LINGUIST List 11.2053

Tue Sep 26 2000

Disc: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Ronald Sheen, Re: 11.1986, Disc: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Message 1: Re: 11.1986, Disc: Kirk: Corpora Galore

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 18:00:38 -0400
From: Ronald Sheen <Ronald_SheenUQTR.UQuebec.CA>
Subject: Re: 11.1986, Disc: Kirk: Corpora Galore

In response to my query concerning the empirical evidence advanced to
support the following statement:

>>"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).

Joybrato Mukherjee offers the following clarification (for which thanks, btw):
>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)

**This gives a somewhat different impression from the original quote.
However, there still remains an apparent internal contradiction. If we
are to accept this explanation, we have to assume that teachers make their
students learn idioms but then discourage them from using them because they
may know them to be no longer current - which raises the question as to why
teachers would make learners learn old-fashioned idioms in the first place.

I can think of one possible explanation for this. My experience in Japan
brought me into contact with teachers who had learned their English (often
ineffectively) by means of purely written texts and who had little to no
contact with contemporary spoken English. Furthermore, they had to prepare
students for exams which often entailed knowing a number of less than
contemporary idioms. Now if we put a native English teacher into this
context, one might find him/her teaching such idioms for the exams while at
the same time discouraging students from using them should they ever have
to communicate with other native English speakers.

However, this does not appear to be the explanation envisaged by either
David Minugh or Joybrato Mukherjee.

This said, what is undeniable is the contribution that corpus-based
evidence can make to rendering teaching texts representative of
contemporary spoken English.

Ron Sheen U of Q in Trois Rivieres, Canada.

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