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Review of Teaching and Learning by Doing Corpus Analysis.
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 2002 08:00:14 -0700 (PDT) From: svetlana kurtes Subject: Applied Linguistics: Kettemann and Marko (2002) Teaching and Learning by Doing Corpus Analysis (2002)
Kettemann, Bernhard and Georg Marko (eds) 2002. Teaching and Learning by Doing Corpus Analysis, Rodopi, viii+390pp, hardback ISBN 90-420-1450-4, Language and Computers: Studies in Practical Linguistics 42. Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-1849.html
Reviewed by Svetlana Kurtes, Language Centre, University of Cambridge, UK
'Teaching and learning by doing corpus analysis', edited by Bernhard Kettemann and Georg Marko (henceforth the editors), represents the proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Teaching and Language Corpora, held in Graz (Austria), 19-24 July 2000. There are 23 paper in the volume, classified in 6 thematic chapters: 'General aspects of corpus linguistics'; 'Corpus-based teaching material', 'Data-driven learning', 'Learner corpora', 'Corpus analysis of ESP for teaching purposes', 'Corpus analysis and the teaching of translation'. In the editors' introduction it has been pointed out that 'there is [...] a growing number of people who believe that learning a language, learning about a language and learning through a language might greatly benefit from an inductive approach. Through the analysis of large corpora of authentic language [...], learners do no longer have to rely on the intuitions of prescriptive scholars but can inductively draw their own conclusions, which seems to be a highly desirable goal in the age of 'learner autonomy' (p.1). There is also a short introductory word by Tony McEnery entitled ''TALC 4 ' where are we going?' giving a historical background on the Teaching and Language Corpora (TALC) conferences. A list of contributors (with brief biographical details) and a subject index are appended.
Guy Aston's paper 'The learner as corpus designer', opening the first thematic chapter 'General aspects of corpus linguistics', discusses the pedagogical benefits of 'home-made' corpora, maintaining that they should be seen as more appropriate than pre-compiled ones 'insofar as they can be specifically targeted to the learner's knowledge and concerns [...], permit[ting] analyses which would not otherwise be readily feasible [...].' The examples are taken from the BNC Sampler.
In her paper 'The time dimension in modern English corpus linguistics' Antoinette Renouf highlights the importance of developing an automated system able to identify and record features of a language seen as a synchronic entity, but also take into account important features of its diachronic change. The author in particular focuses on an ongoing lexical change in Modern English, concluding that modern diachronic English corpus linguistics 'is an area ripe for growth' (p.39).
Mike Scott's contribution 'Picturing the key words of a very large corpus and their lexical upshots or getting at the Guardian's view of the world' reports on the results of an analysis of some 800,000 newspaper articles taken from 'The Guardian' from 1984 to the present. An extensive key word database has been compiled and produced as a CD-ROM, also enclosed with the volume. Interrelationships between the key words are briefly presented and illustrated with appropriate examples and further applications for language teaching are noted.
'Where did we go wrong? A retrospective look at the British National Corpus' is the title of Lou Burnard's paper, which reviews the design and management issues and decisions taken during the construction of the BNC. It also describes the new World Edition of the BNC and the associated SARA retrieval package. The author is of the opinion that it would be very useful to build a series of BNC-like corpora at regular intervals, preferably every decade, enabling the linguists to watch 'the river of language flow and change across time' (p.68).
Chapter 2 ('Corpus-base teaching material') opens with Averil Coxhead's paper 'The academic word list: a corpus-based word list for academic purposes' outlining the principles of vocabulary learning and corpus linguistics which guided the development of the Academic World List (Coxhead 1998) based on a corpus of approx. 3,500,000 running words of written academic prose. The author maintains that the most prominent principles underpinning the study are those claiming that teachers should teach materials which are relevant to the learners, that they should teach the most useful vocabulary no matter what the student subject area is, and, finally, the most important words should be dealt with first. The word-lists are appended.
Dieter Mindt's article 'A corpus-based grammar for ELT' presents major characteristics of a new grammar (Mindt 2000), appearing as a result of ten years' work on the English verb system. It is fully corpus-based and especially geared to the requirements of ELT, addressing in particular the needs of advanced learners of English. All examples provided are authentic and frequency data are given wherever possible.
Tim Johns' article 'Data-driven learning: the perpetual challenge' opens Chapter 3('Data-driven learning'). The author outlines the development of an approach to the use of corpus data in language learning and teaching, tracing it briefly from the early 1980s, when the COBUILD project, directed by John Sinclair, was set up at Birmingham University (Sinclair 1987).
