15th Teaching and Language Corpora (TaLC) Conference

13th – 16th July 2022 

University of Limerick, Ireland

Plenary Speakers

Michael McCarthy

University of Nottingham (Emeritus)

‘Spoken grammar in TaLC: Twenty years a-growing’

The history of spoken grammar can be traced back to more than two millennia ago, but its roots in Europe and in England in particular are linked to the teaching of Latin. Latin-based notions, seen in the dominance of a priori rule systems and an arcane terminology, held sway not just in the domain of writing up to the twentieth century but overshadowed all grammatical description. The twentieth century then saw a growing interest in the spoken language brought about by social changes which also influenced language pedagogy, but it was not until the second half of the century and the advent of computers that spoken grammar began to shed its second-class status. Pioneers in the Survey of English Usage were followed by other computational projects and a considerable body of corpus-informed research findings began to take shape. Over the course of some 20 years from around 1990 to 2010, much progress can be observed in both description and pedagogical modelling. Spoken grammar was seen to be flexible, real-time encoded, jointly constructed and emergent. Features such as ellipsis, word order, turn construction, utterance linking and joint production came to the fore, challenging not only the categories of a grammar but also the terminology inherited from writing. New grammars, more responsive to the nature of dialogic speaking began to emerge. Nonetheless, the initial reception by the ELT profession ranged from mild scepticism to forceful defensiveness in relation to how such grammars should or could be incorporated into language teaching. This talk considers some of the successes and problems associated with corpus-informed spoken grammar research and teaching and looks to the future.

Fanny Meunier

UC Louvain

‘Teaching with corpora in the human-machine era: opportunities and challenges’

Teaching with corpora in the human-machine era: opportunities and challenges.

 Nearly 30 years after the first TaLC conference (1994, in Lancaster) and in light of the plurilingual and digital turns that have been/are being taken in our research and teaching agendas, I will discuss the need to reconsider some aspects of ‘teaching with corpora’ (what sort of corpora? for which learning/teaching goals? with which type of pedagogy?). The discussion will also focus on the importance of taking into account the competition (for better or worse) of other types of emerging technologies, tools and resources in language teaching and learning contexts. I will defend a polymorphic approach to (the future of) teaching with corpora.

Shelley Staples

University of Arizona

‘Learner corpora and Data-Driven Learning: moving toward an additive approach’

The last 20 years has seen an exciting increase in the use of corpora for data-driven learning (DDL), and we have established the benefits of using DDL with students at various levels of language learning and in various instructional settings (Boulton & Cobb, 2017; Crosthwaite, 2020). Among other affordances, corpora have provided learners with methods of autonomous learning and models of authentic language use across a variety of registers and speaker groups. Corpora have also contributed greatly to the larger shift in language teaching away from forms-focused rule-governed instruction to form-focused usage-based instruction that emphasizes functional language use that shifts across speakers and discourse contexts. However, most DDL studies use “native speaker” corpora, in part due to ease of access (see Cotos, 2014 and Lewandowska, 2013 for exceptions). Learner corpora have been used either for indirect DDL or have primarily been seen as a way to address errors in language use. This narrow focus is somewhat surprising given that the field of SLA has been moving towards multilingual models of language learning, drawing on learners’ languages as resources and emphasizing intelligibility and comprehensibility and use of English as a Lingua Franca over adherence to an imagined native speaker norm (Ortega, 2013). Many teachers are also embracing these principles of language teaching and are working to incorporate new approaches that support them into their pedagogy.

This talk will focus on the affordances of learner corpora, particularly to advance asset-oriented models of language learning that promote learner texts as models for other language learners (mentor texts), as sites for discussion of functional language use in and beyond the concordance line, and to address language choices in contexts relevant to learners. Examples will be drawn from the speaker’s work with teachers and learners in a variety of classroom contexts.

Henry Tyne

University of Perpignan 

‘Corpus, narrative inquiry, and language learning’