University in the Summer term. Rather than anticipate that work, I decided to concentrate
on the architecture
of a typical microprocessor
not only as that might be of some interest
in itself (particularly
for the students specializing in Electronics or Robotics), but also on
the assumption
that an appreciation
of the workin, 0 of the 280 and the structuring
of
programs in a low-level language would help them towards a better understanding
of the
potential and the limitations
of high-level computer languages.
The involvement
of the
students ranged from a number of decisions on the structure of the program (for example,
the decision to use delimiters
rather than loop counters
as exit conditions),
to the
identification
and typing-in of texts, and the preliminary
experiments on the ways in which
the program could be exploited in language-learning.
The overall structure of the machine-code
(Fig. 1). Points to note are:

routine

is shown in the simplified

flow-diagram

1. On entry to the routine, the text-file will be resident at location 758AH: this gives room
for files of over 34K, though in practice due to the limitations
of the word-processor
(Tasword Two) used to prepare text-files, most files will be 20K in length (i.e. a little
more than three thousand
words). The word to be searched for has been POKED by
the BASIC shell program into a buffer at 7530H. Both the text file and the buffer use
the character with code 127 (the copyright symbol) as a delimiter: this was chosen as
one that can be readily inserted at the end of the file using the word-processor,
and
that is unlikely to be needed within text.
2.

In searching for the target word, the routine checks for the upper-case equivalent of
a lower-case character in the buffer, but not vice versa: thus computer in the buffer
indentifies
both Computer
and COMPUTER
in the text, but Computer does not
identify computer.
This may occassionally
be of use to the user for indentifying
instances of a word used in sentence-initial
position. The routine is able to recognize
the standard initial and final word delimiters in text, including hyphens. In addition
to single words, the routine allows the user to search for phrases such as in order to
or as a result of.

3. The routine uses an asterisk as a wild card signifying


any number of characters,
including no characters,
within the word. This makes it possible to identify inflected
forms and variants of a lexeme-thus
consider* identifies consider, considers, considered,
and also considerable,
consideration
etc.

and considering-

),lICRO-CONCORD:

153

.A L.-\SGU.ACE LE.ARNERS RESEARCH TOOL

kn*w* identifies know , knew, knows, known, knowing,


etc.
n*theless identifies both nonetheless
and nevertheless
It also allows the user to examine text for occurrences
grammatical
feature-for
example

of a particular

knowledge

morpheme

or

*ing identifies all present participles


(as well as a number of other items such
as bring, thing, sing, etc)
*fer* identifies a wide range of etymologically
related words such as refer,
different,
reference etc.
*? identifies all direct questions in the text.
4. All printing is handled from within the routine, including the sending of control codes
for enlarged
printing,
(headings)
emphasized
printing
(74-column
printout)
and
condensed
printing (130-printing
printout).
While 130-column printing gives a more

Fig.

1. Micro-concord:

Flow diagram

of machine-code

routine.

154

TIM JOHNS

extended context for an item, students have tended to prefer 74-column printout which
is more legible and easier to scan rapidly. The citations are numbered, using a subroutine
in the Spectrum ROM provided for the line-numbering
of BASIC programs. The routine
provides two entry points, the first of which sets up the printer, prints out the heading,
and resets the number counter to zero: the second is for use with the microdrive and
disc versions of the program (see below) where multiple text files are to be searched
for a target word, and the printing-out
of the citations is to continue from the point
reached with the previous file. As is usual with KWIC concordances,
citations are given
as single lines of context with the target words printed centrally (i.e. with 30 characters
of preceding context for 74-column printout, and 60 characters for 130-column printout):
this format facilitates rapid scanning of a number of citations in order to examine the
linguistic features that the contexts have in common,
but has the disadvantage
that
the context is arbitrarily chopped off (often in mid-word) at either end of the citation.
5. The speed of the routine is best measured by the time taken for an unsuccessful
search
of a 20K text file. This is to some extent dependent on the number of near-misses that
the routine examines: in a good case (attempting
to match xxxx) the routine takes
0.37 seconds, and in a bad case (attempting to match thex) 0.57 seconds. These timings
mean that the speed of the program will depend on the time taken to load text files
and to print out citations: that is to say, it is a function of the hardware rather than
of the software.

