Review of: 'New Trends in Corpora and Language Learning' and 'Keyness in Texts'

Leedham, Maria (2012). Review of: 'New Trends in Corpora and Language Learning' and 'Keyness in Texts'. System, 40(1) pp. 162–165.



New Trends in Corpora and Language Learning provides exactly what you would expect from the title: a comprehensive update on current issues within the rapidly-growing field of corpus use in language learning and teaching. Originating from research first reported at the 2008 Teaching and Language Corpora (TaLC) conference held in Lisbon, the 15 chapters are shared across three parts: ‘corpora with language learners: use’, ‘corpora for language learners: tools’, and ‘corpora by language learners: learner language’ (my emphasis). The diversity of the studies in the book presents something for every reader - whether you are an experienced language teacher but novice user of corpora, a corpus linguist who is unfamiliar with language teaching, or perhaps a corpus software developer who wishes to learn about current concerns in language learning.

[T]he second book considered in this review takes the popular corpus linguistic technique of keyword analysis as its focus. A ‘keyword’ is ‘an ordinary word which happens to be key in a particular text’ (Scott and Tribble, 2006: 78); keyness is established by the frequency of a word (or ‘cluster’ comprising two or more contiguous words) in one corpus with the frequency of the same item in a larger ‘reference corpus’. Scott and Tribble (2006: 56) memorably describe keyness as ‘[w]hat the text ‘boils down to’...once we have steamed off the verbiage, the adornment, the blah blah blah’, though this assumes a text-based notion of relevance when perhaps the broader environment of the discourse which the texts appear in should also be considered. The first few chapters in Keyness in Texts expand further on the nature of keyness and what it can reveal.

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