ICT4LT Module 2.4
Using concordance programs in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom

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The aim of this module is to introduce language teachers to the use of concordances and concordance programs in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom. Concordancing is part of Corpus Linguistics, which is dealt with by Tony McEnery & Andrew Wilson in Module 3.4. Section 2.2 of this module includes a brief introduction to corpus linguistics.

Authors of this module

Marie-Noëlle Lamy, The Open University, UK.

Hans Jørgen Klarskov Mortensen, Vordingborg Gymnasium, Denmark.

With an introduction by Graham Davies, Editor-in-Chief, ICT4LT Website.

Introduction by Graham Davies

A “concordance”, according to the Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary (1987), is “An alphabetical list of the words in a book or a set of books which also says where each word can be found and often how it is used.”

I first came across the term “concordance” from one of the lecturers who taught me at university during the early 1960s. He had produced a concordance of the complete works of Stefan George - manually and without the help of a computer. It was a massive and laborious task, during the course of which a good deal was revealed about the writer’s use of language, and it gained the lecturer a PhD. Nowadays such an undertaking would not qualify for the award of a doctorate because a computer can do the job in a matter of hours or - even minutes.

I was introduced to concordancing programs - “concordancers” for short - in the late 1970s, initially using COCOA and OCP, both of which ran on mainframe computers. In the early 1980s I wrote my own concordance program in BASIC on a Prime minicomputer and used it with language students at Ealing College of Higher Education in connection with my classes on text analysis. A version of this concordancer was also incorporated into the 1985 BBC Micro version of Fun with Texts and adapted for the 1992 DOS version by Marco Bruzzone.

Nowadays I often use a concordancer to check my own writing style. It picks up my over-frequent use of certain words, and it is particularly helpful when used in conjunction with a thesaurus. A thesaurus never gives you enough authentic examples of usage to tell you how to use a word with which you are unfamiliar, but a concordancer does - providing you have a decent corpus of authentic texts: see Activity 12 in Section 4.

Concordancers are used extensively these days for creating glossaries and dictionaries, and they are extremely valuable tools for the language teacher but, as Chambers, Farr & O'Riordan (2011:86) point out, there is still considerable resistance among language teachers (both of EFL and of Modern Foreign Languages) to make use of corpora and concordancers. Let’s hope that this module will make a few converts.

The late Tim Johns was one of the first language teachers to draw languages teachers' attention to the use of concordancers in the languages classroom. Back in the early 1980s he began to make use of the concordancers available on the big mainframe computers at the University of Birmingham: Higgins & Johns (1984:88-93). He went on to write one of the first commercially available classroom concordancers, MicroConcord, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1993. Johns also developed the concept of Data Driven Learning (DDL), an approach to language learning whereby the learner gains insights into the language that he/she is learning by using concordance programs to locate authentic examples of language in use. In DDL the learning process is no longer based solely on the teacher's initiative, his/her choice of topics and materials and the explicit teaching of rules, but on the learner's own discovery of rules, principles and patterns of usage in the foreign language. In other words, learning is driven by authentic language data (Johns 1991a); Johns 1991b).

Simon Murison-Bowie, the author of the MicroConcord Manual, gives some very persuasive reasons for using a concordancer, as cited by Rézeau (2001:153) in his chapter on using concordances in the classroom:

Whether one opts for putting up a case, or for knocking one down, any search using [a concordancer] is given a clearer focus if one starts out with a problem in mind, and some, however provisional, answer to it. You may decide that your answer was basically right, and that none of the exceptions is interesting enough to warrant a re-formulation of your answer. On the other hand, you may decide to tag on a bit to the answer, or abandon the answer completely and to take a closer look. Whichever you decide, it will frequently be the case that you will want to formulate another question, which will start you off down a winding road to who knows where (Murison-Bowie (1993:46).

The main advantage of concordancers is summed up by Tim Johns, in reference to a phrase that he frequently used, which I first heard in his presentation at the 1986 Triangle V Colloquium in Paris, namely "the company that words keep":

MicroConcord [...] offers both language learners and language teachers a research tool for investigating "the company that words keep" that has hitherto usually been available only on mainframe computers to academic researchers in such fields as computational linguistics, lexicography, and stylistics (Hockey 1980). (Johns 1986b:121)

"The company that words keep" - a memorable and useful phrase, coined by Firth, as cited by Rézeau (2001:154) in the conclusion to his chapter on classroom concordancing:

It is precisely this "winding road", along which one may come across serendipity learning, which give concordances a certain appeal. In addition, once you have started relying on the evidence of the data for checking the "rules" found in grammar-books as well as your own "intuitions" about language, concordances tend to become an indispensable tool. It is hoped that the rationale and examples given in this chapter will have convinced its readers to take a trip to the country of concordancers to observe "the company that words keep" (Firth (1957:187).

The remainder of this module has been written by Marie-Noëlle Lamy and Hans Jørgen Klarskov Mortensen. Over to them…

1. What are concordances and how can they help language teachers?

Contents of Section 1

1.1 A basic manual concordance

What is a concordance? The simplest way to answer this is to look at some English ones to begin with. For instance here is a concordance for the word "sin", prepared manually, and shown with the text from which the four separate occurrences of this word are taken.

Concordance 1 on the word "sin":

1. Thus from my lips, by yours, my

is purged.

2. Then have my lips the

that they have took.


from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!

4. Give me my



Text used as basis for the concordance, with the keyword in bold:

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.
Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

So a concordance is a list of words (called keywords, e.g. here "sin"), taken from a piece of authentic language (corpus, e.g. here Romeo and Juliet), displayed in the centre of the page and shown with parts of the contexts in which they occur (here maximum 29 characters to the left of the keyword and to the right). This is also known as a Key Words In Context concordance or a KWIC concordance.

1.2 A computer-generated concordance

Now look at that same concordance, displayed with fuller context (here between 75 and 80 characters each side, including blank spaces):

1. move not, while my prayer’s effect I take. Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.
JULIET Then have my lips the sin that they have took. ROMEO
2. Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged. JULIET Then have my lips the sin that they have took. ROMEO Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
3. is purged. JULIET Then have my lips the sin that they have took. ROMEO Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again
4. they have took. ROMEO Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.


The KWIC and the fuller context display are both useful, depending on what you want to do with the material.

So there you have the basic ingredients for any concordance: a text base and a procedure. But whereas the procedure was manual and it gave us an extremely limited concordance (the concordance had only four citations), the meanings of the word "sin" that appear in it are rooted in the poetic world of Romeo and Juliet. Below, in contrast, is a concordance on the same keyword, based this time on a 25-citation sample created by a concordancer, using contemporary including British and American books, ephemera, newspapers, magazines, radio transcripts and transcriptions of ordinary conversations.