'Empowering non-native speakers: the hidden surplus value of corpora in Continental English departments' is the title of Christian Mair's contribution, in which the author discusses the role of corpora in enabling non-native speaking students of English 'to develop a rational view of the authority and limitation of native-speaker intuition, thus dispelling an unfounded and unproductive mystique frequently surrounding the native speaker and his/her judgement [...]'(p. 125). English departments in German universities are taken as an illustration.
Gunter Lorenz's article, entitled 'Language corpora rock the base: on standard English grammar, perfective aspect and seemingly adverse corpus evidence', discusses how the English language corpora, by making authentic language available for language teaching, have helped to redefine the notion of standard language to which language learners should aspire. Taking the perfective verbal aspect as an example, the paper re-examines the concept of 'grammatical rule' in learning and teaching English.
'Toward automating a personalized concordancer for data-driven learning: a lexical difficulty filter for language learners' is a contribution by David Wible, Chin-Hwa Kuo, Feng-yi Chien and C C Wang in which the authors present a novel teaching tool, called the Lexical Difficulty Filter (LDF), developed to increase the control over the examples retrieved from corpus and concordancing resources, in particular the control over the level of difficulty of the retrieved material. The authors also propose further refinements and extensions to the LDF.
John M Kirk's paper 'Teaching critical skills in corpus linguistics using the BNC' proposes a methodology comprising two main pro formas: one for corpus searching and one for reading scholarly articles, through which students prepare themselves for a project-based assessment. The author maintains that corpora can be used 'for the purpose of enabling students to learn about the structure of English, develop a descriptive and theoretical vocabulary, and cultivate a methodology for dealing analytically with [...] language' (p. 154; also Kirk 1994:29).
Silvia Bernardini contribution is entitled 'Exploring new directions for discovering learning'. The author discusses the role of corpora in providing rich sources of autonomous learning activities. Learners 'are introduced to a number of corpus tools and guided to progress from more convergent activities to autonomous browsing' (p.165). Positive and negative sides of this approach are discussed and some suggestions for further improvements are put forward.
'The CWIC project: developing and using a corpus for intermediate Italian students', a contribution by Claire Kennedy and Tiziana Miceli, presents major issues of the compilation of a corpus of contemporary written Italian (CWIC) and its integration into the Italian studies programme at Griffith University in Australia. The authors discuss some linguistic, pedagogical and practical issues in the selection and preparation of the material, concluding with some observations on the evaluation process.
Natalie Kubler ('Linguistic concerns in teaching with language corpora') discusses how the web-based environment for language teaching can enable students to understand sentence segmentation, multi-word units, ambiguity problems and other linguistic phenomena. The model was developed at the University of Paris 7 at the department of Intercultural Studies and Applied Languages.
Chapter 4 ('Learner corpora') opens with Ylva Berglund and Oliver Mason's article 'The influence of external factors on learner performance'. The authors report on the initial stage of a research project examining the relationship of different types of texts exclusively on the basis of external parameters. The proposed method will enable the analysis of language learner data, identifying 'how such data differs from the production of native speakers' (p.205). The paper presents the reasoning behind the project and describes the method developed in more detail.
'How to trace the growth in learners' active vocabulary?' is the title of Agnieszka Lenko-Szymanska' article in which the author reports on a study 'whose aim was to compare the validity, applicability and meaningfulness of two measures of lexical richness, lexical variation and lexical sophistication, for tracing the growth in learners' free active lexicon' (p. 217). The research was based on a selection of texts from the PELCRA corpus of learner English compiled at the University of Lodz.
John Flowerdew's contribution entitled 'Computer-assisted analysis of language learner diaries: a qualitative application of word frequency and concordancing software' demonstrates a more qualitative application word frequency and concordancing programmes. The author presents the experience of the English language teacher education programme at Hong Kong University, where the students are asked to focus on various aspects of the learning process and keep a weekly diary in which they record their reflections. The author analysed the students' notes and reported on their preoccupation as language learners and the identification of key words used by means of a word frequency programme.
Chapter 5 ('Corpus analysis of ESP for teaching purposes') opens with David Lee's paper entitled 'Genres, registers, text types, domains and styles: clarifying the concepts and navigating a path through the BNC jungle'. The author clarifies the notions of register, text type, domain, style, sublanguage, message form, etc, checking them against the BNC files. It has been proposed that a database containing genre labels will hugely facilitate genre-based research (such as EAP, ESP, discourse analysis, lexico-grammatical and collocational studies).
