Some DIY for the weekend!
I hope you’ve had a good week and have got interesting plans for the weekend. Just in case you haven't, here is an idea for a traditional British weekend activity, DIY (do it yourself)!
I’ve had a very quiet week. I’ve been on leave from work and Rian and Clara have been at school (after a two week break for Easter). As a result, I haven’t been able to find victims (sorry, volunteers) to make videos for me all week. Next week, I’m back at work, so hopefully my students will be willing victims/volunteers…..
I mentioned in my last post a way of finding out how often, and in what context, speech reporting verbs (or any word or phrase) are used. We looked at how to search all the texts on the Internet, or all the texts on one website (like BBC News, for example). If you are interested in a particular TYPE of text, it’s easy to create a searchable collection of texts (a corpus*) using (free-of-charge) software. The software will search your text (or collection of texts) and make a list of all the words (and numbers) in the text, in alphabetical order (this is called a concordance*). You can then check the concordance for the words that you are interested in, for example the speech reporting verbs.
There are several different softwares (is software becoming a countable noun??) available. One that I like is created by the Université du Québec à Montréal; it’s the:
Compleat Lexical Tutor v.6.2
I’m going to show you how it works using an example of some minutes* from a York St John University Student Union Council meeting held on the 19th January 2009 (in which there was a discussion about whether the University library should be open 24 hours a day or not). The minutes are available on the Internet:
York St John University Student Union Council meeting minutes
I decided to use meeting minutes because I think that, like some news reports, minutes are texts which are designed to report what people say. You can use any text type you are interested in learning how to write: academic essays, reports, emails…..
OK, so back to the software. When you click the Compleat Lexical Tutor link above, you will see a screen with a box saying, “Enter your text here.” Either type your text, or copy and paste it from an existing document (which could be web-based like my example) or PC-based (for example a report you wrote).
I used the York St John University Student Union Council meeting minutes, which, after copying and pasting, looked like this:
Next click the Submit button on the bottom right hand side of the screen (I have added a red circle on the picture above to make it easier to see) and you will get something that looks like this:
The software lists all the words and numbers in the text, starting with the numbers, in alphabetical order. Scroll down the page looking at the words in the centre until you see a word that you’re interested in. You can see how many times your interesting word is used and in what context. I was interested in the word asked, so here it is:
My concordancing exercise showed that in the meeting minutes, the following speech reporting verbs were used (the number on the left hand side is the frequency of the word):
1 according to
7 asked if/where/why
3 pointed out that
1 proposed by
2 replied that
3 reported that
4 said that/it would be
5 stated that
1 suggested that
So……… no uses of tell or told and more uses of ask and stated that than said. It looks like these meeting minutes use speech reporting verbs in a different way from the news reports that we looked at in my last post. The good thing about searching your own collection of texts is that you can find out on your own (without looking at grammar books!) about the type of texts YOU are interested in. Many of the newer grammar books are based on large collections of texts, but not necessarily of the type that you are interested in….
If you want to know more about software and other technical resources for creating searchable collections of texts, there is a useful list (and lots of background information) here:
Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER) at the Pennsylvania State University
OK, that’s it for now. Hope you have a great weekend Marcos and don’t work too hard!
*corpus = collection of texts for analysis (plural = corpora).
*concordance = a list of all the words in a text or collection of texts (for example, Shakespeare’s works, or the Bible) showing where they can be found and what context they occur in. In corpus linguistics, a concordance is a list of all examples of a word in our corpus showing the immediate context of the word. Concordancing software helps us to create lists like this from collections of texts.
* minutes = an official record of the discussion at a meeting of a society, committee, or other group.
Comments on the comments:
Ana Paula (from Brazil) - best of luck with your exams! Let us know how you get on.
Marianna (from Slovakia) – I’m hoping to recruit some of my students to help with the blog next week!
Hyoshil (from the UK) – very useful comments about writing! It has certainly worked for you, your writing is great!
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