Concordance 2 on the word "sin":

1. said cohabiting was no longer a

. Serbs free last six

 2. daily care of others was the ultimate

. We arranged for Ted to spend a

 3. remarkable. Shaw’s rendition was a

against culture, an insult to Eliot

4. them that God wants them to turn from

and transform their lives. Women

5. the ascendancy to and loss of power;

and redemption; self-doubt and

6. to prove that all that a life of sex,

and St Tropez sun brings is wrinkles

7. taken seriously.  Julian’s account of

and forgiveness stands unexcelled

8. deepening anxiety over the question of

and evil, she took it up. Carolly

9. can spring as much from a sense of

as from sanctity.  That, thank God,

10. Roebuck was dismissed to the

bin for 10 minutes for his part in

11. is pride, covetousness, deceit and

, but say you’ll accept adultery and

12. is like Sodom and Gomorrah -you know,

City.  So the very word Youngstown

13. of rubber safety bumpers, as ugly as

. Few mourned its passing. [p] That

14. White.26 He finds the earthly ideas of

, guilt, punishment, good and evil

15. BERLIN CABARET NOW Decadence, satire,

… bohemian excess… Once

16. sumptuous food shops. with a sense of

, I bought some on Nevsky Prospekt

17. to mine without a tumble. The only

I’ve committed is not having you

18. sin of all: I have heard of a certain

. I thank God that I do not know of

19. cannot announce God’s forgiveness of

in the Absolution and cannot

20. It was during the Reformation that

in Scotland really got going. Any

21.sin is prevalent. Although this

is a comment on all of mankind, it

22. sounds a bit stage-ethnic: `The only

is to believe that happiness is gone

 23. insisting on the concept of original

. It would take on a kind of

24. bed the selfsame one! More primal than

itself, this fell to me. [f]

25. do nothing to deal with her problem of

. Joni was disturbed by Carl’s


In contrast to the Shakespeare concordance in which the original lines from the play were short enough to fit entirely within the display, here the left and right are chopped off, in this case to 38 maximum characters including blank spaces, a number which in many concordancers can be adjusted to give a less disorienting look to the citations. We will see in Section 5 how important (and also how contentious) the issue of doctoring the results of a search is.

1.3 A parallel concordance

First, for those teachers who like to work with both the target language and the mother tongue, we will say a few words about bilingual or multilingual concordances, also known as parallel concordances. Imagine a novel in Language A and a translation of that text in Language B. Or, in a European context, think of an official document translated into all the languages of the EU. Suppose you want to study how a French word like the preposition "pour" is phrased in different parts of the original texts. Using normal concordancing techniques, the program is able to find all occurrences of pour in French, also identifying the paragraphs and sentences in which those instances occur - e.g. sentence 3 in paragraph 2, sentence 4 in paragraph 3, and so on. Then the parallel concordancer finds the equivalent sentences in the translated text. Preparation of the corpus for use with parallel concordancers has to be meticulous. The two (or more) texts must have been aligned in advance paragraph by paragraph, so that paragraph 3 in one language is equivalent to paragraph 3 in the other (but not sentence by sentence, as we know that translators may well render one sentence by two, or two sentences by one, and so on). Here is an example showing how "pour" relates to various structures in English

A parallel French-English concordance on "pour" using an extract from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Original text Translation
1. Ainsi, quand il aperçut POUR la première fois mon avion [...] 1. The first time he saw my aeroplane, for instance [...]
2. Alors elle avait forcé sa toux POUR  lui infliger quand même des remords. 2. Then she forced her cough a little more SO THAT he should suffer from remorse just the same.
3. -Approche-toi que je te voie mieux, lui dit le roi qui était tout fier d’être enfin roi POUR quelqu’un. 3. “Approach, so that I may see you better,” said the king, who felt consumingly proud of being at last a king OVER somebody.
4. Car, POUR les vaniteux, les autres hommes sont des admirateurs. 4. For, TO conceited men, all other men are admirers.
5. C’est comme POUR  la fleur. 5. It is just as it is WITH the flower.
6. C’est donc POUR  ça encore que j’ai acheté une boîte de couleurs et des crayons. 6. It is FOR THAT PURPOSE, again, that I have bought a box of paints and some pencils.
7. C’est le même paysage que celui de la page précédente, mais je l’ai dessiné une fois encore POUR bien vous le montrer. 7. It is the same as that on page 90, but I have drawn it again TO impress it on your memory.
8. Elle ferait semblant de mourir POUR échapper au ridicule. 8. She would [...] pretend that she was dying, TO avoid being laughed at.
9. et c’était bien commode POUR  faire chauffer le déjeuner du matin 9. and they were very convenient FOR heating his breakfast in the morning.,
10. Il commença donc par les visiter POUR  y chercher une occupation et POUR s’instruire. 10. He began therefore, by visiting them, IN ORDER TO add to his knowledge.
11. Il me fallut longtemps POUR comprendre d’où il venait. 11. It took me a long time TO learn where he came from.
12. J’avais le reste du jour POUR  me reposer, et le reste de la nuit POUR dormir... 12. I had the rest of the day FOR relaxation and the rest of the night FOR sleep.”
13. POUR  toi je ne suis qu’un renard semblable à cent mille renards 13. TO you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes


MultiConcord is an example of a multilingual parallel concordancer. It is the result of work undertaken at the University of Birmingham as a contribution to an EC-funded Lingua project, coordinated by Francine Roussel, Université de Nancy II, to develop a parallel concordancer for classroom use. Programmed by David Woolls, with Birmingham University support from Philip King and Tim Johns: see MultiConcord and King & Woolls.

ParaConc, published by Athelstan, is another example of a parallel concordancer. See also this Web page at the Athelstan website on Parallel Corpora.

See also St John (2001).

1.4 List of uses of concordancing for language teachers

If anyone tries to tell you that this sounds like the sort of work that goes on only at university level, don’t believe them! Secondary school children are quite capable of making use of concordancers, providing you and they are well prepared for the task, as we will try to illustrate in Section 5.

Another interesting use of concordances is to compare texts produced by native and learner speakers of a language. For example, you could put your students’ French or German essays into a concordancer (assuming they had prepared them on a word-processor in the first place), alongside a body of authentic French or German texts. Then you could study how students position words in sentences, and compare this with native speakers. Better still, you could get students to do this comparison themselves, as in Activity 13 in Section 4.

Although powerful professional concordancers can produce many different types of concordances and other sophisticated data, and as such are invaluable to linguistics and literary researchers and to lexicographers, for most teachers KWIC concordances in the target language are quite sufficient to their needs, and the rest of this module will concentrate on those, with some interesting exceptions.

1.5 Learning task

Have a go at creating your own KWIC concordance, using an English keyword of your choice. See our list of online concordancers and corpora below: Websites.

2. Concordance software and corpora

Contents of Section 2

2.1 Concordance software

Two things are required to produce a set of Key Words In Context (KWIC):

  1. concordancing software (i.e. a concordancer)
  2. a corpus of texts in electronic format

A simple concordancer produces a list of words it locates in a corpus of authentic texts, displayed in the centre of the page and shown with parts of the contexts in which they occur. This is also known as a Key Words In Context concordance or a KWIC concordance: see Section 1.1. But some concordancers are also able to produce a full concordance comprising all the words and other linguistic elements of the corpus. In reality there are numerous parameters to look for, such as speed, the size of the corpus the software can handle, the languages supported, the amount and quality of the documentation; especially the last point might be important if you are new to concordancing.

