Edited By Tony Harris and Maria Moreno Jaen
Part two: Corpus-Based Research for Language Teaching
Part 2: Corpus-Based Research for Language Teaching STEFAN TH. GRIES Methodological Skills in Corpus Linguistics: A Polemic and Some Pointers Towards Quantitative Methods 1. Introduction For a variety of reasons, the (corpus) linguist’s life is a hard one. One of these reasons is the complexity of the subject under investigation, language. Linguistic behaviour is influenced by a multitude of factors which can be categorized into different categories: general aspects of cognition having to do with attention span, working memory, general intelligence, etc.; specific aspects of the linguistic system: form, meaning, com- municative pressures, etc.; other performance factors (e.g., visual distractions, etc.) What makes it even harder, is that all of these factors influence lan- guage only probabilistically rather than deterministically, which makes it very difficult to precisely predict most aspects of human linguistic behaviour. In addition, and this leads to a second reason, the data on the basis of which we try to describe, explain, and predict linguistic behaviour is very fragmented and very noisy. With regard to observational data from corpora, the problem of fragmentation and noise manifests itself in different ways. On the one hand, corpora unfortunately are never infinite although language is in principle an infinite system; never really representative in the sense that they really contain all parts or registers or genres or varieties of human language; Stefan Th. Gries 122 never really balanced in the sense that they contain these parts or registers or genres or varieties in exactly the proportions such parts make up...
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