Sunday, 31 October 2010

Review of "Corpora in Applied Linguistics" by Susan Hunston

Front Cover
In her Corpora in Applied Linguistics, Susan Hunston makes a compilation of the main types of corpus studies in Applied Linguistics, which she illustrates by setting forth a series of studies undertaken in various disciplines of Linguistics.

This academic work is most suitable for either students or novice researches aiming to work in the field of Corpus Linguistics or (corpus-based) Applied Linguistics. Her work explains in great detail what are the most basic types of analysis and applications of corpora in different areas, ranging from language teaching and learning, phraseology and dictionary writing, and Translation to Historical and Critical Linguistics. Furthermore, she provides the reader with an introduction to key concepts in the area of Corpus Linguistics, going on to give an account of the chief applications at the user's disposal through corpus software (e.g. Wordsmith Tools).

As suggested, her work goes beyond a mere theoretical depiction of the types of corpus research, corpus methodology and strategies, given that every single point that she makes is illustrated with examples of studies carried out by scholars in several disciplines. Therefore, the bibliography that she provides constitutes a valuable tool for researches interested in digging further into the existing literature in this particular academic field.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the basic concepts of Corpus Linguistics, namely, frequency, phraseology, collocation, type / token, or lemma, among others, outlining the main types and uses of corpora.

In Chapter 2 issues of corpus design are looked into. The corpus is analysed as an object, so that attention is drawn to parametres such as size and content, together with notions such as representativeness and permanence or "contemporaneousness". The concept of corpus is further analysed from various different standpoints.

The main trends in methodology in Corpus Linguistics are the object of study in Chapter 3. Particular attention is paid to the analysis of concordance lines and the very fine meaning distinctions and patterns that these enable researchers to trace.

Chapter 4 focuses on other resources and methodology offered by corpus software. Attention is now drawn to collocation and keywords, as well as to different types of annotation.

Human Language Families - Comparable Corpora allow
 us to compare different varieties of the same language
Other considerations intimately connected with the applications of corpora in Applied Linguistics are dealt with in Chapter 5: the production of dictionaries and grammars relying on and considerably facilitated by corpus analysis; the use of corpora in translation, literary studies and other disciplines, such as Critical Linguistics, where light can be thrown on the ideologies underlying discourse.

Chapters 6 and 7 concentrate on corpora as applied to Language Teaching. The former chapter chiefly focuses on language description, while the latter consists in a depiction of the general applications of corpora to Language Teaching. Among these, Hunston dwells on DDL (Data-Driven Learning), by means of which students are endowed with authentic material and encouraged to make observations and deductions about the language that they are presented with. This methodology might be said to aim at raising awareness of language on the part of the student. A number of examples are examined in full detail, as a clear illustration of this type of analysis.

Chapter 8 further delves into the issue of corpora as applied to Language Teaching. In this section, attention is turned away from the general to the specific applications of corpora in Language Teaching and EAP (English for Academic Purposes). The focus is no longer on how to teach but on what to teach, on the basis of corpora tailored for specific purposes. Careful consideration is given to learner corpora, contrasted with other corpora consisting of texts written by native speakers. Drawing a comparison between these two types of texts supplies the corpus researcher with a clear notion of what linguistic elements would be suitable for inclusion in learner corpora and material. Moreover, this way researchers may gain an insight into the main areas of difference between the kind of language used by native and non-native speakers of English. This raises the question as to whether it is the English spoken by native speakers or otherwise that of expert non-native speakers of English that should be aimed at.

Finally, Chapter 9 is a brief outline of the main applications and contributions of corpora in the field of Applied Linguistics. Last but not least, a list of relevant websites is provided at the end of this chapter and previous to the bibliography section, which might come in handy for researchers specially interested in the use of corpora in Applied Linguistics.

Hunston, Susan. Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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