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Movie Language Revisited

Evidence from Multi-Dimensional Analysis and Corpora


Pierfranca Forchini

This book explores the linguistic nature of American movie conversation, pointing out its resemblances to face-to-face conversation. The reason for such an investigation lies in the fact that movie language is traditionally considered to be non-representative of spontaneous language. The book presents a corpus-driven study of the similarities between face-to-face and movie conversation, using detailed consideration of individual lexical phrases and linguistic features as well as Biber’s Multi-Dimensional Analysis (1998). The data from an existing spoken American English corpus – the Longman Spoken American Corpus – is compared to the American Movie Corpus, a corpus of American movie conversation purposely built for the research. On the basis of evidence from these corpora, the book shows that contemporary movie conversation does not differ significantly from face-to-face conversation, and can therefore be legitimately used to study and teach natural spoken language.


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Preface 15


15 Preface Over the last several decades, English language movies (and television shows) have probably had a greater influence on spreading English world-wide than any other mechanism. Viewers around the world regularly watch English-language movies, and many ELT professionals advocate using such movies in the classroom to teach and model natu- ral conversation. However, other professionals caution that movie lan- guage is not natural conversation, and thus not an accurate model for language learners. Surprisingly, this issue has not been previously investigated empiri- cally. But in this important book, Forchini does exactly that, using large-scale corpus analysis to compare the linguistic characteristics of movie dialogues with spontaneous face-to-face conversations. Forchini applies a variety of research approaches, including detailed considera- tion of individual lexical phrases and linguistic features, as well as Multi-Dimensional Analysis, and also compares the characteristics of movie comedies and dramas. The results will surprise some readers, indicating that movie dialogues are in many ways very similar to spon- taneous face-to-face conversations with respect to a wide range of linguistic characteristics. In conclusion, Forchini discusses the impli- cations of these findings for ELT professionals looking for ways to help their students acquire natural conversational skills. Douglas Biber Regents’ Professor Northern Arizona University 16

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