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LINGUIST List 24.3293

Fri Aug 16 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics: Chau, Hyland & Handford (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 31-May-2013
From: Carmela Chateau <Carmela.Chateauu-bourgogne.fr>
Subject: Corpus Applications in Applied Linguistics
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2101.html

EDITOR: Ken Hyland
EDITOR: Meng Huat Chau
EDITOR: Michael Handford
TITLE: Corpus Applications in Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Carmela Chateau, Université de Bourgogne

This book covers the traditional areas of applied linguistics, such as Second
Language Acquisition (SLA), professional discourse, and the development of
language teaching materials, but also includes new domains, such as English as
a Lingua Franca (ELF). After a brief discussion of the impact of corpora on
the field of applied linguistics, the introduction by the three editors,
“Corpora in Applied Linguistics”, provides an overview of the four remaining
sections. The book contains thirteen chapters, all by different authors (in
one case by two co-authors), and focuses mainly on English, with one chapter
providing data from other European languages and another describing a
documentary corpus of Chinese photographs. There is also an Afterword “The
problems of Applied Linguistics” by Susan Hunston.

The first main section is composed of three chapters focusing on professional,
or institutional, discourse. Michael Handford provides a summary of research
over the past twenty years, and presents a series of specialised corpora,
including those produced by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which can be
searched online. He also describes his current project, compiling a corpus of
professional international English speech data, focusing on construction
industry discourse. Finally, he shows how corpus data can be used to inform
pedagogical materials, with examples taken from the Cambridge Business
Advantage series.

Ken Hyland discusses studies of academic discourse, which also provide
information useful for teaching this type of language to students and
researchers. Academic discourse is not a single unit, but a composite of many
different genres, and students need to learn how to understand different types
of academic discourse, just as researchers need to learn how to produce
context-appropriate forms. The example presented by Hyland is a case-study of
gender differences in book reviews, in the contrasting fields of philosophy
and biology.

In the final chapter in this section, Almut Koester reviews corpora of
workplace discourse, and discusses several studies based on CANBEC, CANCODE,
HKCSE and other smaller corpora, using both qualitative and quantitative
analyses. She shows that lexical features, keywords, phraseology and
pragmatics can all be studied by means of corpora, and that thus the
distinctive characteristics of workplace discourse can be established,
confirming the institutional aspects of this type of language.

The second section, “Corpora in Applied Linguistics Domains”, contains four
chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of this multidisciplinary field:
translation studies, forensic linguistics, gender studies and media studies.

Sara Laviosa illustrates the uses of corpora in translation studies,
presenting the different types of corpora that can be used, whether
multilingual, bilingual or monolingual, parallel or comparable, unidirectional
or bidirectional. Translation universals such as simplification, explicitation
and normalisation are also explored. Translation examples are drawn from
several languages, almost always between English and another European language
(Norwegian, German, and Spanish), with a more detailed presentation of a
project using corpora to train students in specialised translation from
English to Italian.

The field of forensic linguistics, according to John Olsson, owes a great deal
to corpus linguistics and quantitative analysis. He provides a comprehensive
overview of the ways in which corpus investigation can assist in identifying
authorship, by describing in some detail a specific case involving an unnamed
actress. He also discusses the limits of corpus analysis regarding the
evolution of legal terminology and the need to build corpora of specialist
text types.

Like Hyland, Paul Baker investigates gender, but in a broader discussion of
representations in general corpora, and a specific study of the term
“metrosexual” in British newspapers. He points out certain problems with the
interpretation of corpus data and pleads for an approach combining concordance
analysis with the more detailed study of longer passages of text.
In the final chapter in this section, Anne O’Keeffe presents the core
applications of corpus linguistics to the study of media discourse (keywords,
frequency lists and concordances), providing many detailed examples of the
types of analysis that can be fruitfully undertaken in this field, drawing
upon a corpus of media interviews, and several reference corpora.

The third section, “Corpora in New Spheres of Study”, contains three
chapters, on ELF (English as a Lingua Franca), texting, and a photograph

Barbara Seidlhofer discusses two specific ELF corpora, VOICE and ELFA, their
similarities and their differences, and the implications of this type of
research for Applied Linguistics, while underlining the validity of
observation rather than introspection and elicitation to provide information
about language in use, particularly for ELF, which by definition has no native

Texting is a relatively new form of expression, and Caroline Tagg presents
many of the problems that its study involves, first in collecting the data,
and then in its standardisation, with respelling and code-switching high on
the list of the challenges encountered. Perhaps because such data are
difficult to obtain, Tagg provides a list of freely available text corpora,
and one commercially available corpus.

Gu Yuego presents “A Conceptual Model for Segmenting and Annotating a
Documentary Photograph Corpus”. The corpus contains several million
photographs stored in digital form, and the author discusses in great detail
how to annotate such a corpus, so that a computer can analyse it.
Surprisingly, segmentation and annotation are performed manually, based on the
MPEG-7 standard, and Protégé is used to construct a skeleton ontology for
knowledge representation.

