Published on February 4, 2008
What can corpus linguistics tell us about English grammar?: What can corpus linguistics tell us about English grammar? Douglas Biber Northern Arizona University Major themes in the talk: Major themes in the talk A survey of corpus-based analytical techniques Illustrate the research findings from the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English The unreliability of intuitions The centrality of register for descriptions of language use Grammatical complexity in conversation Implications for ESL/EFL teaching and materials Composition of the Longman Spoken and Written English (LSWE) Corpus: Composition of the Longman Spoken and Written English (LSWE) Corpus # of texts # of words Conversation BrE 3,436 3,929,500 Conversation AmE 329 2,480,800 Fiction 139 4,980,000 News BrE 20,395 5,432,800 News AmE 11,602 5,246,500 Academic prose 408 5,331,800 Pronouns: Pronouns Many simple analyses can be carried out using only concordancing software KWIC Screen from MonoConc: KWIC Screen from MonoConc Modal verbs: Modal verbs Modal verbs (e.g., can, must) and semi-modals (e.g., have to) express similar meanings Semi-modals are especially common in conversation Are the core modal verbs more common in academic writing or in conversation? Basic decisions that all materials developers make: : Basic decisions that all materials developers make: Which grammatical features to include in a lesson or book; which to exclude? How much space should be given to included topics? What order of topics? Which specific words to include when illustrating a grammatical feature? Identifying the features and words that are "common". ESL/EFL grammar books surveyed for the study : ESL/EFL grammar books surveyed for the study Low intermediate: Basic grammar in use Intermediate: Focus on grammar Fundamentals of English grammar Grammar in use Intermediate to advanced: Grammar dimensions (Book 3) Oxford practice grammar 1) Which topics to include / exclude, focusing on noun pre-modifiers : 1) Which topics to include / exclude, focusing on noun pre-modifiers Adjectives as pre-modifiers (the big house) Participles as pre-modifiers (flashing lights, a restricted area) Nouns as pre-modifiers (plastic trays) In newspaper writing, are all three types of modification equally important? Which one(s) should be emphasized? Which topics to include / exclude, focusing on noun pre-modifiers (cont.): Which topics to include / exclude, focusing on noun pre-modifiers (cont.) Survey of ESL/EFL grammar books: a) no discussion: 1 book b) adjectives as pre-modifiers: 5 books c) participles as pre-modifiers: 4 books d) nouns as pre-modifiers: 1 book Excerpt from a tagged text: Excerpt from a tagged text The ^ati++++ Civil ^jj+atrb+++ War ^nn++++ tore ^vbd+++xvbn+ the ^ati++++ United ^np++++ States ^nps++++ apart ^rp++++ . ^.+clp+++ After ^cs+sub+++ the ^ati++++ war ^nn++++ Americans ^nn+nom+++ had ^md"++pmd"++ to ^md+nec+++ put ^vb+++xvbn+ the ^ati++++ nation ^nn++++ back ^rp++++ together ^rb++++ Meaning relations expressed by Noun-Noun sequences: Meaning relations expressed by Noun-Noun sequences Example N-N sequences Meaning relationship glass windows, metal seat, N2 is made from N1 tomato sauce pencil case, brandy bottle, N2 is used for the purpose of N1 patrol car sex magazine, sports diary N2 is about N1 farmyard manure, computer printout N2 comes from N1 summer rains, Paris conference N1 gives the time or location of N2 2) What order of topics, focusing on progressive (continuous) and simple present tense: 2) What order of topics, focusing on progressive (continuous) and simple present tense Three verb aspects in English: Simple: He works very hard Progressive (or ‘continuous’): Tom is writing a letter Perfect: Charlie has gone home In conversation, which is the most common aspect? What order of topics, focusing on progressive (continuous) and simple present tense (cont.): What order of topics, focusing on progressive (continuous) and simple present tense (cont.) progressive introduced before the simple present: 3 books progressive introduced in the first chapter: 4 books progressive introduced before or with the simple present: 5 books progressive introduced after the simple present: 1 book Simple aspect verbs in conversation: Simple aspect verbs in conversation B: -- What do you do at Dudley Allen then? A: What the school? B: Yeah. Do you - A: No I'm, I'm only on the PTA. B: You're just on the PTA? A: That's it. B: You don't actually work? A: I work at the erm - B: I know you work at Crown Hills, don't you? A: Yeah. Slide23: Which specific words to include when illustrating a grammatical feature, focusing on the initial chapters that describe verb tenses