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NUT Workshop 2016

Corpus Linguistics in the Classroom


Neill Wylie & Denise McAllister
Maastricht University Language Centre
Who we are…..
Neill Wylie
-MA TESOL
-Socio Linguistics
-Male v female communication
-Blended Learning in Academic English

Denise McAllister
-MA TESOL
-Academic Writing course coordination
-Intercultural Studies
-International Classroom, IntlUni
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Format of workshop

• Activate your knowledge!


• Definition of Corpus Linguistics
– Types of corpora
– Why use corpus informed methods?
– Student benefits
– Application of corpus to classroom
• Constructing a specialised corpus
• Summary: How can using a corpus benefit your
institution?

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On your smartphone / laptop / tablet:

Go to
app.gosoapbox.com

Enter access code:


nut

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What is Corpus Linguistics?

• The study of language as expressed in samples of


‘real world’ text

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What is Corpus Linguistics?

”…a method for finding out about language use which


involves the interrogation of large, electronically-stored
and rapidly-searchable collections of texts”

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What is Corpus Linguistics?

Types of corpora:
1. General Corpora – 100 million to a billion
words.
Big and diverse to be representative of language as a
whole

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What is Corpus Linguistics?

Types of corpora :
1. General Corpora – 100 million to a billion
words.
Big and diverse to be representative of language as a
whole

Typical book contains around 100,000 words


(academic text or novel)

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What is Corpus Linguistics?

Types of corpora :
1. General Corpora – 100 million to a billion
words.
Big and diverse to be representative of language as a
whole
2. Specialised Corpora
Purpose built to focus on a particular type of text,
writer or speaker

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What is Corpus Linguistics?

Additional Types of corpora :


3. Multilingual Corpora
English & Spanish; American English & Indian English
4. Parallel corpus
English & Spanish translated (CRATER)
5. Learner Corpus
International Corpus of Learner English
6. Historical corpus
Helsinki corpus 1.5 million words of text from 700AD – 1700AD
7. Monitor corpus
Continuation e.g. Bank of English

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Important English Corpora Websites

• British National Corpus (BNC) 100 million words

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Important English Corpora Websites

• Corpus of Contemporary American English


(COCA) 520 million words

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Example of Foreign Language Corpora

• Corpus del Español 100 million words

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Additional Corpora of Interest
• Hansard corpus:
– British parliament 1803 – 2005, 1.6 billion words

• Wikipedia corpus:
– -2014, 1.9 billion words

• Global Web-Based English (GloWbE):


– 2012-2013, 1.9 billion words across 20 countries

• Corpus of American Soap Operas:


– 2001 – 2012, 100 million words
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Why use a corpus?

• Discover tendencies
– what’s normal/typical in real-life language?

• Rare or exceptional cases


– Reveals what we wouldn’t know from looking at single texts
or from introspection

• Speed and accuracy


– Human researchers make mistakes and are slow

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Application to the classroom

• Suitable for both EAP and general English contexts

• Syllabus design

• Materials development

• Classroom activities

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The benefit of such student-centred
discovery learning:
• Access to facts of authentic language use
– comes from real contexts not constructed for pedagogical
purposes

• Challenges students
– to construct generalizations
– note patterns of language behaviour

• Make students more aware of language use

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The benefit of such student-centred
discovery learning:

Students may be able to determine:


– different meanings and uses of common words

– useful phrases and typical collocations

– the structure and nature (written and spoken discourse)

– where certain language features are more typical

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Authentic Examples of the use of
Corpus Linguistics in the Classroom
Examples of classroom application (1)

Student Example:
Use of ‘Aftermath’ by PhD Student

“In the aftermath of the Vatican Council, the Catholic


Church began to restructure its hierarchy of bishops..”

Sentence seems correct in aspects of language,


structure, grammar….

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Examples of classroom application

Student Example:
Use of ‘Aftermath’ by PhD Student

“In the aftermath of the Vatican Council, the Catholic


Church began to restructure its hierarchy of bishops..”

Sentence seems correct in aspects of language,


structure, grammar….

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Examples of classroom application

“In the aftermath of the Vatican Council, the Catholic


Church began to restructure its hierarchy of bishops..”

However, a native speaker might think the inclusion of


aftermath to be somewhat out of place…
….but may not know exactly why.

