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 HylandEDITOR: Meng Huat ChauEDITOR: Michael HandfordTITLE: Corpus Applications in Applied LinguisticsPUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Carmela Chateau, Université de Bourgogne

SUMMARYThis book covers the traditional areas of applied linguistics, such as SecondLanguage Acquisition (SLA), professional discourse, and the development oflanguage teaching materials, but also includes new domains, such as English asa Lingua Franca (ELF). After a brief discussion of the impact of corpora onthe field of applied linguistics, the introduction by the three editors,“Corpora in Applied Linguistics”, provides an overview of the four remainingsections. The book contains thirteen chapters, all by different authors (inone case by two co-authors), and focuses mainly on English, with one chapterproviding data from other European languages and another describing adocumentary corpus of Chinese photographs. There is also an Afterword “Theproblems 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 researchover the past twenty years, and presents a series of specialised corpora,including those produced by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which can besearched online. He also describes his current project, compiling a corpus ofprofessional international English speech data, focusing on constructionindustry discourse. Finally, he shows how corpus data can be used to informpedagogical materials, with examples taken from the Cambridge BusinessAdvantage series.

Ken Hyland discusses studies of academic discourse, which also provideinformation useful for teaching this type of language to students andresearchers. Academic discourse is not a single unit, but a composite of manydifferent genres, and students need to learn how to understand different typesof academic discourse, just as researchers need to learn how to producecontext-appropriate forms. The example presented by Hyland is a case-study ofgender differences in book reviews, in the contrasting fields of philosophyand biology.

In the final chapter in this section, Almut Koester reviews corpora ofworkplace discourse, and discusses several studies based on CANBEC, CANCODE,HKCSE and other smaller corpora, using both qualitative and quantitativeanalyses. She shows that lexical features, keywords, phraseology andpragmatics can all be studied by means of corpora, and that thus thedistinctive 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 fourchapters, 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, whethermultilingual, bilingual or monolingual, parallel or comparable, unidirectionalor bidirectional. Translation universals such as simplification, explicitationand normalisation are also explored. Translation examples are drawn fromseveral languages, almost always between English and another European language(Norwegian, German, and Spanish), with a more detailed presentation of aproject using corpora to train students in specialised translation fromEnglish to Italian.

The field of forensic linguistics, according to John Olsson, owes a great dealto corpus linguistics and quantitative analysis. He provides a comprehensiveoverview of the ways in which corpus investigation can assist in identifyingauthorship, by describing in some detail a specific case involving an unnamedactress. He also discusses the limits of corpus analysis regarding theevolution of legal terminology and the need to build corpora of specialisttext types.

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

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

Barbara Seidlhofer discusses two specific ELF corpora, VOICE and ELFA, theirsimilarities and their differences, and the implications of this type ofresearch for Applied Linguistics, while underlining the validity ofobservation rather than introspection and elicitation to provide informationabout language in use, particularly for ELF, which by definition has no nativespeakers.

Texting is a relatively new form of expression, and Caroline Tagg presentsmany of the problems that its study involves, first in collecting the data,and then in its standardisation, with respelling and code-switching high onthe list of the challenges encountered. Perhaps because such data aredifficult 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 aDocumentary Photograph Corpus”. The corpus contains several millionphotographs stored in digital form, and the author discusses in great detailhow to annotate such a corpus, so that a computer can analyse it.Surprisingly, segmentation and annotation are performed manually, based on theMPEG-7 standard, and Protégé is used to construct a skeleton ontology forknowledge representation.

The final section, “Corpora, Language Learning and Pedagogy”, contains threechapters, on learner corpora and SLA, using corpora in the classroom, and formaterials design.

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

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

The chapter by Michael McCarthy and Jeanne McCarten gives a brief history ofcorpus-informed language teaching, before describing the production of spokencorpus-based materials that are both user- and teacher-friendly, illustratingthe discussion with excerpts from the Touchstone series of textbooks, whichthey co-authored with Helen Sandiford. Elements such as word frequency lists,keyword lists, collocation statistics and chunk lists were used to analyse thedata in order to select the most pertinent items to be integrated into thecourse. The focus is on the development of conversational strategies, such asorganising, 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 theanalysis, whereas in Corpus Linguistics texts are selected to form a corpuswhich, taken as a whole, will provide information about language. The patternsobserved can then be used to interpret a specific text.

EVALUATIONAs Hunston points out, applied linguists undertake research into language withrelevance to real-world problems, and each chapter shows how using corpora canassist in reaching that goal. Readers will find many interesting suggestionsand ideas for future study and research, even though the specific focus ofsome chapters may be outside their usual interests.

English for international communication is frequently the focus, and mostchapters have some pedagogical aspects to interest both researchers andlanguage teachers. For students, it would have been helpful to include asection 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 aboutcorpora can be gleaned from the subject index, but no software is listedthere. A longer, more extensive introductory chapter could have provided abetter overview of what corpora can bring to applied linguistics. The corpuslinguist will notice that Sinclair appears twice in the list of authors (underboth J. and J. McH.), but that Firth for Applied Linguistics means Alan, notJohn Rupert, despite the emphasis on the importance of social context.

One of the drawbacks of the book is that the chapters are divided intoartificial groups rather than introduced individually, which would help tounderline their many common features. Although each separate chapter makes avalid contribution to the general theme of using corpora in appliedlinguistics, the book reads more like a collection of conference papers than aset of chapters specially commissioned to form a unified whole. The Afterwordby Susan Hunston would make a better starting point than the opening chapterby 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 ofcorpora in translation studies is thorough, detailed and inspiring. It seemsalmost impossible to imagine the field without corpus input and she predictsthat corpus linguistics, translation studies and computer science will becomeeven closer in the future.

Similarly, the impassioned defence of ELF as a valid form of communicationraises many questions for the language teacher, and it would have beeninteresting for there to have been more intertextual links on such points.Seidlhofer does refer to the chapter on SLA by Chau, but neither Handford norMcCarthy and McCarten mention ELF explicitly, although their chapters discussthe role of English in international communication.

The most unusual chapter is about the annotation a photographic corpus, whichis not readily classified under Applied Linguistics or Corpus Applications,yet still makes for fascinating reading (and the author promises to compensateany 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 thelanguage teacher really needs such a labour-intensive image database, whenWikimedia Commons and Google Images allow almost anyone with basic computerskills 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 whatcorpus linguistics could bring to topics such as language teaching andlexicography. The two books complement each other, with the earlier oneproviding much of the information students will need in order to undertake thetypes of cutting-edge research described in “Corpus Applications in AppliedLinguistics”.

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

ABOUT THE REVIEWERCarmela Chateau-Smith is a lecturer in English for Specific Purposes at theUniversity of Burgundy, Dijon, France. She works in the Earth andEnvironmental Sciences Department and at the University Language Centre. Shehas recently completed a PhD in corpus linguistics, investigating languagechange at a moment of paradigm shift in the domain of Earth Sciences, with adiachronic corpus of geological English, WebsTerre. She is also interested inlearner corpora and CEF levels, the language of wine, and the use of Englishas an international language for scientific communication.

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