HARDWARE
The basic hardware

required

A 48K Spectrum
A printer interface
interface).

CONFIGURATIONS

to run the Micro-concord

(the program

was developed

program

using

comprises:

a Kempston

Centronics

An 80-column printer (I use the Brother M1009, which is a versatile and relatively
inexpensive dot-matrix printer: it has the advantage that it recognizes the standard
Epson control codes for enlarged, condensed,
and emphasized
printing).
The potential power and flexibility of the program depends largely on the capacity, speed,
and convenience of the medium used for storing text-files. Three configurations
are possible:

1. Cassette-based
This is the cheapest, but also the most limited. A 20K file takes approximately
2 minutes
to load from cassette, and cassette allows only limited and clumsy file-handling.
With such
a system it is practicable
to search only a single file for instances of a particular
item:
adequate in studying the contexts of high frequency grammatical
items (e.g. prepositions,
auxiliary verbs) and certain technical and semi-technical
terms specific to a particular set
of texts, but making it difficult to sample properly most items with a frequency higher
than 1: 500, or to study a wide range of texts, without a great deal of irksome juggling
of cassettes.

MICRO-CONCORD:

A L.ASGIJAGE

LEhRSERS

RESE.ARCH

TOOL

155

2. Microdrive-based
The Sinclair microdrive is a stringy floppy (high-speed tape loop) system that gives much
of the speed and convenience
of discs at a fraction of the expense. The capacity of the
microdrive
is between 85K and 95K, which will accommodate
both the Micro-concord
program and four 20K files (i.e. just under 14,000 words of text). With a microdrive it
system: all the user has to do is to turn on the
is possible to implement
a turnkey
equipment,
select a cartridge and insert it in the microdrive,
and press R (for RUN) and
ENTER: the Micro-concord
program will then autoload,
ask whether 74- or 130-column
printout is required, and then scan through all the files on the cartridge (or only those
specified by the user) for citations of any item requested. An unsuccessful
search of 80K
of text (including the time needed to print out the heading and to locate and load four
text-files) takes approximately
50 seconds: that is, less than half the time needed to load
a single file from cassette. Experience has shown that a microdrive-based
system allows
the investigation
of a much wider range of items than can readily be handled using cassette
storage.

3. Disc- based
A number
of disc interfaces
are available
for the Spectrum.
Using the interface
manufactured
by Technology
Research, and an go-track double-sided
Cumana disc drive,
the time needed for an unsuccessful
four-file search is reduced to 20 seconds. More
important,
the capacity of such a system (660K per disc-i.e.
110,000 words of text) makes
it possible to base on a humble home computer such as the Spectrum a system that begins
to approach in power and flexibility the professional
concordancing
packages available
hitherto only on much more sophisticated
and less accessible machines.

TEXT

ENTRY

AND CLASSIFICATION

The increased storage capacity and ease of access of systems based on the Microdrive and
on disc brings to the fore questions (neglected in the early stages of development
of the
program) relating to the selection, entry, and classification of texts. It is part of the approach
underlying
the program that a large part of the responsibility
for identifying
and even for
entering texts should remain with the students. Whoever has to do it, there is a great deal
of typing to be done to fill one double-sided
80-track disc. Large-scale data-based projects
in Computational
linguistics such as the COBUILD lexicography
project at Birmingham
University increasingly
make use of entry methods other than the keyboard-for
example
the optical character reader, .and the reading of type-setting
tapes. At least one cheap
character-recognition
device (the Omnireader) has appeared for use with microcomputershowever, it appears that this may be too limited as yet to offer a viable alternative
to
keyboard entry.
Whatever the method used for entry of texts, it is crucial, if the learner or teacher is to
be able to identify precisely those texts in which he or she is interested, or to make meaningful
comparisons
between different types of texts, that a clear system of classification
should
be employed that is comprehensible
both to the user and to the machine. The best approach
appears to be to use the file name to code information
as to text classification.
For the

TI\l JOHNS

156

sort of text in which students of our unit are likely to be most interested,
classification
needs to take account of:
Department
of
Administration).

origin

(e.g.