It is important to bear in mind that the following presentation of some of the concordancers on the market is not a software review as such but simply a presentation to make you familiar with some of the key features to look for and the screens that you’ll be working with. Trial or demo versions of most of these concordancers are available on the Web. All the necessary information can be found at their websites. Here we’ll only deal with the very basic differences. Pricing also varies a lot - and so does the amount and quality of the documentation.

MicroConcord, which was written by Mike Scott (author of WordSmith Tools) in collaboration with the late Tim Johns, set the standard. It was a concordancer written for DOS, dating back to a version originally written for the tiny Sinclair Z80 computer in the 1980s (Johns 1986a; Johns 1986b). It was finally published by Oxford University Press in 1993, together with a substantial corpus of texts from the Independent newspaper and a manual. MicroConcord was impressive for its time, but programs running under DOS are now technically obsolete. The following Figure 1 is a screenshot from MicroConcord.


Figure 1: A screenshot from MicroConcord

Concordance by R.J.C. Watt of Dundee University makes both a full concordance and a KWIC-concordance, which Watt refers to as a "fast concordance. The fast concordance is really fast. The full concordance is slower. Making a full concordance of a very large corpus requires a lot of computer power and patience.

The user interface is quite intuitive once you have worked a little bit with it. The split screen, with a wordlist on the left and the concordance on the right, is a nice feature. Printing a concordance is possible. This concordancer supports most European languages. Unlike the other concordancers, Concordance is able to convert a full concordance into HTML format so that the concordance can be used interactively through a Web browser. This makes it well suited for literary studies: see Activity 14 in Section 4.


Figure 2: A screenshot from Concordance with “Text view” window opened

MonoConc by Athelstan is much like a Windows version of MicroConcord. It can only produce single word concordances, but it is very fast indeed, and since it is not so crammed with features the screen layout is very simple to work with. Like the others, this piece of software allows printing of the concordances.


Figure 3: A screenshot from MonoConc

Simple Concordance Program (SCP): Written by Alan Reed, this program is available free of charge. This program lets you create word lists and search natural language text files for words, phrases, and patterns. SCP is a concordance and word listing program that is able to read texts written in many languages.There are built-in alphabets for English, French, German, Greek, Russian, etc. SCP contains an alphabet editor which you can use to create alphabets for any other language. SCP runs both on PCs and Macs.

WordSmith Tools: Concordancer, keyword finder and frequency counter, written by Mike Scott and published by Lexical Analysis Software Ltd and Oxford University Press since 1996. Version 5 (2007) is the latest version.

PhraseContext is a different kind of analysis tool. According to the author, Hans Jørgen Klarskov Mortensen, the main idea behind it was not to create yet another concordancer, but to produce a more interactive tool. Most concordancers mainly present results which can be perused on the screen. PhraseContext can export nearly all its results in plain text format, which is directly editable in the small editors that it features. These results can also be sent to the Clipboard, and/or in most cases be saved to a text file. An extension of this is what the author calls a "PhraseBook", a collection of annotated keywords and KWICs. In this way people - and there seems to be more and more of them - who use a specialised corpus as a language reference in their research, can build a collection of linguistic problems they have already solved.

Another of PhraseContext's features is the ability to save wordlists, concordance lines and the PhraseBook to XML-files. This output can be manipulated by means of CSSs and/or Javascript and/or XSL-formatting files for use in Web browsers. So far such scripts are sadly lacking, but the current version of PhraseContext comes with some basic XSL-formatting files.

Besides ordinary concordancing tasks such as word frequency lists, application of stoplists etc, PhraseContext also calculates statistical significance (T-score, Z-score, MI and standard deviation) of collocations and it retrieves clusters of words up to a length of 6 words.

The documentation explains the main features of the software and outlines the necessary linguistic choices the author had to make. References to relevant literature are also included..


Figure 3a: A screenshot from PhraseContext

2.2 Corpora

2.2.1 What is a corpus?

It is necessary to have some notion of what a corpus is, in order to work with a concordancer. Concordancing is part of Corpus Linguistics, which is dealt with by Tony McEnery & Andrew Wilson in Module 3.4. See also Michael Barlow’s Corpus Linguistics Site.

In this module we will only cover the most basic elements.

A corpus is either just one text or a collection of texts. In Section 1.1 samples of KWIC concordances from Romeo and Juliet are shown. In this case the corpus was Shakespeare’s play. A corpus can also be just one student’s essay. It goes without saying that if the intention is to study the style of, say, Shakespeare the corpus must be limited to his works, but if the intention is to study the grammar and semantics of a whole language, the corpus must contain many texts representing many genres. Likewise: If we want to study 18th-century English we must make sure that the corpus contains a representative amount of texts from the 18th century only. So the contents of a corpus depend on the aims of the user.

2.2.2 How big should a corpus be?

How big a corpus one needs also depends on what it is to be used for. Basically the corpus must be so big that there are enough occurrences of the language elements we want to study. The Wordbanks Online corpus comprises about 550 million words and is well suited for linguistic research. Letting our students loose on such vast masses of text is, in most cases, likely to create more confusion than clarity. Far fewer words will often be sufficient. But, of course, if confronted with a really ardent advocate of misguided ideas of what is correct usage and what is not, a failure to find examples of the misguided expressions in a corpus of 550 million words just might make an impression on him/her. Chris Tribble argues that a specialist micro corpus of about 25,000-30,000 words will be quite adequate for most educational purposes. On the other hand, see Tribble and Jones (1997:11): “We tend to think that a word like crime is a common word but it actually occurs only about 20 times in every one million words of a 'balanced" collection of texts such as the Longman-Lancaster corpus”. Later we’ll show examples of what can be done with a corpus of about 50,000 German words.

2.2.3 The composition of a corpus

One of the prime advantages of concordancing in language teaching is the opportunity to use relevant, authentic and interesting examples as opposed to made-up traditional “grammar examples”. This means that if we are trying to teach students how to write an argumentative essay, we should use authentic argumentative texts to teach them the language that such essays call for. And likewise, if the subject is imaginative writing, we should use model texts that fit this genre. How difficult an issue this really is can also be seen from the following example. Recently a Danish publisher released a massive 2277-page English-Danish dictionary based primarily on a corpus of 19th century texts. As one reviewer of the dictionary comments:

“If you are reading Unsworth’s medieval novel from 1995 you will not be able to find “Ostler”, “Tourney”, “Morality Play”, “Lychgate” nor “Mead”. […] If you are reading classical ballads, you will not be able to find “fain”. […] Reading a Bram Stoker short story, Dracula’s Guest, you will not be able to find "he answered fencingly’.”

These examples are more than just a pedant’s protest - they illustrate how vast and complex our languages are (Source: Mogens Kjær: “To-i-en?”, Gymnasieskolen, Nr. 3, 2000, pp. 27ff.).

