Web-based concordancing and EFL writing


Przemysław Kaszubski

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań


As effectively demonstrated by Cobb (2003), the quality and quantity of usage guidance provided by concordance lines often remain unsurpassed even for modern computer-based learner dictionaries: learners (and other users) involved in linguistic tasks only too often encounter dilemmas that makers of dictionaries and other aids simply could not predict or exhaustively illustrate. For instance, questions about the typicality or appropriateness of the use of repeated contrast connectors (e.g. but, on the other hand, ...) or of the idiomatic superiority of the phrase six months ago over half a year ago may only be resolved (or at least illuminated) vis-a-vis (reliable and ample) corpus evidence. Concordancing is now widely and rightly recognized as a technique in language pedagogy rather than a comprehensive method for constructing entire language courses (e.g. Tan ed. 2002). However, that acknowledgement must come with the due realisation of its immense power in providing authentic exposure, stimulating linguistic awareness, and motivating autonomous learning (even at lower levels of instruction - cf. Hadley 2001). Especially with respect to the writing skills, a rich variety of activities implementing such goals are documented in the literature, some of which I will recall.


It would appear that within practical (rather than professional, research-oriented) concordancing, web-based solutions are likely to be especially successful, owing to their ease of use, portability, and (sometimes) the possibility of corpus data control by the teacher. I will try to briefly categorise such applications and compare their strengths and weaknesses with standalone, off-line programs and corpora. Integration of available online and offline solutions will be advised with an end to supporting some writing processes, e.g. brainstorming or bibliographic searches. Among directions for enhancing the precision of today's web-based environments, particularly those intended for EFL learners of English academic writing, L1-sensitive and error-informed concordancing, access to comparative text-type evidence, and comparison with multiple target norms will be posited as useful if not essential improvements. I will finish my talk by introducing an online concordancing system which implements some of these suggestions. A limited public version of this environment, which is being under continuous construction, can be accessed from: http://elex.amu.edu.pl/~przemka/PICLE_search.php.





Cobb, T. 2003. "Do corpus-based electronic dictionaries replace concordancers?". http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r21270/cv/replace_conc.htm


Hadley, G. 2001. "Concordancing in Japanese TEFL: Unlocking the power of data-driven learning". http://www.nuis.ac.jp/~hadley/publication/jlearner/jlearner.htm


Tan, M. (ed.) 2002. Corpus studies in language education. Bangkok: IELE Press.


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