Friday, May 13, 2005

Using Concordancer to discover English

Which verbs are followed by gerunds? Which verbs are followed by the infinitive with or without "to"? What is the correct position of an adverb in a sentence? What is the correct word order in a phrasal verb structure?

You can all these questions and many others by using a 'concordancer' on the Web. As we have seen in class, the concordancer is a tool that allows you to search for a word in a huge body of text, and see it displayed in a list as long as the number of times the word is found.

Go to The Virtual Language Centre, as we did in class. Once you are in the site, try this exercise with the phrasal verb put on:

1. Click 'Web Concordancer'
2. Click 'English: Associated Words'
3. In the 'keyword string' box, enter put
4. In the menu to the left of the keyword string box, choose 'starts with' - so you will find puts as well as put.
5. In the 'Associated word' box, type on.
6. In 'Find', select 'Right of the keyword only'.
7. Select Corpus: I choose 'The Times March 95'. You can experiment with different corpora.
8. 'Sort type': select 'Sort right'
9. Click 'Search for concordances'
10. Here is a very small sample of the results:

45 h, credit is due to both sides for putting on a rip-roaring Cup tie whic
46 "But surely," said the Sab, "putting on a scarlet coat to chase a
47 energy has been committed towards putting on cross country's annual sho
48 and are used to meeting people and putting on dinner parties, though not
49 ag that this rate of exchange is putting on Japan's recovery, the Bank
11 ell it works. The average person puts on just 10 per cent of their body
12 urnt-out East End flats and even puts on the transforming white of the s

You need to find the examples where 'on' is an integral part of the verb expression rather than a preposition taking an object. Thus the example 'Fear of divorce puts marriage on the rocks in France' is not a true example of a phrasal verb, while 'walking down mountains and of putting on weight' is a good example.

Note that you can select, copy and paste a concordance list from the Virtual Language Centre window to a Word or Notepad document for future reference.

Tell me what discoveries you have made in a comment.

Have a nice weekend.

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