2.2.4 Online concordancers and corpora

In a few cases both concordance software and a useful corpus can be found online. Here are some examples:

English and Multilingual

British National Corpus: A very large corpus of modern British English designed to present as wide a range of modern English as possible.

The Compleat Lexical Tutor: An online concordancer and corpora in corpora in English, French, German and Spanish. Many other useful activities too.

Google: Using Google as a simple concordancer, e.g. to check for possible collocations, works quite well. Is is possible, for example, to say "a metal wood"? Yes, indeed! Google cites numerous examples. In German does one say "Ich bin im Internet gesurft" or "Ich habe im Internet gesurft"? Well, both are used, but one form definitely dominates. Enter the whole phrase in inverted commas in Google's search box and you will find hundreds of examples of how the phrase is used. You can use a wildcard (* - the asterisk character) if you are not sure of the spelling of a word or wish to look for two words used together but separated by other letters or words, e.g. a search for ich * habe gesurft (no inverted commas round the phrase) will find "Ich habe gesurft" and "Ich habe gestern mittag noch normal gesurft" - very handy in German when different parts of the verb are separated. Enter the combination ich * habe * Internet * gesurft (no inverted commas round the phrase) and you should find examples such as "Dann habe ich im Internet nach Rezepten gesurft": http://www.google.co.uk/. See Robb (2003).

KWICFinder: A concordancer that rides on the back of a standard search engine, enabling the whole Web to be used as a text corpus.

WebCorp: A concordancer that works right across the Web, riding on the back of different search engines. It produces very good results. WebCorp includes a word-list generator that will produce a word frequency list of a Web page in a wide variety of languages. Operated by Birmingham City University, UK.

Wordbanks Online: A corpus that evolved out of the Collins Cobuild Bank of English corpus that forms the basis of the Collins range of dictionaries. The corpus comprises about 550 million words of contemporary written and spoken English. Access is by subscription.

Mannheim Corpus: A very big - and free - corpus of German texts. This includes a choice of corpora and a lot of search facilities.

Corpus Lexicaux Québécois: Canadian French corpora with search facilities.

Other languages
See the references under Websites.

A characteristic feature of online corpora and concordancers is their size - they are in fact very big indeed. They can be used to create your own handouts for your students - or for your own reference. But classroom use of them is perhaps only suitable for quite advanced students who are really interested in linguistic details and who really understand what a corpus is, what the search facilities do and how they work. Later we will show some examples of their use.

2.2.5 Creating your own corpus: an example project

For this project we need a German corpus. Let us suppose that this does not already exist so we will have to make it ourselves. In this case we are only interested in examples of relatively elementary German grammar, so almost any modern German text written by a professional writer will do. We aim to use the Internet to get the texts. This is the step-by-step process:

  1. You can find a corpus by consulting the references under Websites. Or you can go straight to the German Gutenberg Project site, where you will find links to sample texts in German.

  2. Open your browser and go to the Gutenberg Project site. Reduce the size of the browser window by clicking on the Restore icon in the top right corner of the screen:

  3. Open your word-processor with a new blank page. Reduce the size of this window too. Now you should have both the browser window and word-processor window open on your screen. Arrange the sizes of the windows so that you just have a small word-processor window visible and a larger browser window open. See the example in Figure 4 (below).


Figure 4: Creating your own corpus

  1. Click in the browser window. Mark the text you want. Position the cursor in the marked text, click the left mouse button and keep it pressed. Now you can drag the text into the word-processor window. When the word-processor shows a tiny vertical line like this | release the mouse button, and the text is copied to your word-processor!

  2. Go back to the browser window. Find a new text and repeat the procedure above until you have collected the texts you need.

If for some reason you do not want to use this method you can save the Web pages in their entirety. For example, choose File / Save as…in Internet Explorer. Alternatively, use the Windows Clipboard: mark the text, copy it to the Clipboard and paste it into your word-processor.

2.2.6 Other sources of corpora

Instead of using texts collected from online sources you can use CD-ROM encyclopaedias or any other source of electronic text as suggested by Chris Tribble. The practical method is basically the same as the one described above in Section 2.2.5.

Texts on paper
It is also possible to convert texts on paper into machine-readable text. For this you’ll need a scanner that can convert the printed text into a computer image. The scanner only makes a digitised image of the text. But a so-called OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program can convert the text into machine-readable text. Nowadays good scanners and quite sophisticated OCR software are quite reasonably priced. Usually OCR software is supplied with the scanner, and more often than not that software will adequately suit these needs. Of course scanning and recognising paper texts takes much longer than just copying them from the Internet, although it may take you time to find what you want on the Internet.

Typing text
The most time-consuming way of getting machine-readable text is to type it into a word-processor. But it can be done!

What format? ASCI or ANSI?
All the concordancers described in this module require plain ASCII/ANSI text-format and usually the concordancers prefer the text formatted with CR/LF (a so-called “hard return”) after each line. All modern word-processors can save in ASCII or ANSI format. Usually you choose Save as… and then you get a drop-down menu with the different formats.

There is a difference between ASCII and ANSI text format, which is important if you are working with other languages than English. ASCII is the oldest computer text format and was created on the basis of English. ANSI text, a variant of ASCII format, is used by Windows. The advantage is that ANSI text-format includes consistent codes for characters using diacritical signs allowing us to make concordances of all the European languages - and non-European if the appropriate fonts are installed on the computer. The Windows concordancers mentioned above all work with ANSI text-format, whereas MicroConcord (a DOS program) works with ASCII text-format.

2.3 Discussion topic

Stevens (1995) notices that the corpus preparer may introduce bias into the corpus if he/she “selects data based on preconceived notions of what ought to be there, or on pedagogic grounds”. Is this a tricky issue at all? If so: why? Compare also with traditional grammars and textbooks.

3. How does the use of concordances fit in with language teaching methodologies?

Contents of Section 3

3.1 A brief history of concordancing and how it helps understand the claims made for it as a teaching tool

Concordances date back to the Middle Ages, when, like other massive undertakings like Gothic cathedrals or the Bayeux Tapestry, they took up an unimaginable amount of person power. An early example of this, according to Tribble & Jones (1997), is the first known complete concordance of the Latin Bible, the work of some five hundred Benedictine monks working under Hugo de Sancto Charo. Biblical concordances are indexes comprising the words in the Bible and the location of the texts where they can be found. The Encyclopaedia Britannica lists a number of early biblical concordances, including that drawn up by Mercator, the 14th century cartographer. The other favourite corpus of texts for early concordancers, at least in the English-speaking world, is Shakespeare. Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us that Bartlett, the American bookseller and editor best known for his Familiar Quotations wrote, after many years of labour, a Complete Concordance to Shakespeare’s Dramatic Works and Poems (1894), a standard reference work that surpassed any of its predecessors in the number and fullness of its citations.

Because of the canonical status which they have in the culture of the English-speaking world, Biblical and Shakespearian texts have two things in common: they need to be frequently and efficiently accessed, and they have to be interpreted (and reinterpreted). So these early concordances functioned as archiving tools, answering the access need, and as text analysis tools, facilitating interpretation of meanings by bringing words and their contexts into closer proximity on the page, thus sharper focus.

