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Thursday, April 9, 2009

5th Posting: Concordance

Article 1: by Tim Johns

A concordancer is basically a tool that allows for "researching the company that words keep" (Tim Johns). It provides access to any electronic text, i.e. a text available on the computer or from a CD-ROM based corpus or database or the Internet and searches for the occurrence of particular words or structures or combination of words (e.g. verbs and prepositions or an adjective and a noun separated by one or more words, etc.). These are then listed in one-line contexts. Thus its basic function is to extract lists with sample contexts of any word or structure entered into the search option

Concordancing tools represent a special kind of application as their use does not necessarily require the use of computers with the learners themselves. Rather, it is more feasible that with the help of the computer the language teacher creates innovative worksheets to be discussed in class rather than have learners, particularly at lower levels, use the software hands-on. Both uses have been described in great detail in a book on the subject of concordancers in language learning by Chris Tribble.

The results of the search can then be used as a basis for what Tim Johns (1994) refers to as data-driven learning. A learners task might be to deduct themselves the exact difference in meaning, connotation, and grammatical features of words. Language material can then be acquired in a discovery-based or exploratory mode, which follows constructivist paradigm, thus enabling learners to develop language awareness in addition to structural knowledge of sets of meanings.

Article 2: by Gregory Hadley

Concordancing is a technique in which a large body of text (called a corpus) is analysed by a computer program to discover the regular patterns and lexical sets that are associated with a specific word or phrase. By studying this data, teachers and students can make certain generalisations as to how a certain lexical item is normally used.

The data can be manipulated, depending upon the complexity of the program, to display the concordanced word (called the key word) in complete sentences, or to show frequently-occurring words (called collocations) that occur only on the left or the right of the key word. Concordancing is often used by teachers as a means to provide hard data to either back up or refute their subjective judgements on difficult questions of a grammatical nature. Students with access to concordancing data normally use it for error analysis or as an aid to improve their reading and writing skills.


The benefits of concordance in language learning and teaching are huge. Using concordance, learners can compare different usage of the same word, analyze keywords, analyze word frequencies and creating indexes as well as word lists.

#The teacher can use a concordancer to find examples of authentic usage to demonstrate features of vocabulary, typical collocations, a point of grammar or even the structure of a text

# The teacher can generate exercises based on examples drawn from a variety of corpora, for example gap-filling exercises and tests.

# Students can work out rules of grammar or usage and lexical features for themselves by searching for key words in context. Depending on their level, they can be invited to question some of the rules, based on their observation of patterns in authentic language.

# Students can be more active in their vocabulary learning: depending on their level, they can be invited to discover new meanings, to observe habitual collocations, to relate words to syntax, or to be critical of dictionary entries.

# Students can be invited to reflect on language use in general, based on their own explorations of a corpus of data, thus turning themselves into budding researchers.


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