Topic

area (e.g. Highway

Genre

(e.g. Textbook,

g-character

Engineering,

Construction,

Research

Numerical key (to distinguish


three criteria)
Thus a typical

Civil

Computational

Report,

text-files

file-name

Physics,

Lecture,

Student

with identical

(the maximum

Methods,

allowed

the scheme of

Development

Sociology).

Essay)

classiifications

by the TR-DOS

on the first

system) reads

TRHIREOl
Department
TRansportation
and Environmental
Planning

Topic Area
HIghway
Construction

Genre
REsearch
Report

Numerical
01

key

This system makes it relatively easy for the computer to recover all the texts in the same
genre or genres, for example, across a wide range of Departments
and topics-and
also
from a number of microdrive
cartridges or discs.

EXTENSIONS

AND

DEVELOPMENTS

Experience has shown that a simple concordancer


of the sort described above is usable,
and that there might be dangers in trying to introduce too many additional
refinements
and elaborations.
One danger is that the more complex the program, the more inaccessible
it may become. From the point of view of the users, it is an advantage of the present version
that they do not have to fight their way through a maze of menu options. From the point
of view of the programmer,
a short program such as this is easy to maintain:
the more
extensions one adds, the more likely it is that bugs will be introduced.
In addition-and
more importantly-there
is the pedagogic danger that one may, by making the program
more powerful, be giving the machine tasks to do that should be left to the learner.For
example, even if it were possible within the memory limitations
of the microcomputer
to
to do so, it would be of dubious benefit to offer the learner the standard
option of
mainframe concordancing
packages for printing out a complete concordance for every word
in the text or texts. Not only would learners easily be overwhelmed by the amount of printout
generated, but the option would remove from them the crucial decision of deciding which
word or words to investigate.
Despite the dangers of over elaboration,
there are certain developments
of the program
which do seem worth making. Some of these, such as the implementation
of a suitable

.\IICRO-CONCORD:

A LANGLJAGE

LE.ARNERS

RESEhRCH

TOOL

15i

filing and text-recovery


system for the disc-based version of the program, are already in
hand. Of those which remain to be coded, four are perhaps worth mentioning. The problems
of devising suitable algorithms for the extensions are not discussed below, though in each
case this does not seem to present any great difficulty.
At present, citations are printed out in the order in which they appear in the text-files.
Particularly
where longer concordances
are required, it would be desirable to provide
an option for output that has been sorted alphabetically,
so that similar citations are
grouped together. Within such an option it would be necessary to give three choices:
sorting by keyword (to group variants where the wild-card option has been used): by
context to the right of the keyword: and by context to the left of the keyword. It is
worth noting that the left context option is handled counter-intuitively
by some
mainframe concordancing
packages (see, for example, Hockey, 1980, pp. 56-7) in that
the program sorts by scanning characters in the context from right to left. Thus, given
the keyword time, some time will be listed before any time (e coming before y),
and instances of longer time will not be grouped with those of long time. While
it would make the computing
a little more complex, it would be more convenient
for
the user to have left contexts sorted by words to a depth of three, say, from the keyword.
In order for sorting to be carried out efficiently, it is necessary for citations to be stored,
and the sorting carried out, in random-access
memory. Given text files of not more
than 22K, and an expanded program-of
not more than 5K, the user-available
memory
on the Spectrum will allow the storage and sorting of over 100 130-character citations
and over 180 74-character
citations.
2.

