Sunday, May 04, 2008

Researching into How English Is Used

Dear advanced level students.... A reminder from last lesson with level 5, and for anyone else interested.

Want to know what prepositions can follow "interested"? Fascinated by the adjectives that can describe rain? Is "different" followed by "to" or "from" - or are there other possibilities? Have you any more questions?

Look no further than
The British National Corpus, accessed through the Brigham Young University's interface. Although it isn't always easy to use, it is an invaluable tool for advanced learners.

Here are sample searches to answer the questions above. Type the search criteria into the window labelled SEARCH STRING - WORD(S). For prepositions that can follow "interested", try this:

1. Under DISPLAY, click "Compare Words". Then click "List".

2. In the WORDS window, type interested.

3. In the CONTEXT window, type [prp]. This is the search code for prepositions.

4. In the two counter windows after the CONTEXT window, set the first to 0 (zero) and the second to 1. This limits the search to prepositions that come one word to the right of our search word.

5. Set the SORT criterion to "Frequency".

Now click SEARCH to get your results. What's the most common preposition after "interested"? What is the second commonest.

Now try the same thing for "different". What do you find?

For the adjectives that can describe "rain" (as discussed in our last lesson), we do the following:

1. In the WORDS window, type rain.

2. In the CONTEXT window, type [aj*]. This is the search code for adjectives.

3. In the two counter windows after the CONTEXT window, set the first to 1 and the second to 0 (zero). This limits the search to adjectives that come one word to the left of our search word.

4. Set the SORT criterion to "Frequency".

5. Now click SEARCH to see all the adjectives that commonly describe "rain".

Do the same for "work". Any surprises? What about "play"?

You can modify the searches described above for your own queries. In the next few postings I'll give you further information on how to conduct searches.

As always please post your reactions on the "Tag Board".

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