Today’s computerised concordances still fulfil these two functions, the practical and the scholarly. Professional archives, on the Internet or on the intranet in libraries and companies, illustrate the more practical use. For example, if I am a lawyer or a law student, I can access a concordance of legal contexts for the keyword I’m interested in, and I then can assess the currency and coverage of the legal concept under scrutiny. This is clearly of great practical advantage to me. On the other hand, if I am working with language itself, whether as a lexicographer, a translator, a terminologist, a researcher in linguistics, a literary scholar, a language policy specialist, or even perhaps a forensic linguist, I will be interested both in accessing the right texts fast, and in interpreting the language which I discover. So intense is interest in the scholarly application of concordancing that since the 1980ies many national cultures have invested heavily in the creation of great electronic searchable databases, which are real monuments to their language and their literature. For non-English-speaking cultures, such initiatives can also be an important part of their political strategy for linguistic survival.

3.1.2 Learning task

Search the Internet to find out as much as possible about one of the following great national language corpora. For instance what is it called, when was it set up, by whom, how big is it, what kind of corpus does it use, what are the conditions for access to it, how frequently is it updated, what kind of search facilities does it offer?

French: The ARTFL Project, American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language

German: The Mannheim Corpus

Italian: The OVI Project (Opera del Vocabolario Italiano)

British English: The British National Corpus

American English (Brigham Young University)

Educational concordancing too has a history, although it is much shorter, having started in the 1980ies. For a summary of its evolution in ELT have a look at Stevens (1995). Claims made for concordancing for educational purposes typically have several facets. One is that concordancers facilitate access to 'real' target language (TL) lexical and grammatical structures. Another is that they can make students more active and independent analysers of language, turning them to an extent into language researchers. The rest of this section looks at how they fit in with current teaching methodologies and practices.

3.2 What claims are made for concordancing and how is concordancing expected to further good practice in teaching?

3.2.1 "Real" language and authenticity of the learning context

Language teachers want to provide activities and materials that conform with native speakers’ use of the language. The belief is that this is motivational and provides better preparation for learners when they come into contact with written or spoken native speaker utterances. Many traditional grammar books, textbooks and dictionaries contain only invented examples, and that can only reflect the particular ways in which their authors, eminent scholars though they may be, use their mother tongue. However, a language is owned by all its native speakers, not by one small subset, and furthermore, it evolves all the time. But can we as teachers, whether we are trained non-TL speakers or TL native speakers, always claim to have a realistic perception of real usage as it evolves? How many of us have had the embarrassing experience of giving a "rule" to a learner, only to be contradicted by some piece of TL evidence? Sinclair (1986:185-203) encapsulates the teacher’s problem with the comment that we need to “find explanations that fit the evidence, rather than adjusting the evidence to fit a pre-set explanation”. Working with real language data - also called Data Driven Learning (DDL) (Johns 1991a); Johns 1991b) - fits this aim perfectly. DDL allows very easy access to a huge number of extremely varied native speaker productions - although, unsurprisingly, it is a little more difficult to find transcriptions of spoken language. See also Module 3.4, Corpus Linguistics.

However, this raises the question of how prescriptive teachers should be in the choice of TL models offered: it is all very well for French natives to write “des grands bateaux”, flouting the grammar book rule that says it should be “de grands bateaux”, but we should teach grammar book usage or street usage? This question arises in every form of language teaching, but in concordance-based teaching the issue is brought into sharper focus. If the corpus that we use contains unedited material - as it should, if we want to be authentic - then concordancing searches will throw up some questionable usages. There are ways of avoiding this (for example pre-editing the corpus ourselves or using only carefully edited TL texts such as encyclopaedias and other pedagogical texts) but this re-introduces an element of teacher control by the back door and defeats the purpose of exposing learners to real TL forms. Pragmatic decisions will be needed, based on learners’ proficiency levels and teaching objectives. Discussion topic

It is important to provide students with examples taken from real corpora, according to McEnery & Wilson (1996), because “they expose students at an early stage in the learning process to the kinds of sentences and vocabulary which they will encounter in reading genuine texts in the language or in using the language in real communicative situations.” Discuss some arguments in support or in contradiction of this idea (perhaps successively adopting the perspectives of grammar-based teaching and of communicative teaching). Learning task

Think about how you would explain the difference between "uninterested" and "disinterested" to (a) native English speakers and (b) non-natives. Use one of the online concordancers and corpora that we list below under Websites to help you determine the difference. How would you use this data to enrich your explanations?

3.2.2 Analytical powers

Kettemann (1996) cites the Council of Europe's document (1994:10) concerning the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: "Language pedagogy has hitherto paid little attention to this dimension but should in fact develop explicit objectives and practices to teach methods of discovery and analysis." This, as Kettemann reminds us, is a very good reason why teachers should use computers in the classroom. The computer, he points out, “is a powerful hypothesis testing device on vast amounts of data, […] allows controlled speculation, makes hidden structures visible, enhances at the same time imagination and checks it by inductivity, thus making higher degrees of objectivity possible”. See also Kettemann's article titled "On the role of context in syntax and semantics".

Why would we want a powerful hypothesis-testing device? Because learners need to have tested any rule against as many examples as possible before they can fully internalise it. Why involve the imagination? Because learners remember the knowledge which they have formulated themselves rather than formulations which have been imposed on them.

These are only assumptions, but they have found support in research, see Stevens (1995). Undeniably, whether they are displayed as KWIC lists (like the example of "sin" in Section 1.1) or as columns of matching data (like the parallel concordance example using "pour"), concordance outputs make patterns more noticeable.

Note: Bernhard Kettemann's website is an excellent source of publications on and references to concordancing and corpus linguistics: http://www.uni-graz.at/bernhard.kettemann/ Learning Task

Have a look at Activity 4 (French) or Activity 9 (German) in Section 4, and formulate an empirically-based "rule" for the patterns of behaviour of the word. Discussion topic

Talking about the teaching of linguistics McEnery & Wilson (1996) have remarked:

“In our own teaching we have found that students who have been taught using traditional syntax textbooks, which contain only simple example sentences such as Steve puts his money in the bank […] often find themselves unable to analyse longer, more complex corpus sentences such as The government has welcomed a report by an Australian royal commission on the effects of Britain’s atomic bomb testing programme in the Australian desert in the fifties and early sixties...

Discuss to what extent this also applies to the teaching of English to non-native English speakers

3.2.3 Language awareness

Communicative teaching coupled with exclusive target language use has undoubtedly brought many benefits to learners but some re-evaluation of its merits is currently taking place. Discussing which language is used in the classroom, Klapper (1998:22-28) approves of “ that revolution which has come over many secondary classrooms in recent years: the use of the FL as the principal language of instruction” but goes on to point out the need to avoid immersion dogmatism. A common L1 in an L2 learning setting is an “obvious classroom resource” which should not be overlooked. Raising learners’ awareness of the TL is linked to raising their mother-tongue awareness, which argues for a reassessment of bilingual (or multilingual) work with learners, and for greater encouragement to learners to "notice" forms, rather than simply use them. In other words, let learners fluctuate between L1 and L2 as appropriate, as this will help them work on the myth that there are one-to-one equivalences between one language and the next, as well as helping them gain a better grasp of what language forms are and get into the habit of discussing them.