'Some thoughts on the problem of representing ESP through small corpora', a contribution by Laura Gavioli, discusses the problem of corpus representativeness. In particular, the author raises the issue of small corpus representativeness and criteria used in design of small corpora of specialized language used in ESP teaching and learning environments.
In his paper 'Modal verbs in academic writing', Paul Thompson reports on an investigation of the uses of modal auxiliary verbs in a corpus of PhD theses written by native speakers of English. The Reading Academic Text corpus, established in 1996, is composed of 39 PhD theses coming from two departments: Agricultural Botany and Agricultural Economics. It was established as a resource for research into academic writing practices and EAP pedagogy.
The last chapter, 'Corpus analysis and the teaching of translation', opens with Federico Zanettin's article 'CEXI: designing an English Italian translational corpus'. The author reports on project aiming to construct a bilingual corpus at the School for Translators and Interpreters of the University of Bologna in Forli. It is a bi-directional, parallel, translation-driven corpus, consisting of over 4 million words found in text samples published between 1975 and 2000.
'Mandative constructions in English and their equivalents in French: applying a bilingual approach to the theory and practice of translation' is Noelle Serpollet's paper, the objective of which is to analyse those French constructions that are translated by occurrences of mandative 'should' in English (e.g. 'I insisted that he should change his clothes'). Serpollet reports on a systematic analysis of two grammatically tagged corpora of British English (The Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen Corpus and the Freiburg-LOB Corpus), as well as the bilingual corpus INTERSECT (The International sample of English Contrastive Texts Corpus). The author briefly explores the impact of corpus linguistics on translation studies.
Claudia Claridge's paper is entitled 'Translating phrasal verbs' and it brings up the question of phrasal and prepositional verbs in English and German, focusing in particular on potential problems German learners of English can encounter while acquiring this part of English idiomaticity.
The present volume encompasses a variety of papers raising relevant issues in the theory and practice of corpus linguistics implemented into language pedagogy. The editors successfully managed to select a representative body of contributions delivered at the 4th International Conference on Teaching and Language Corpora (TALC), involving both practitioners and theorists from various academic and non-academic fields. The papers are carefully thematically grouped into six chapters, the descriptive labels of which address the central thematic category around which the papers cluster. In spite of an impressive variety of topics discussed and approaches deployed, the editors' choice exhibits a real mastery in maintaining a strong theoretical and methodological coherence of the volume. It is no doubt one of the main reasons why it will attract the attention of a wide audience, comprising both academics and professionals in the fields of corpus and computational linguistics, language pedagogy, theory and practice of translation, stylistics (genre analysis in particular), lexicography, information retrieval, etc.
The originality of ideas expressed and their practical application illustrated and discussed represent a genuine contribution to the subject fields mentioned, advancing our understanding of their key issues and pointing at the possible directions to be taken in research and its implementation. Therefore, we have no hesitation in recommending the volume to the attention of the target audience.
Just one suggestion, perhaps. Although the majority of contributions deal with the various issues of English electronic corpora, a number of papers also take into account work with multilingual corpora, which is certainly praiseworthy. It would be very informative, though, to include discussions dealing with the problems of the corpora of less commonly taught languages and endangered languages, their compilation, practical implementation, etc. Maybe one of the future TALC conferences can tackle the issue.
Coxhead, A 1998. 'The development and evaluation of an academic world list', unpublished MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.
Kirk, J M 1994. 'Teaching and language corpora: the Queen^Òs approach'. In Wilson A and A McEnery: Teaching and language corpora, University of Lancaster Department of Modern English Language and Linguistics Technical Reports, Lancaster.
Mindt, D 2000. 'An empirical grammar of the English verb system', Cornelsen, Berlin.
Sinclair, J M 1987. 'Looking up: an account of the COBUILD project in lexical computing, Collins Cobuild, Birmingham.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
About the Reviewer Svetlana Kurtes holds a BA in English Philology and an MA in Sociolinguistics from Belgrade University and an MPhil in Applied Linguistics from Cambridge University. She worked as a Lecturer in English at Belgrade University and is currently affiliated to Cambridge University Language Centre. Her research interests involve contrastive linguistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics/stylistics, translation theory and language pedagogy.o