and Teaching through Context - A Data-driven Approach
by Ramesh Krishnamurthy
us look more closely at the examples, and see what information
they provide. Example 1 contains the combination accident
victims, which we had already noticed as an important combination
in the frequency list earlier. However, example 1 also contains
the combination road accident. Combinations with accident
as the second item might therefore be worth investigating
further, especially when we notice that road accident
occurs again in example 5, motorcycle accident in 2,
car accident in 6, and nuclear accident in 17.
accidents are obviously classified by the cause, the location,
the type of vehicle involved, and so on, but can all locations
be used with accident? If we say road accident,
do we also say sky accident, mountain accident,
air accident (there is Accident; Air in example
11) and sea accident? What about house accident, garden accident,
school accident, office accident, bank accident, and shop
accident? Can all types of vehicle be used? Do we say
aeroplane accident, ship accident, train accident,
bicycle accident? What about skateboard accident,
roller skate accident, and ski accident?
1, 2, and 8 show us that the verb suffer can be used
with accident, in slightly different ways, so this
is another feature that we might want to look at in more detail.
What other verbs are used with accident? What other
direct objects does the verb suffer take?
7 has accident-prone used to describe a person, and
in example 20 we see that an organization (the National Rivers
) can also be described as accident prone.
Can all adjectives that describe people be used to describe
two examples also illustrate the point made in the frequency
information earlier, that the combination can be written with
or without a hyphen.
fact that the examples are incomplete can be used in classroom
exercises, encouraging the students to use the existing contexts
to try to guess the beginning or end of an incomplete word,
phrase, or sentence.
2, 8, 9, 12 and 13 show that accident can be modified by the
adjectives horrendous, fatal, minor and freak.
What other nouns are these adjectives used with? And what
other adjectives are used to describe accidents?
6 and 12 contain killed, which is semantically connected
with fatal, but obviously comes from an entirely different
root. Is there a verb that is morphologically related to fatal?
Is there an adjective that is morphologically related to kill?
Can we think of other semantically related verb and adjective
pairs which come from different roots?
3 shows that people can be shaken or distressed
by accidents. What other adjectives can be used to describe
people who have just suffered, witnessed, or heard about an
accident. Notice shocked in example 16.
4 mentions a hospital's accident and emergency unit.
Is this the standard term to describe such a unit? Is it ever
written with initial capital letters: Accident and Emergency
unit? Is it always a unit, or can it be a department
or section? Are any other words used to describe the
different parts of a hospital? What words are used to describe
parts of other organizations or institutions? Which terms
are used for which organization or institution?
14 has created by accident. Why is it not created
by an accident? Is this the same meaning of accident
as in the other examples? Does it mean the same as due
to an accident in example 15? How many meanings are there
in these examples? What other meanings are given in dictionaries?
Can we find examples for those other meanings in the corpus?
How do we know which example belongs to which meaning?
18 and 19 show the verbs occur and come used
with accident as their subject. What other verbs can
be used? What other subjects can occur and come
have? Is this a common use of come?
activities using concordances
are many other exercises and linguistic investigations which
can be generated by concordances.
One exercise is to take a set of concordance examples as above,
and delete the keyword, and ask students to guess from the
context what the keyword is:
those suffered by boxers or road _____ victims to the start
2 e suffered a horrendous motorcycle _____ , needing pins
in his dam
3 shaken and distressed" by the _____ , said a police
4 a drugged patient in a hospital's _____ and emergency unit.
software usually allows concordances to be sorted in different
ways, for example by the word after the keyword, or the word
before the keyword, so we can easily see the different nouns
modified by a particular adjective, the different prepositions
occurring after a particular verb, and so on. Concordances
for a phrase can be used to highlight the fixed and variable
elements in the phrase. Concordances for phrasal verbs can
help to distinguish between separable and inseparable combinations.
or sets of concordances can be used effectively in contrastive
studies: differences between British and American spellings
(e.g. defence and defense; color and
colour), between near-synonyms (e.g. slim, lean, thin,
skinny, slender, gaunt, emaciated; these can be found in any
thesaurus), between spoken and written English, and so on.
Michael Lewis (2000) (ed.): Teaching Collocation; LTP, Hove.
John Sinclair (1987): Introduction to Collins COBUILD English
Language Dictionary, Collins, London.
John Sinclair (1995): Introduction to Collins COBUILD English
Dictionary, HarperCollins, London.
Cobuild Bank of English corpus: http://www.cobuild.collins.co.uk/
British National Corpus: http://info.ox.ac.uk/bnc/
ICAME (International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval
Corpora in other languages, Bibliography of Corpus Linguistics,
Michael Barlow's Corpus Linguistics site: http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~barlow/corpus.html
Wordsmith Tools: http://www.liv.ac.uk/~ms2928/
for corpus-based teaching materials:
Tim Johns' site - Computer-assisted Language Learning and
Data-driven Learning (Classroom Concordancing):
Krishnamurthy has worked at Birmingham University on the
COBUILD project since 1984, contributing to many dictionaries,
grammars, and other publications, as well as developing corpora
and software, and is now a consultant for COBUILD and the
Bank of English Corpus. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow
at Birmingham University and Wolverhampton University. He
has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses, supervised
MA and PhD research students, participated in several European
and international linguistic projects, and conducted workshops
and courses on corpus linguistics and lexicography in many
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