What can a corpus tell us about grammar?


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Group B. Pascual Pérez-Paredes

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What can a corpus tell us about grammar?

  1. 1. What can a corpus tell us about grammar? By Susan Conrad Israel Ramírez Godínez Bárbara Samper Tárraga María Sánchez Sierra Zydre Siusyte
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>1 . Understanding grammar through patterns and contexts: moving from correct/incorrect to likely/unlikely </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1.1. Methodological principles in corpus-based grammar analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2. Types of grammatical patterns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2.1. Grammar-vocabulary associations (lexico-grammar) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2.2. Grammar co-text </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2.3. Discourse-level factors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2.4. Context of the situation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>3. Investigating multiple features/conditions simultaneously </li></ul><ul><li>4. The grammar of speech </li></ul><ul><li>5. New challenges for judging acceptability </li></ul>
  3. 3. 1. Understanding grammar through patterns and contexts <ul><li>DICHOTOMOUS PERSPECTIVE </li></ul><ul><li>From this perspective, to describe the grammar of a language, all a researcher needs is a native speaker because any native speaker can judge grammaticality. </li></ul><ul><li>Works well for certain grammatical features. However many grammatical choices cannot be made on the basis of correct/incorrect. </li></ul><ul><li>Empirical analyses. </li></ul><ul><li>The analyses must cover numerous data in order to tell which language choices are widespread, which occur predictably although under rare circumstances, and which are more idiosyncratic. </li></ul>
  4. 4. 1. Understanding grammar through patterns and contexts <ul><li>CORPUS LINGUISTICS: </li></ul><ul><li>Increases researchers’ ability to systematically study the variation in a large collection of texts. </li></ul><ul><li>Common/uncommon typical/untypical. </li></ul><ul><li>Show the correspondence between the use of a grammatical feature and some other factor in the discourse or situational context </li></ul><ul><li>O’Keeffe et al. (2007) explain, corpus analyses lead us to describing grammar not just in structural terms, but in probabilistic terms – describing the typical social and discourse circumstances associated with the use of particular grammatical features . </li></ul>
  5. 5. 1. Understanding grammar through patterns and contexts <ul><li>1.1. METHODOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES IN CORPUS-BASED GRAMMAR ANALYSIS </li></ul><ul><li>Any analysis of ‘ typical ’ or ‘ probable ’ choices depends on frequency analysis. </li></ul><ul><li>McCarthy and Carter (2001) explain the need for fine-grained distinctions in spoken corpora to describe when ellipsis is and is not common. </li></ul><ul><li>Biber et al . (2004) explain, we do not regard frequency data as explanatory. In fact we would argue for the opposite: frequency data identifies patterns that must be explained. The usefulness of frequency data (and corpus analysis generally) is that it identifies patterns of use that otherwise often go unnoticed by researchers. </li></ul>
  6. 6. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.1. GRAMMAR-VOCABULARY ASSOCIATIONS </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar and lexis were not as distinct as traditionally presented. </li></ul><ul><li>One type of lexico-grammatical relationship concerns the lexical items that tend to occur with a particular grammatical structure ( that -clause objects). </li></ul><ul><li>Biber et al. (1999) find that think , say and know are by far the most common verbs with that -clauses in both British and American conversation. The structure is less common overall with any verb in academic prose, but suggest and show are most common. </li></ul><ul><li>Rather than reporting thoughts and feelings, the verb + that -clause structures in academic prose are used to report previous research. </li></ul><ul><li>Another type of lexico-grammatical relationship: verb tense. A grammatical description would explain the form of tenses. </li></ul>
  7. 7. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.1. GRAMMAR-VOCABULARY ASSOCIATIONS </li></ul><ul><li>No empirical investigation. A modern corpus-based reference grammar can provide that information. </li></ul><ul><li>The verbs most strongly associated with present tense convey mental, emotional and logical states: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g.: bet, doubt, know, matter, mean, mind, reckon, suppose, thank </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The verbs most strongly associated with past tense, convey events or activities, especially body movements and speech: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. : exclaim, eye, glance, grin, nod, pause, remark, reply, shrug, sigh </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.1. GRAMMAR-VOCABULARY ASSOCIATIONS </li></ul><ul><li>Certain structures tend to be associated with certain types of meaning, such as positive or negative circumstances. This is called ‘ semantic prosody ’ (Sinclair 1991). </li></ul><ul><li>O’Keeffe et al. (2007: 106–14) provide an extended corpus-based analysis of get -passives (e.g. he got arrested). They show that the get -passive is usually used to express unfortunate incidences. </li></ul><ul><li>O’Keeffe et al. (2007) discuss the type of subjects usually found with get-passives and he lack of adverbials in these clauses. </li></ul>
