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Costas Gabrielatos

Pedagogy-driven corpus-based lexicogrammar

Costas Gabrielatos has been working in corpus linguistics since 2001. He came to linguistics via English language teaching (1984-1993) and language teacher education (1992-2001). Costas joined Edge Hill University in September 2012; previously, he worked as associate lecturer and researcher at Lancaster University and Liverpool University. His general research interests are in the development of corpus approaches to issues in theoretical and applied linguistics. More specifically, his work combines the following areas:


– Corpus Linguistics: compilation of topic-specific corpora, annotation techniques, metrics.
– Lexicogrammar: conditionals, modality, tense-aspect, construction grammar, lexical grammar.
– Corpora in language education: pedagogical lexicogrammar, analysis of learner language.
– Discourse-oriented corpus studies.

Costas Gabrielatos

Abstract


The talk will discuss an approach situated at the intersection of linguistic theory, analysis of learner language, frequency studies, and evaluation of pedagogical materials, with the aim of developing a body of corpus-based lexicogrammatical information for language learners, particularly on issues that are (deemed to be) problematic for language learners. That is, the approach is intended to complement research on DDL. The motivation for this approach is three-fold.


Currently, pedagogy-oriented corpus-based studies have one of two main foci. One research strand examines learner language, usually incorporating an explicit or implicit comparison to L1 use (e.g. errors or frequency of use), or seeking to establish correlations between L2 use and the learners’ L1. A second strand seeks to evaluate pedagogical materials (grammars, dictionaries, and coursebooks) in terms of the information, examples, and exercises they contain by comparing this information to L1 use. However, few studies so far have combined the two strands.


In linguistics, there are different views on the nature of lexicogrammar, which (explicitly or implicitly) tend to ascribe primacy to either lexis or grammar. In turn, particular theoretical frameworks, especially those popular among language teachers and materials writers, influence the content of pedagogical materials. The proposed approach is influenced by Halliday’s view of lexis and grammar as “complementary perspectives” (1991: 32), and his conception of the two as notional ends of a continuum (lexicogrammar), in that “if you interrogate the system grammatically you will get grammar-like answers and if you interrogate it lexically you get lexis-like answers” (1992: 64). More specifically, the proposed approach interrogates the system lexicogrammatically to get lexicogrammatical answers.


Language teaching still treats lexis and grammar predominantly in a compartmentalised fashion, evidenced by the existence of pedagogical grammars and learner dictionaries. Although pedagogical materials overlap in their coverage (grammars also provide some lexis-like information, and dictionaries also provide some grammar-like information), this is not done consistently, and the two aspects are not presented as being interconnected (let alone inseparable). Similarly, coursebook units tend to provide separate sections for grammatical and lexical information, the latter complemented with phraseological information -- usually in the form of (seni-)fixed expressions. As a result, learners need to consult both a grammar and a dictionary (or different sections of a coursebook) in order to construct a full picture of a lexicogrammatical item. The grammar-lexis division in current pedagogical materials can be seen as unavoidable in light of the size limitations of hard-copy volumes (and the attendant cost). However, these issues do not apply to electronic publishing, which offers possibilities for the production of comprehensive learner resources that combine the features of pedagogical grammars and dictionaries: pedagogical lexicogrammars. Such resources would also be easily updatable and expandable, and grammar/lexis-like information could be interlinked. In addition, entries could provide links to open-access corpora, enabling learners to examine instances of actual use -- a practice that would also allow for “serendipity” (Bernardini, 2000), that is opportunities for learners to discover language features other than the ones for which they accessed the pedagogical lexicogrammar. Using such a resource, learners would be able to access language information, and examples of actual use, starting at any point of the lexicogrammar continuum, and combine information as needed.