What are the most common lexical verbs in conversation? Selected meanings of GET in conversation: Selected meanings of GET in conversation Obtaining something (activity): See if they can get some of that beer. (Conv) How much are you getting a pay raise for? (Conv) Moving to or away from something (activity): Get in the car. (Conv) Causing something to move (causative): Jessie get your big bum here. (Conv) We ought to get these wedding pictures into an album of some sort. (Conv) Causing something to happen (causative): Uh, I got to get Max to sign one, too (Conv) It gets people talking again, right. (Conv) Changing from one state to another (occurrence): She's getting ever so grubby looking now. (Conv) So I'm getting that way now. (Conv) Understanding something (mental): Do you get it? (Conv) Get in the perfect asoect with a stative meaning similar to have: The Amphibicar - It's got little propellers in the back. (Conv) You got your homework done, Jason? (Conv) Verbs illustrated in the first lessons on present progressive and simple present tense(four low intermediate and intermediate books): Verbs illustrated in the first lessons on present progressive and simple present tense (four low intermediate and intermediate books) common verbs included in these textbooks: is, has, do, like, want, know, mean moderately common verbs included in these textbooks: eat, work, feel, work, play, watch, talk, call, remember, hear, seem less common and rare verbs included in these textbooks: run, listen, wear, cry, revolve, arrive, touch, stand, travel, read, rain, shine, write, ring, drive, enjoy, study, build, rise, smoke, close, speak, grow, kiss, stay, own, taste, cause, boil common verbs that are NOT included in any book: say, get, go, think, see, make, give common verbs included in only one book: come, take Meanings of modal verbs: Meanings of modal verbs Personal meanings -- permission and obligation: You can't mark without a scheme. You must make a scheme. (Conv) I know you have to protect your eyesight. (Fict) Logical meanings -- possibility and logical certainty: Or he might accept it but reach different conclusions. (Acad*) You must have thought that you would have so much time. (Conv) Personal meanings -- ability: I think we can beat Glenavon. (News) He thought he could help his brother in his illness by writing about their childhood. (News) may marking permission in teacher talk:: may marking permission in teacher talk: Students: [many voices talking] Teacher: Yes Carl. You may do some maths if you want to. Student: No. Teacher: You may do your language work if you want to. Student: I thought you said anything. Teacher: If you don't want to do - either of those things – and you are - keen on writing a story, you may write. [...] Teacher: No you may not draw a picture. could, might and may marking logical possibility in academic prose: could, might and may marking logical possibility in academic prose The two processes could well be independent. (Acad) Of course, it might be the case that it had been settled long before that. (Acad) The only problem may be that the compound is difficult to remove after use. (Acad*) Legumes may have smaller conversion efficiencies. (Acad) The problems encountered may be entirely physical in nature. (Acad) must marking logical certainty in conversation: must marking logical certainty in conversation Your mum must not care. (Conv) It must have fallen out trying to fly. (Conv) Your feet must feel wet now. (Conv) must marking personal obligation in academic prose: must marking personal obligation in academic prose I must now confess something which I kept back from you in Chapter 3. (Acad) The permanence of dams already constructed must be ensured. (Acad*) This is the sort of case in which judges must exercise discretionary power. (Acad*) Selected common lexical bundles with simple present tense verbs in conversation: Selected common lexical bundles with simple present tense verbs in conversation I don’t know what __________________ how if why where who I don’t think he/she __________________ I it’s you they Example exercise to practice the use of lexical bundles: Example exercise to practice the use of lexical bundles Choose from the following endings to complete the lexical bundle: if I would like that where it is he actually wrote it it's too dirty yet I don't think his speech delivery was very good. I think he read it. But I don't think ______. We have that book, but I don’t know _________. We've only lived in the apartment for a year. I don't think ________. Melissa: They went swimming in the ocean. She said the water was like bath temperature. Sam: Well, I don’t know __________. That’s a little too tropical!