Another source of support for the concordancer as a facilitator of language awareness comes from Willis (1999) and his efforts to promote the "lexical syllabus". Challenging the distinction between grammar and lexis, he shows that words should be taught in their "patterns" or "frames". For instance a pattern like the idea (or risk, or thought, or hope) of -ing as the right "feel" for English. Other frames might be possible but simply don’t occur, such as the wish of -ing . Teaching all these words individually, or teaching the rule about of + -ing is not sufficiently helpful to the learner. Willis denies that “words are single items and grammar tells us how these items combine.” For him “Rather than grammar on the one hand and lexis on the other, we have an intricate relationship between the two”. The interrelationship of lexis and syntax is something that jumps off the page or the screen, for anyone who is at all familiar with concordancer searches. KWIC concordances are rich in such patterns as the one Willis mentions, and, given a little dexterity with search techniques, users can easily create large collections of them for further learning.

3.2.4 Curiosity and learner independence

Language learning pedagogy has for a few years now argued in favour of the development of learner autonomy. For example, by Little (1996) claims that successful language use over time depends on continued language learning, and that to develop proficiency in a second language we need to be ready “to turn almost any occasion of language use into an occasion of conscious language learning”. So good language learning means regularly stepping back from purely communicative activities, and casting a critical eye over one’s own understandings and one’s own strategies. Using concordancers, because they facilitate language awareness, also provide opportunities for such critical activities.

Furthermore, increased exposure to authentic texts has turned teachers (and some students) into more discriminating users of textbooks and led them to question the authority of grammars and dictionaries. McEnery & Wilson (1996) list four separate studies of ESL textbooks that have shown that teaching materials not based on authentic data can be positively misleading to students. Combating the effects of this was one major aims of the Collins Cobuild Bank of English project at the University of Birmingham through the publication of hard-copy corpus-based dictionaries and textbooks like the Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary and the Collins Cobuild English Grammar. But even these tools are edited, and therefore not as useful as a raw concordance for those who like to exert their critical faculties on a piece of language.

What about curiosity, though? Students can be in charge without necessarily growing more curious. For example, they can be given data to manipulate, individually or in groups. Or a group can be asked to create concordances for use as gap-filling tests to set for another group, as part of a competitive game. Classroom applications are numerous, as Section 4 aims to show. But unless these tasks are given a validity other that conferred by the teaching setting, students may well not sustain interest beyond the initial buzz of working with a new piece of software. Student-centeredness implies a large measure of real freedom to choose learning tasks, in this case tasks outside of the teaching context, for instance searching the Internet for texts of real relevance to their individual lives. Teachers willing to grant this freedom will have to evolve pedagogies reconciling student interests (unpredictable and changeable) with the cognitive content of the learning activity (which has to be delivered in a planned and reliable way). Well-thought-out concordancer tasks using as varied a corpus as can be mustered, can offer one way to square this particular circle, particularly if students’ preferences are genuinely allowed to influence the choice of corpus texts.

4. Some practical illustrations

Contents of Section 4

4.1 Introduction

In this section we aim to provide you with some practical examples of worksheets which you can print and use with your students if you think it’s appropriate, But we have only given you a small selection of what can be achieved. We hope that these examples will act as triggers to stimulate your creativity! Some of the examples are in French, others in English, others in German. In most cases the kind of thinking used in a French example can equally well be used in a Spanish or Swedish context if it is “translated” not only into that language as such but into the grammar, syntax and lexis of that language.

When working with concordances, whether paper-based or interactive, students have to cope within a double set of limitations: their level of language proficiency and their level of familiarity with concordances. When you offer a series of concordance-based exercises you will not always be able to grade them according to both criteria. Our experience is that you cannot overestimate the students’ need for familiarity with the appearance of concordances, and their need for guidance as to how to derive conclusions from lists of citations. One way of ensuring this is to provide plenty of practice with paper-based exercises first, so that students get used to inductive reasoning before they are asked to cope with the additional burden of manipulating a piece of software, however simple it may seem to you. Also, by providing paper handouts in the early stages of classroom work with concordances, you will be able to simplify a little the sometimes startling physical appearance of concordances, so that learners get well used to them and can move on to use the inevitably more complex ones which they will create when they start using concordancers interactively.

In any preparation for teaching it goes without saying that you should try the exercises on guinea pigs before presenting them to a class. But with concordancing, this really becomes essential: your results will depend to a large extent on the composition of your corpus, so be warned and always try activities out first!!

Since a corpus and a concordancer in principle lets you and your students examine almost all aspects of your target language the crucial point is to “discover” ways of making the relevant aspects of the target language appear in the concordances. Or put in a less formal lingo: The teacher’s task in concordancing in the classroom is to ask precisely the right questions.

Contrary to teaching with traditional textbooks, exercise books and grammars the teacher will often discover that a particularly productive “question” or activity brings up material and linguistic facts that neither student nor teacher expected. This calls for another type of teacher-role than the most traditional one(s). We’ll return to that point in Section 6.

4.2 Activities and worksheets




1. Guess the mystery word (F) beginners, lexis paper,online (LAN)
2. Donc on peut dire que (F) style, usage paper, online (LAN)
3. S’agit (F) derive a rule, grammar paper, online (LAN)
4. Beware false friends… (F) lexis paper, online (LAN)
5. Coffee or tea? (F) cultural differences paper, online (LAN)
6. Les Anglais et les Britanniques (F) political correct, usage, lexis paper, online (LAN)
7. Changing lifestyles (F) cultural differences, usage paper, online (LAN)
8. dürfen and müssen (G) lexis, usage paper
9. Preposition am (G) usage paper
10. Syntax of adverbs (E) driving a rule, grammar, syntax, statistics, usage online (WWW)
11. reason + because (E) correctness, usage online (WWW)
12. Students’ own writing (E) variety, usage online, standalone PC
13. L’aigle noir (F) literary analysis online (LAN)
14. Mariana (E) literary analysis online (LAN or WWW)


Activity 1: Guess the mystery word

Aim of the activity: To familiarise students with the physical appearance of a KWIC concordance and with the importance of left-context and right-context when working with keywords. This is to be used with people who are complete beginners at concordancing.

Worksheet: Read the grid below, where the nonsense word "gloup" has been entered instead of a real word. Your job is to decide with your group what that mystery real word is. When you have made up your mind, discuss with your group what the answers to the three questions listed below the grid should be.

1. pport critique sur certaines utilisations abusives de la


est devenu un geste banal plus qu’une décision.