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Using COCA to Explain

• Search for aftermath

• Choose Academic context

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‘Aftermath’

• Instances in ACADEMIC in COCA

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‘Aftermath’

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Using COCA to Explain

• Nearly every line contains a negative


situation suggesting that aftermath is used
in close proximity to:
• Catastrophe
• Disaster
• Misfortune

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Examples of classroom application (2)

“James was not looking forward to his


impending birthday”

Is there something wrong here?

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Examples of classroom application (2)

“James was not looking forward to his


impending birthday”

Is there something wrong here?

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Search for ‘Impending’ in COCA

• Frequency: 2584
• Most common collocates?
• Words which occur most frequently together
(commit a crime, back – front)

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Search for ‘Impending’ in COCA

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Search for ‘Impending’ in COCA

• Frequency: 2584
• Most common collocates?
• danger
• doom
• anniversary
• famine
• suicide mission

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What can Corpus Linguistics tell us
about the use of ‘impending’?

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Use of ‘Impending’

Impending
• carries a negative semantic prosody

• is normally followed by a noun

• looks out of place next to an otherwise neutral /


positive noun such as birthday.

• can be used in the grammatical context of the


example
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Examples of classroom application (3)

‘Barrier to learning’ vs. ‘Barrier for


learning’

“…which plays a deactivating role and might


be a barrier for learning”

What does COCA say?

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Examples of classroom application

Search word

Choose
prepositions

Choose
academic

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Examples of classroom application

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Examples of classroom application
Barrier + to

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Examples of classroom application
Barrier + for

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Example of classroom application (4)

‘Aims at’ vs ‘aims to’

Both have very similar functions in similar


contexts…

…..so they are interchangeable, right?

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Example of classroom application

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Example of classroom application

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‘Aims at’ vs ‘aims to’

What does
this tell us?

• 10 times more likely to use/come across ‘aims + at’

• Doesn’t make ‘aims + to’ wrong

• Descriptive method of investigation – not prescriptive

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‘Aims at’ vs ‘aims to’

Aims + at + -ing form

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‘Aims at’ vs ‘aims to’

Aims + to + verb/adverb +
verb/noun/adjective + noun
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Example of classroom application (5)

“Stress is a risk factor of several psychiatric disorders


such as post-traumatic stress disorder and
depression.”

Anything amiss here?

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Example of classroom application (5)

“Stress is a risk factor of several psychiatric disorders


such as post-traumatic stress disorder and
depression.”

Anything amiss here?

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Search query:
risk + prep ALL Academic settings

Factor + of = 802

Factor + for = 621


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Factor + prep

What do you notice about what comes


after factor + of?

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Factor + prep

What do you notice about what comes


after factor + of?

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Factor + prep

What do you notice about what comes


before and after factor + for?
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Register free @
http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/

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Now it’s your turn….

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Now it’s your turn….

Search for
prepositions
used with
‘welcome’

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Now it’s your turn….

Search for
he most
common
exical verb
n spoken
English

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Constructing a specialised corpus
Corpus Building Tools

• Wordsmith Tools
– http://www.lexically.net/wordsmith/

• MonoConc Pro
– http://monoconc.com/

• AntConc
– http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software.html

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Corpus Building Tools

• Wordsmith Tools
– http://www.lexically.net/wordsmith/

• MonoConc Pro
– http://monoconc.com/

• AntConc FREE!!!!!
– http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software.html

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AntConc

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AntFileConverter
(Converts texts from PDF and Word to text file)

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Open AntFileConverter

Click File

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In AntFileConverter

Select folder
where files
are stored

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In AntFileConverter

Change
file type
(e.g. to
PDF, Word,
All files)

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In AntFileConverter

Select the files


you want to
convert

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In AntFileConverter

Click Start

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In AntFileConverter

Files convert to .txt

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In Folder
New txt sub-folder is created
containing the converted .txt files

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In txt sub-folder

Converted .txt files

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Constructing the corpus

Run AntConc
and
click File

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Constructing the corpus

Select
Open
File

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Constructing the corpus

Open the txt


sub-folder

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Constructing the corpus

Choose the
.txt files that
you want to
include in the
Corpus and
click Open

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Constructing the corpus

Your corpus
is complete!

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Constructing the corpus

Now start
your search!

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More uses..?
Teacher’s role as researcher facilitator

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How can Corpus Linguistics benefit
your institution?

• Tailored-approach to language learning


• Create authentic learning materials
• Aids in syllabus design
• Student-centred approach to learning
• Promotes autonomous learning
• User-friendly
• Cost-effective

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