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"The philosopher pulled the lower jaw of the hen": ludicrous invented sentences in language teaching

Cook, Guy (2001). "The philosopher pulled the lower jaw of the hen": ludicrous invented sentences in language teaching. Applied Linguistics, 22(3) pp. 366–387.

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This paper assesses, and contests, the long tradition of attacks on the use of invented sentences in language teaching. It seeks to separate arguments against them which rely on parody and ridicule, from more reasoned assertions. Four main serious arguments are identified: invented sentences are ‘meaningless’; they are not discourse; they are not ‘real’; and they are ‘bad’ for learners. Each of these claims is discussed in turn, and countered. It is argued that, while invented sentences have often been uninspiring in practice, there are are no valid reasons of principle against their use. On the contrary, sentences invented by a teacher for a specific context may have advantages which are less easily attained by the use of attested examples: as a means of making a lesson more personal and spontaneous; as illustration of a linguistic item; as a means of promoting noticing; and as mnemonics. The conclusion of the argument is that both invented and attested examples have a role to play in language teaching, and that the dogmatic outlawing of the former is misguided.

Item Type: Journal Article
Copyright Holders: 2001 Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1477-450X
Keywords: English language teaching; corpus linguistics; applied linguistics
Academic Unit/Department: Education and Language Studies > Centre for Language and Communication
Education and Language Studies
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Item ID: 6399
Depositing User: Guy Cook
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2007
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2016 16:24
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