2. que pour beaucoup d’entre nous le fait d’allumer une



3. laquelle on est pris pour gens qui “s’abrutissent à la


, dans une proportion croissante depuis 1896

4. Tous les grands moments de


superposent un message recherché et un messa

5. sieurs postes et l’augmentation du temps de diffusion (


du matin et de la nuit).
6. dailleurs 21% des Français reconnaissent regarder la


Même si le programme les ennuie. 34% seulem

7. rmettent une plus grande maîtrise individuelle de la


. Les comportements des téléspectateurs en ont é

8. ux Pays-Bas que l’on regarde le moins longtemps la


: 89 minutes par jour, contre 228 en Grande-Bret

9. publications, diffusent des émissions de radio ou de


. Et découvrent les vertus des communications


  1. When reading the grid, at which point (i.e. at which line number) did you start to suspect the truth?
  2. What word or words gave you the most useful clue?
  3. Lines 1 and 2 could make you think of a very different mystery word. What is it, and what clues could make you think this?

Ideas for the creation of handouts in different languages: try similar exercises with words that have dual meanings or different meanings in different varieties of the language. With such words, contexts will contribute strongly to the guesswork required. E.g. English chip or bathroom (in its US meaning), French dépanneur (and its Québécois French meaning), Spanish and Latin American pasaje or manejar, Italian penna or colpito.

Activity 2: Donc on peut dire que…

Aims of the activity: To raise students’ awareness of stylistic differences between different positions of "donc" in sentences. the placement of "donc" in French in formal written texts compared to informal ones. Ideally, this comparison should be carried out contrasting a written corpus with a corpus of spoken language. However, these are very hard to come by for most languages, so instead we have used two corpora from Corpus Lexicaux Québécois, one of them from an archive of letters written by people with no formal education, in a style very close to spoken French. Many of the words were spelt phonetically in the original and to avoid confusing students we have rectified spelling errors. However, original word order and punctuation have been preserved.

Worksheet: In French you could place a word like "donc" at the very beginning of a sentence, (e.g. "Donc on peut dire que…"). But you often find it between the main verb and what follows the main verb (e.g. "On peut donc dire que…"). Is one better than the other? Where should you put "donc"? To find out, have a look at the two lists below, both from Québec (French Canada). List A is from a set of engineers’ reports about the building of an airport in Inuit territory. List B is from a collection of handwritten letters sent by poor farmers to the authorities (in this case a priest), to ask for financial help. These letter-writers have not studied composition and they write more or less as they speak.

Your job is to look at how many times "donc" is found at the very beginning of sentences and how many times it occurs immediately after the main verb, in each list. When you have done this, draw a conclusion about where you should place "donc" when you write a formal essay, and where you may put it when you are writing (or speaking) in an everyday situation.

List A

Il devient


difficile de proposer un plan de gestion de ces troupeaux.

u Québec et de tout promoteur développer les terres et


, à restreindre les droits des autochtones.

Elle permet


la circulation des avions de grandes dimensions en cas de besoin.

Ce droit exclusif n’atténue


pas du tout les droits de ces derniers puisque ils ont accès à toutes les

Les autochtones ont


priorité quant à la récolte.

Les Inuit ont


fait part de leurs points de vue sur l’impact du Complexe ainsi que leur

Il serait


intéressant de comparer des données plus récentes afin de

Ces chiffres révèlent


une tendance à la baisse entre 1976 et 1980 mais sûrement aussi

Les données furent


suggéré de répartir les territoires de chasse selon des zones “

Ils ont


peur de ne pas avoir suffisamment obtenu de terrains pour permettre

L’un des aspects négatifs de la mise en application de


de ne pas avoir atteint l’objectif de mettre en place un mécanisme

Il faut


déterminer les espèces touchées et leur importance relative



l’épaisseur calculée en fonction du gel qui prime

Ils peuvent


théoriquement rencontrer la demande  de transport pour les années

List B

      l’hiver. Aussi le Père Joseph. Guay aussi ce sont tous des invalides.


je crois qu’il serait à propos de leur donner quelque chose

                deux mois, on sait que vous en envoyez et on n’en a pas alors  tâchez


s’il vous plaît d’être assez bon de nous envoyer à leur nom

                  le grand besoin avec une famille de 9 enfants ça fait bien dur.


Je compte sur votre secours afin de pouvoir passer l’hiver   

    bras forts pour envisager les durs travaux qui se rencontrent sur un lot


excusez-nous de vous avoir dérangé dans vos nombreuses occupations. Espérant vous lire sous

     garder mes enfants à la maison et les priver de l’instruction. Je compte


sur votre grande générosité pour nous tirer d’embarras.

          de cet rgent, et depuis longtemps pour financer mes petites affaires.


espérant qu’avec votre concours je recevrai ce petit montant bientôt Je demeure votre tout

              seront payés et ceux qui ne travailleront pas n’auront droit à rien


il faudra qu’ils travaillent pour avoir de l’aide si non rien. Mais

              transport qui m’empêche de finir cette transaction. Je vous serais


bien obligé de me dire quels moyens je pourrais prendre pour obtenir un prix réduit

Notre Dame Du Lac Co Témiscouata.Cher Mr Je viens


vous écrire pour vous demander si je peux avoir de l’octroi pour racheter ma

le bâtir tout  de suite pourvu que je sois certain d’avoir ma prime


je me fie entièrement à vous pour régler cette affaire-là et je vous remercie

année il va être fini mais mais cette année la Compagnie Fraser l’achète.


espérant recevoir une bonne réponse de vous le plus tôt possible. Votre

À autre mais je n’ai pas d’argent et ils demandent déjà un bon prix


s’il vous plaît enseignez-moi les moyens à prendre pour le faire annuler et

                         Bien cordialement. Soyez


assez bon de me dire s’il y a encore de bons lots à prendre

Je connais la terre étant fils de cultivateur.


Monsieur le Curé je sais que si vous le voulez je pourrais aller semer

bien si vous pouviez venir inspecter ce chemin


je veux pas vous ennuyer avec cela


Ideas for interactive extension work: If you’re an English speaker, try comparing the work that you have just done on the position of "donc" with the position of its English equivalent "therefore". First, think where you would put "therefore" if you were writing an essay. Use one of the online concordancers and corpora that we list below under Websites to do a free search based on "therefore". What conclusion can you draw about some of the rules of "good" writing in French and in English?

Activity 3: Le roman s’agit d’un amour malheureux

Aim of the activity: to get students to derive (by induction) the rule that "s’agit" never takes any subject other than the impersonal pronoun "il".

Worksheet:  "Le roman (or 'le poème' or 'la pièce') s’agit d’un amour malheureux…" When teachers of French read this kind of phrase in students’ essays, they are likely to whip out their red pens and score out the first two words. Why? To answer this, read the following. Then with your group, explain the teachers’ reaction, and decide what precaution you should always take when using the verb "s’agit".