It has already been mentioned that a characteristic


feature of the KWIC format is that
context is arbitrarily truncated at either end of the citation. This is less of a drawback
than may at first appear. For most features of the language at and below the level of
the clause, the context provided is adequate, particularly
if the 130-column option is
selected. The native speaker familiar with the type of text in the corpus is, moreover,
usually able to infer a good deal about the wider context within which the citation occurs.
It is, of course, more difficult for the non-native
user of the program to make such
inferences, and one of the first reactions of learners when confronted with KWIC output
is to complain about the unfinished sentences. The writers experience is that students
fairly soon overcome this first aversion, particularly if encouraged to do so by incidental
tasks such as guessing tru,ncated words: guessing the word before and the word after
the citation: completing
unfinished
sentences: identifying
the topic of the text within
which the citation occurs: and so on. Working with KWIC output may, in other words,
have the added advantage of fostering predictive strategies in reading (see, for example,
Goodman,
1967). There remain occasions on which it would be valuable to have access
to the wider context, for example to confirm a prediction
formed on the basis of a
truncated citation. A planned extension of the program is to provide a context-expansion
option which will, after a full KWIC concordance
has been generated, allow the user
to request an extended context for a particular citation identified by number. The choice
within the expansion option will be of the sentence within which the keyword appears,
together with the preceding and/or
following sentences.

158

TIM JOHNS

3. Even with the text storage available on microdrive, \ve have already, on occasion,
encountered a problem with the very large number of citations generated by highfrequency keywords: 83K of text files, for example, produces 578 citations for of and
1,133 citations for the. At present it is possible to abort a printout by using the Break
key: a more elegant solution would be to give the user the option of specifying in advance
a maximum number of citations, or that the program should print out every nth citation.
4. In addition to the general-purpose wild-card symbol already implemented, it was
intended, in the early planning of the program to offer two further wild cards: any
single character and any single character or no character. Experience in using the
program has led us to give a higher priority to an alternator symbol (e.g. /). No
juggling with wild-cards, for example, will recover all the forms of the verb be in
a single pass through the text-files. If one were able to specify all those forms in a single
input-e.g.
be/being/been/am/is/are/was/were-then
the task of recovering the
information would be speeded up considerably in comparison with a series of searches
for each variant, since the time taken by the program to perform a multiple search
would still be negligible in comparison with the time needed to load files more than
once from external memory. In addition to facilitating searches for variants of a single
lexeme, an alternator symbol would make it easier to investigate the behaviour of lexical
sets-for example, patterns of transitivity and complementation with specific lists of
verbs.

A CONCORDANCE-BASED

METHODOLOGY

There are three potential users of a concordancing program: the linguistic researcher, the
teacher, and the language learner. While Micro-concord was written with the last in mind,
the program may be of some use to others also.
Most computer-based research into text was originally undertaken by scholars concerned
with literary studies (Hockey, 1980); in recent years there has been an increasing interest
in the application of such research to syllabus design, and the writing of grammars,
dictionaries and coursebooks. Sinclair (1985) has claimed that the effect of corpus-based
research on English-language teaching is likely to be radical:
On the one hand, there is now ample evidence of the existence of significant
language patterns which have gone largely unrecorded in centuries of study: on
the other hand there is a dearth of support for some phenomena which are regularly
put forward as normal patterns of English.
While large-scale linguistic research is likely to remain the province of mainframe computers
and the massive databases which they can access, microcomputer-based
programs such
as Micro-concord may be able to play a subsidiary role in investigating specialized varieties
of text that are neglected in the large corpora or where the classification systems of the
large corpora are insufficiently delicate to recover the information required. A disc-based
version of Micro-concord, for example, would form an excellent tool in the investigation
of learners writing, permitting the examination not only of recurrent patterns of error,

MICRO-CONCORD:

.A L.ANGUAGE LE.-\RNERS

RESEARCH

TOOL

but also recurrent patterns of achievement,


and also the ways in which they manage
avoid syntactic and lexical problems in the target language.

