Corpus linguistics and language teaching

by blogadmin

Douglas Biber

The last decade has witnessed an explosion of research studies in corpus linguistics, an approach to describing language that employs sophisticated computer tools and quantitative techniques.  These studies have shown that speakers and writers are much more systematic about their language use than we had ever guessed before.  The results of these studies are often surprising;  prior to corpus research, linguists had sometimes failed to notice the most common linguistic patterns of use.  However, those common patterns are arguably among the most important ones for learners. Surprisingly, few quantitative findings from corpus research have been translated into classroom applications.  Although ESL teaching has begun to use authentic language materials and corpus ‘concordancing’, few pedagogical applications have been adapted to take account of corpus research findings.  This talk introduces corpus-based research and presents several case studies that illustrate how corpus findings can be directly relevant to classroom teaching and materials development. Specifically, the talk describes how corpus-based analyses can be employed for the study and teaching of English grammar, with a focus on case studies taken from the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (LGSWE).  Two major themes are developed:  1) the kinds of unexpected findings about language use that result from corpus-based investigations, and 2) the importance of register for any descriptive account of linguistic variation.

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