LINGUIST List 11.1986

Wed Sep 20 2000

Disc: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. j.mukherjee, Re: 11.1909, Disc: New: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Message 1: Re: 11.1909, Disc: New: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 15:03:52 +0200
From: j.mukherjee <>
Subject: Re: 11.1909, Disc: New: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Concerning my review of

John M. Kirk, ed. (2000): Corpora Galore: Analyses and Techniques in
Describing English (Language and Computers: Studies in Practical
Linguistics No 30). Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Ron Sheen wrote the following:

>In the review of the above volume, Joybrato Mukherjee writes:
>"A second example of leaving loose threads is David C. Minugh's
>paper. He is perfectly correct in observing that "students, particularly
>EFL students, are both encouraged to learn idioms [...] and
>simultaneously discouraged from using them" (p. 57). However, he does not
>provide the reader with a clear-cut conclusion as to this problem on the
>basis of the numerous - and no doubt valuable - quantitative corpus
>What is intriguing, from my point of view, in the above is:
>"...simultaneously discouraged from using them"
>I'd appreciate it if either the author of the article or of the review
>could elaborate on the empirical data used to support this conclusion. It
>puzzles me as to why there would be such discouragement, what type of
>evidence was advanced to support the conclusion and how it was gathered.

What David Minugh states is the fact that on the one hand, EFL teachers tend
to make learners use idioms which are supposed to mark native competence (in
the same way as, say, the correct use of phrasal verbs or collocations). On
the other hand, learners are "discouraged from using them" because many
idioms have become worn-out and clich´┐Ż-like wordings (cf. e.g. "it's raining
cats and dogs" which seems to survive in the EFL classroom only).
Neither Minugh (in his paper) nor I (in my approval) have drawn on truly
empirical data. Focusing on my reasons for agreeing with Minugh on this
point, the experience I made in the course of two years of teacher training
(and of teaching my own classes) confirm this observation. Although I am not
able to elaborate on non-existing empirical data, the bottom line is that
EFL teachers face the difficulty of teaching an appropriate command of
idioms. In fact, this is a clearly intuition-based hypothesis, but in my
view, both learners using too many idioms and learners using hardly any
idioms or no idioms at all are easily recognized as non-natives. Corpus
linguistic studies may, however, provide useful (and empirical) insights for
determining the adequate amount of idioms to be taught and to be learned.
The question is whether newspaper CDs as databases are the best choice,
since this genre makes use of idioms to a larger extent than other genres
(as Minugh hinself points out correctly). In this regard, one can surely not
do without analyses of more representative and balanced corpora in future

Joybrato Mukherjee

Department of English, University of Bonn

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