  9. 9. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.2. GRAMMATICAL CO-TEXT </li></ul><ul><li>Grammatical descriptions in traditional textbooks sometimes make claims about the grammatical co-text of features. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Frazier investigation (2003) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Investigated: would- clauses of hypothetical or counterfactual conditionals. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g.: If water boils, it will turn to steam. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Concerned about: the way that ESL grammars virtually always present the would- clause as an adjacent to an if- clause. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.2. GRAMMATICAL CO-TEXT </li></ul><ul><li>Frazier investigation (2003) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examined: the extent to which this was true in combination of spoken and written corpora over a million words. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Found: almost 80% of the hypothetical would -clauses were not adjacent to an if -clause. Some of them were part of continuing discourse that had been framed with an if -clause at a lengthy distance from the would -clause. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The co-occurring grammatical features include infinitives and gerunds. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g.: Letting the administration … hands would give them </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.2. GRAMMATICAL CO-TEXT </li></ul><ul><li>Frazier's systematic corpus analysis thus highlights two aspects of grammatical co-text for hypothetical/counter factual would -clauses: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The traditional claim that they usually occur with if -clauses is NOT true. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They do often occur with infinitives and gerunds. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Looking at grammatical co-occurrence patterns can also help to explain when rare constructions occur. </li></ul>
  12. 12. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.2. GRAMMATICAL CO-TEXT </li></ul><ul><li>Constructions with that - and the fact that - subject position clauses occur about twenty to forty times per million words in academic prose and newspapers, and almost never in conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>that -clauses in other positions occur over 2,000 to 7,000 times per million words in different registers. </li></ul><ul><li>These subject position clauses are obviously harder for listeners or readers to process. </li></ul>
  13. 13. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.3. DISCOURSE-LEVEL FACTORS </li></ul><ul><li>Because many people ’ s introduction to corpus linguistics is with simple concordance searches, they sometimes believe that corpus linguistics has little to offer discourse-level studies. </li></ul><ul><li>That is not the case because for example, determining the semantic prosody of get -passives required considering discourse context. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When that -clauses are in subject position, they tend to restate information that has already been mentioned in the previous discourse. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.3. DISCOURSE-LEVEL FACTORS </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ … It became surprisingly apparent that all meteorites are of the same age, somewhere in the vicinity of 4.5 billion years old … That there are no meteorites of any other age, regardless of when they fell to Earth , suggests strongly that… ” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Analysis of discourse-level factors affecting grammar often requires interpreting meaning, organisation, and information structure in texts. Such analysis is part of the more qualitative, interpretative side of corpus study, focusing on how a grammatical structure is used in context. </li></ul>
  15. 15. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.4. CONTEXT OF THE SITUATION </li></ul><ul><li>Number of factors associated with a grammatical feature: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participant roles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Formality of the situation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most common perspective on variation = registers or genres. </li></ul>