The final section, “Corpora, Language Learning and Pedagogy”, contains three
chapters, on learner corpora and SLA, using corpora in the classroom, and for
materials design.

Chau Meng Huat provides an overview of learner corpora research, illustrated
by a case study of the development of L2 phraseological competence among
Malaysian 13-year-olds. He also outlines ongoing learner corpus initiatives,
and discusses the terminology used and its impact on research (learners vs.

Lynne Flowerdew discusses a range of approaches to the use of corpora in the
classroom: lexical, functional, genre-based, ending with a short case-study of
a corpus-informed course in report-writing, which also systematically
integrated training in corpus consultation strategies at each stage of the
writing process.

The chapter by Michael McCarthy and Jeanne McCarten gives a brief history of
corpus-informed language teaching, before describing the production of spoken
corpus-based materials that are both user- and teacher-friendly, illustrating
the discussion with excerpts from the Touchstone series of textbooks, which
they co-authored with Helen Sandiford. Elements such as word frequency lists,
keyword lists, collocation statistics and chunk lists were used to analyse the
data in order to select the most pertinent items to be integrated into the
course. The focus is on the development of conversational strategies, such as
organising, topic management and listenership to encourage learner autonomy.

Finally, Susan Hunston’s Afterword, “The Problems of Applied Linguistics”,
discusses the book from the viewpoint of both Corpus and Applied Linguistics.
The main difference seems to be one of perspective: in Applied Linguistics,
the focus is on the individual text and corpora are used to validate the
analysis, whereas in Corpus Linguistics texts are selected to form a corpus
which, taken as a whole, will provide information about language. The patterns
observed can then be used to interpret a specific text.

As Hunston points out, applied linguists undertake research into language with
relevance to real-world problems, and each chapter shows how using corpora can
assist in reaching that goal. Readers will find many interesting suggestions
and ideas for future study and research, even though the specific focus of
some chapters may be outside their usual interests.

English for international communication is frequently the focus, and most
chapters have some pedagogical aspects to interest both researchers and
language teachers. For students, it would have been helpful to include a
section presenting the dos and don’ts of using corpora in applied linguistics;
a reference list of corpora or corpus tools and software would also be useful,
as only Tagg and Seidlhofer provide such details. Some information about
corpora can be gleaned from the subject index, but no software is listed
there. A longer, more extensive introductory chapter could have provided a
better overview of what corpora can bring to applied linguistics. The corpus
linguist will notice that Sinclair appears twice in the list of authors (under
both J. and J. McH.), but that Firth for Applied Linguistics means Alan, not
John Rupert, despite the emphasis on the importance of social context.

One of the drawbacks of the book is that the chapters are divided into
artificial groups rather than introduced individually, which would help to
underline their many common features. Although each separate chapter makes a
valid contribution to the general theme of using corpora in applied
linguistics, the book reads more like a collection of conference papers than a
set of chapters specially commissioned to form a unified whole. The Afterword
by Susan Hunston would make a better starting point than the opening chapter
by the editors, if the reader wishes to envisage the book as a coherent whole.

Several articles stand out. Sara Laviosa’s presentation of the importance of
corpora in translation studies is thorough, detailed and inspiring. It seems
almost impossible to imagine the field without corpus input and she predicts
that corpus linguistics, translation studies and computer science will become
even closer in the future.

Similarly, the impassioned defence of ELF as a valid form of communication
raises many questions for the language teacher, and it would have been
interesting for there to have been more intertextual links on such points.
Seidlhofer does refer to the chapter on SLA by Chau, but neither Handford nor
McCarthy and McCarten mention ELF explicitly, although their chapters discuss
the role of English in international communication.

The most unusual chapter is about the annotation a photographic corpus, which
is not readily classified under Applied Linguistics or Corpus Applications,
yet still makes for fascinating reading (and the author promises to compensate
any reader who undertakes the task of creating such a corpus and regrets it).
Although Gu makes a good case for his model, it is debatable whether the
language teacher really needs such a labour-intensive image database, when
Wikimedia Commons and Google Images allow almost anyone with basic computer
skills to access copyright-free pictures.

This book provides a useful update on what has happened in the field since
“Corpora in Applied Linguistics” (Hunston, 2002), which focused more on what
corpus linguistics could bring to topics such as language teaching and
lexicography. The two books complement each other, with the earlier one
providing much of the information students will need in order to undertake the
types of cutting-edge research described in “Corpus Applications in Applied

Hunston, S. 2002. Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

Carmela Chateau-Smith is a lecturer in English for Specific Purposes at the
University of Burgundy, Dijon, France. She works in the Earth and
Environmental Sciences Department and at the University Language Centre. She
has recently completed a PhD in corpus linguistics, investigating language
change at a moment of paradigm shift in the domain of Earth Sciences, with a
diachronic corpus of geological English, WebsTerre. She is also interested in
learner corpora and CEF levels, the language of wine, and the use of English
as an international language for scientific communication.
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