159

to

The second potential user of a microcomputer-based


concordancing
program is the language
teacher. Skehan (1981) was one of the first to point out the opportunities
offered to teachers
by the microcomputer
revolution
for an on-line research. A concordancer
can assist in
investigating
the linguistic features of particular
texts and in checking against authentic
usage the generalizations
made in teaching materials, and serve as a source of exemplificatory
materials for exercises etc. While this is clearly not the only possibility, it is important that
teachers themselves should have experience in using concordance
output if they expect their
students to make use of it. In my own case, examining output has often proved chastening:
for example a concordance
of if showed how often in scientific and technical texts it is
followed by the bare adjective or past participle e.g. if available,
if known-a
usage
I found I had neglected in my materials on conditional
constructions
in English.
The direct use of concordance
output with language learners is not entirely novel, although
there is as yet only a limited amount of experience on which to draw. At Birmingham
University my colleague Antoinette
Renouf has, over the past 2 years, experimented
with
the use in the classroom of concordances
from the COBUILD project based on a corpus
of over 20 million words. Ahmad et al. (1985) report the use of an interactive mainframe
concordancing
program SEARCHSTRING
in the teaching of English, German and Russian
at the University
of Surrey. They point out that the program enables advanced learners
to take the initiative in carrying out their own research into the variable rules of the language,
the example they give being the problem of number agreement in English with collective
nouns (e,g, The Government
is/are agreed).
Although an interactive concordancer
has a number of different uses in language teaching
and language learning, it may be worth emphasizing
at this point that certain features are
common to all of them. Viewed as intake for language learning (Corder, 1967), a KWIC
concordance
occupies an intermediate
position between the highly organized, graded, and
idealized language of the typical coursebook,
and the potentially
confusing but far richer
and more revealing full flood of authentic communication.
By concentrating
and making
it easy to compare the contexts within which a particular
item occurs, it organizes data
in a way that encourages and facilitates inference and generalization.
Such generalizations
may leap out of the contexts in an obvious fashion (for example, the word before same
is almost always the), or may require a good deal more work on the part of the user
(for example, in detecting the affective tone of an item-see
Higgins and Johns, pp. 92-3).
Working with the same concordance,
a beginner may be able to draw relatively low-level
conclusions
about the structuring
of the language: a more advanced learner will be able
to make more subtle high-level inferences.
A concordance
is from this point of view very
different from the conventional
constructed
exercise in which the learner is searching for
a single correct answer fixed in advance. Whether any useful learning takes place as a
result of that search will depend on the nature of the task, and the strategies the learner
has to employ to solve it: in practice, such exercises often fail to promote effective learning
since for a particular
learner or group of learners the task is too easy (in which case the
most the exercise can achieve is to remind the learner of what he or she knows already),
or too difficult (when, no strategy being available to solve the task, the most that the learner

160

T1.11 JOHNS

can do is to learn the correct answer by heart once it has been revealed). The concordance
is inherently
more open and more flexible. Without questions given in advance, it leads
the learner to generate his or her own questions, and to test them out against the evidence.
There is at least a prima facie case for thinking that the early exposure to authentic text
and the skills of observation and inferencing developed in working with concordance output
may be transferred to language learning away from the computer and outside the classroom:
this is one of the many aspects of the approach that merit further investigation.
What is
clear is that the view of language learning as a species of research activity may cause
difficulties for some language teachers, particularly
if its implications
are carried through
in other aspects of the syllabus (see, for example, the approach to reading outlined in Johns
and Davies, 1983): our experience to date in the English for Overseas Students Unit suggests,
however, that the change of approach is accepted readily by most students providing it
is carefully prepared and explained.
The concordance-based
materials and activities we have explored to date are esperimental,
and do little more than scratch the surface of the new approach.
A few examples may
indicate some of the possibilities.
Pre-printed
concordance
output,
and interactive
use of the concordancer
in the
classroom, can provide a range of exercises and activities supplementary
to, and in some
cases replacing,
more traditional
materials.
Our work in vocabulary
teaching,
for
example, lays stress on the development
of strategies for guessing unknown words from
contextual clues: the multiple contexts offered by a concordance
gives the opportunity
for the hypotheses generated by one context to be tested against other contexts. In the
teaching of grammar, the concordancer
is especially valuable in dealing with the crucial
area where syntax overlaps with lesis. A frequent request by my students is for help
with prepositions
in English. One of the first experiments
with output from Microconcord was to use concordances
of the half-dozen
commonest
prepositions,
getting
students to underline
on the printout the head word colligating
with the preposition
(e.g. depending on, on demand), and then to develop a system of classification
for
the examples they found. The reaction of the students was that this was far more helpful
than the usual exercise involving filling in the missing prepositions.
With the computer
on hand, they soon began to investigate such further questions as whether, judging
from the contexts in which they occur, on the contrary could be distinguished
from
on the other hand, and then whether these could in turn be distinguished
from
however and nevertheless.
Similarly, a lesson that started by looking at the contexts
of the preposition
in ended with us getting concordances
for way*, method*,
procedure*
and process * to see if and how these differed in scientific text.
2.