  16. 16. 2. Types of grammatical patterns <ul><li>2.4. CONTEXT OF THE SITUATION </li></ul><ul><li>Cambridge Grammar of English (comparisons between the use of features in speech and writing). </li></ul><ul><li>Use of Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English . </li></ul><ul><li>Biber compares grammatical features across ten spoken and written registers from four American universities. </li></ul><ul><li>It is misleading to characterise the frequency and use of a grammatical feature in only one way if focused on general settings. </li></ul><ul><li>Variables like social class, ethnic group and age have been less studied in corpus-based grammar research. </li></ul><ul><li>In the future, new corpus will facilitate more study of the sociolinguistic variation of grammatical features. </li></ul>
  17. 18. 3. Investigating multiple features/conditions simultaneously <ul><li>Difficult to focus on only one pattern when explaining grammatical choices. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: omitting that in a that -complement clause) </li></ul><ul><li>Omitting that is associated with some factors: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lexico-grammatical: the verb in the main clause is say or think . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grammatical co-text: main and complement clause have co-referential subjects; that -clause has a personal pronoun subject. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Situational context: that is omitted more often in conversation than in newspaper writing. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 19. 3. Investigating multiple features/conditions simultaneously <ul><li>Two approaches: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To consider a functional system within a language and describe factors that influence the grammatical features that are used to realise the system. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To study the grammar of a variety. The focus shifts from describing grammar to describing the variety. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 20. 4. The grammar of speech <ul><li>Unplanned spoken language was neglected for its 'incomplete' clauses, messy repairs and non-standard forms. </li></ul><ul><li>Spoken grammar is studied as a legitimate grammar. </li></ul><ul><li>The common choice of though rather than however as a contrastive connector in conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>[Watching a football game, discussing a penalty call] </li></ul><ul><li>A: Oh, that's outrageous. </li></ul><ul><li>B: Well, he did put his foot out though . </li></ul><ul><li>Speaker B disagrees with A, but the use of though (along with well ) downplays the disagreement. </li></ul>
  20. 21. 4. The grammar of speech <ul><li>The grammar of conversation has been thought to be simple compared to writing but there is complexity in conversation at a clausal level. </li></ul><ul><li>[The trouble is [[if you're the only one in the house] [he follows you] [and you're looking for him] [so you can't find him.]]] [I thought [I wonder [where the hell he's gone]]] [I mean he was immediately behind me.]] </li></ul><ul><li>(Biber et al. 1999: 1068) </li></ul><ul><li>Corpus also provides frequency information as evidence that certain complex structures are more common in conversation than writing. </li></ul>
  21. 22. 5. New challenges for judging acceptability <ul><li>Describing grammatical choices in a more probabilistic way makes judgements about acceptability very complex. </li></ul><ul><li>Variation in grammatical choices exists also for stylistic reasons. </li></ul><ul><li>Are rare choices errors? Does a level of frequency imply acceptability? How would that level be determined? </li></ul><ul><li>Much linguistic theory is focused on what people know when they know the grammar of a language. </li></ul><ul><li>Newmeyer (2003) argues that 'knowledge of grammatical structure is only one of many systems that underlie usage ’ . </li></ul>
  22. 23. 5. New challenges for judging acceptability <ul><li>The only way to investigate a person's knowledge is through intuition. </li></ul><ul><li>Sampson (2007) argues that basing scientific inquiry on intuition is an outdated practice. </li></ul><ul><li>For most teachers and students, the relationship between what is found in a corpus and what is grammatically acceptable is a much more immediate and practical issue than for linguistic theorists. </li></ul><ul><li>'Many more experimental studies require to be done ’ (Owen) </li></ul><ul><li>require + a passive to -infinitive </li></ul><ul><li>Native speakers are likely to find this sentence unacceptable, while a student looking at the BNC is not. </li></ul>
  23. 24. 5. New challenges for judging acceptability <ul><li>Hunston (2002) explains that the conflict is resolved by considering the semantics of the lexicogrammatical association. </li></ul><ul><li>'Distinguishing between what is said and what is accepted as standard may need the assistance of a teacher or a grammar book' </li></ul><ul><li>In the corpus, verbs in an infinitive clause express a specific meaning; subjets are the recipients of an action. </li></ul><ul><li>The real contribution of corpus linguistics to grammar has been to complicate judgements of acceptability to make them reflect reality more accurately. </li></ul>