Corpus linguistics in MA courses: What's wrong with teaching linguistics in Poland


Tadeusz Piotrowski



The paper will discuss my experience with teaching linguistics to students at various levels, most notably MA students. Confronted with a text, or questions about a text, students tend to provide abstract explanations, based on their theoretical knowledge of some linguistic notions, of what there is in text (as opposed to system) rather than on what they can perceive in a text itself. In fact quite often they do not see any regularities in text.


I will argue that this is a result of a certain type of training in linguistics that they, and, what is perhaps more important, their teachers before, received. I will discuss this type of training and will provide examples from English and Polish to show that this is a more widespread phenomenon, not limited to English departments in Poland. I will also argue that a typical Polish graduate (one not theoretically minded) from an English department, to fulfill his/her social functions (as teachers, translators, etc.), should have skills which do not depend so much on theoretical knowledge of linguistic issues (knowledge what) but rather on practical knowledge of certain methodology in linguistics (knowledge how). Further, students need a resource that will be more exhaustive than theoretical descriptions (grammars and dictionaries), and that will be independent of both theories and native-speaker intuititions, and which can be used by a non-native speaker to verify the hypotheses he/she forms. In my opinion corpus linguistics can meet this need. I will also discuss advantages and disadvantages of using corpus linguistics in MA classes.


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