One of the more interesting uses of a concordancer


is in the teaching of writing, where
it gives students an opportunity
to study the ways in which their own performance
compares with that of experienced native writers. Hong Kong Polytechnic
possesses
an impressive CALL facility based on 21 networked BBC micro-computers:
they are
in constant use, both on a class and a self-access basis, with word-processing
to the
fore. During a consultancy
visit I paid to the Polytechnic
at Easter 1985, David Foulds
wrote a version of Micro-concord
in BBC basic: we then used the prog;am
for an
experimental
session with a group of students following a course in interp:eting
and

.LlICRO-CONCORD:

;\ L.VKiU.\GE

LE.\RNERS

RESEARCH

161

TOOL

translating
who had been doing a project on how it might be possible to sell a typically
Chinese product such as rice wine to a European clientele. At the beginning of the session
the students were given 10 minutes to write, using the word-processor,
an advertisement
for rice wine: their efforts were then amalgamated
through the network into one large
student
text file. In the next 10 minutes they entered extracts from authentic
advertisements
for wine culled from magazines
and newspapers:
these were then
amalgamated
in a copywriters text file. Using the concordancing
program we then
investigated and discussed with the students the similarities and the differences between
their own use of certain key items and that of the copywriters.
The word wine itself,
for example, had a high frequency in both text files-yet
in the copywriters file it was
wine district)-a
usage which was
usually used as a modifier (e.g. wine-growers,
absent from the students file. Was the difference purely linguistic (the students having
a poorer repertoire of structural devices) or strategic (the copywriters
purpose being
to sell wine by its associations rather than directly)? The students were remarkably
fond
of the word connoisseur,
which appeared in a number of different contexts-yet
it
was absent from the copywriters
files: were the copywriters
anxious
to avoid
connotations
of elitism? In the time available, it was possible to do little more than
raise such questions-even
so, the session gave the relationship
between language and
the writers intention,
and to do so in a way which emphasized the usage of the group
rather than of the individual.
3. The third, and most important,
potential use of an interactive
concordancer
is as a
learning resource to be used freely by-students
on their own initiative with the role of
the teacher restricted to suggesting
points at which it may help to solve learning
difficulties. One possibility with which we have experimented is its use in helping students
to correct their written work, some mistakes being underlined
and a C placed in the
margin signifying You have used this word in a way which is different from how an
English person would use it: if you get a concordance
of the word you should be able
to work out a suitable correction
for yourself.
Many questions about the potential of the Micro-concord
program remain unanswered.
For example, it was developed for a particular type of student (adult: well motivated:
a
sophisticated learner with experience of research methods in his subject area) with particular
needs (fairly closely specifiable in terms of target texts) in a particular learning/teaching
situation
(in which a great deal of emphasis is placed on developing
students learning
strategies and on their responsibility
for their own learning).
It remains to be seen how
far the research methodology
outlined above would be suitable for other learners-for
example, children learning a foreign language at school. The writer would be particularly
interested to hear from other teachers who wish to experiment-or
who may, indeed, have
already experimented-with
a similar approach
for their own students.

REFERENCES
K., CORBETT,
G. and ROGERS, .M. (1985) Using Computers
an Example,
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AHMAD,

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TIM JOHNS

K. S. (1967) Reading: a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game, Jwrnal ofthe Reading Specialist, pp.
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HIGGINS, J. and JOHNS, T. (1984) Compufers in Language Learning, Collins.

GOODMAN,

HOCKEY, S. (1980) A Guide to Computer Applications in the Humanities, Duckworrh.


JOHNS, T. F. and DAVIES, F. (1983) Text as a Vehicle for Information:
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SINCLAIR, J. (1985) Retrospect and Prospect: Selected Issues in English in the World: Teeachingand Learning
the Longuuge and Literatures, Quirk, Randolph and Widdowson, H. G. (eds.), Cambridge.
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