1. e de s’adapter au monde contemporain. Il

de savoir si l’on table, oui ou non

2. es, de Beurs ni de Blacks (hélas). Il ne

pas d’une bande dessinée mais

3. is gaulois. On en use à présent quand il

d’évoquer les solutions apportées

4. oins comme ami, simplement parce qu’il

de quelqu’un de différent

5. une femme. Et réciproquement. Quand il

de cette différence-là il y a

6. olution partiellement dans le prototype. Il

de définir les autorisations

7. uation de l’élève faite par le système. Il

donc de recueillir ces informa

8. le “welfare State”, l’état-providence, il

d’une approche globale et

9. péen Hans van den Broeck, selon lequel il

d’”aider” la Grèce à répondre

10. fres et François Maspéro, montrent qu’il

bien d’univers distincts, qui

11. meront peut-être certains, pensant qu’il

une fois de plus d’un ouvrage

12.  virtuel des différends (chapitre VI). Il

là d’un ensemble de mesures lo

 13. Aucun établissement ne part de rien. Il

donc de faire l’inventaire de

14. cours multimédia d’anglais (HELLO). Il

d’une réalisation de la BBC en

15. ont représentés.  Statutairement, il

d’une simple association (type

16. Cela prend énormement de temps. Il ne

pas seulement de les lire. Il


Activity 4: Beware of false friends…

Aim of the activity: To sensitise students to the differences between the English and French false friend "information". Focus their attention on the grammatical differences (with or without an "s") and the way this relates to differences in meaning.

Worksheet: The phrases "some information about the situation" and "une information sur la situation" mean the same. So from this viewpoint, the French word "information" is a good translation for its English counterpart. But if you use a French corpus to search the keyword "information", you will see that this similarity is only part of the story. Do a search using the keyword "information*", adding a wild character as in the example that we have just given, and compare the citations in the singular and in the plural ("informations"). With your group, work out what the difference is between the singular and plural uses of the French word.

1. dépourvus: le bon sens. Dans le flot d’


autour du scandale de la

2. nographiques ne fassent aucun travail d’


sur les centres et les moy

3. de l’homme de raisonner et de gérer les


. Dès lors l’homme informa

4. s optimales les nouvelles techniques d’


et de communication”. Au p

5. dias utilisés, la dynamique d’accès à l’


, la dynamique d’évolution

6. jout, la modification, la suppression d’


le dictionnaire peut

7. comportement de l’élève. De plus ces


peuvent être utiles

8. stème. Il s’agit donc de recueillir ces


sous une forme exploit

9. contrôle du praticien. La formation et l’


des médecins et de leurs

10. qu’il soit mis un terme à la publication d’


paraissant dépasser le

Activity 5: Coffee or tea?

Aim of the activity: To sensitise students to the fact that the writings of a culture reflect habits of people of that culture.

Worksheet: In this activity you are going to be asked to compare data, so make sure that you print out each set of results as you progress. Look up "café" using your French concordancer (now print). Then look up "thé" (and print). What conclusions can you draw about French interest in either of these drinks?

Concordance for "café" and "thé"


Number of times
café appeared

Number of times
thé appeared

In a Balzac corpus

99 times

19 times

In a 1998 corpus made up of a selection of press articles

14 times



Ideas for interactive extension work: Use one of the online concordancers and corpora that we list below under Websites to do the same two searches (this time using "coffee" and "tea"). Print each. Compare the results from these searches with the printed sheets which you obtained earlier. From the evidence, draw some conclusions about each culture’s interest in each of those drinks. Cultural stereotypes and artefacts can be used to great effect (and give a lot of fun) in concordancing.

Activity 6: Les Anglais et les Britanniques

Aim of the activity: To sensitise students to changes in language use

Worksheet: First read the insert below, which has been adapted from the French dictionary Le Petit Robert, 1984 edition.

anglais, aise: adj. De l’Angleterre (au sens étendu de Grande-Bretagne). Synonyme: Britannique le peuple anglais, la monarchie anglaise, la marine anglaise.

Now look at the following two searches, based on a corpus of texts written in 1998. Compare the lists thrown up by these searches, and the dictionary definitions. How has the French approach to naming their Northern neighbours changed over the last few years of the 20th century?

Anglais, anglaise

1. Coutances sur un traffic de 70000 veaux

touchant la Manche, L’Ain et p

2. quelques rudiments mal digérés de langue

), des revues et de l’éplucha

3. naître la langue allemande et la langue

, c’est grotesque.” Les pages

4. constante augmentation depuis 10 ans. L’

fait un tabac sur les bancs de

5. de jeunes qui ont jeté leur dévolu sur l’

dans l’enseignement général, t

6. 87% des collégiens se sont rués vers l’

première langue, le plus souve

7. blic (85%) la montée en puissance vers l’

première langue, régulière dep

8. Michel Noir souhaite une évolution à l’

et l’adoption du scrutin majori

9. te pilote du nouveau cours multimédia d’

Hello). Il s’agit d’une réalisa

10. ses certificates. Elle m’en donna un en

car elle sortait disait-elle


1. ennes et les volte-faces du gouvernement

leur paraissait bien lointaines

2. sociaux douloureux. Le premier minister

, M. John Major, en sait quelque

3. En revanche, rassuré les investisseurs

et la politique de relance

4. Aux échéances électorales les brokers

n’hésitaient pas miser sur

5. ntrôle de la Midland, quatrième banque

. La HSBC emportait finalement

6. r. les vives attaques contre la monnaie

. Le 16 septembre, la solida

7. juguée à une baisse des taux

à moins de 10% pour la première

8. affaire personnelle, que la présidence

? Et si leurs dirigeants avaient

9. ratification du traité par le Parlement

a tellement influé au cours des

10. é. Face à une crise qui mine l’économie

les réponses ne sont pas toujours


Activity 7: Changing lifestyles

Both sub-activities in this category look at language as it changes. The first one is easier, and involves a simple comparison of two KWIC concordances. The second one is more demanding, and combines linguistic analysis of a concordance with critical reading of an entry in a dictionary.

Aim of activity: to introduce students to the idea that a corpus reflects the society of its time. Also, to raise their awareness that the result of a concordance search is highly dependent on what was in the corpus in the first place.

Worksheet: work out the meaning of the word "mail" in each row of each of the grids below, by guessing from the context if necessary. List A is taken from selected works of Balzac (1799-1850). List B is from several issues of the French weekly magazine L’Express, published in January 2000. What conclusions can you draw about how to choose texts for use in the kind of vocabulary research that you are doing at the moment?


S’il existe en province un

, un plan, une promenade d’où se

hier avait été convertie en un
, ombragé d’ormes sous lesquels
par les beaux temps sur le
 qui enveloppe la ville du côté de
vu promenant sa chienne sur le
, répondit le curé.  Ah ! notre
jambes de héron au soleil, au
, regardant la mer ou les ébats de
Guérande, et se promena sur le
, où il continua sa délibération
Calyste aperçut de loin sur le
 le chevalier du Halga qui se
fille, se croyant seuls sur le
, y parlaient à haute voix .
intelligence J’étais sur le
 quand Mlle de Pen-Hoël parlait à
promenait sa chienne sur le
, la baronne, sûre de l’y


is on transmet l’annonce par e-
 au site, qui la publie gratuitement:
e la repression en Iran. Voici le
 (en anglais) d’une etudiante iranie
autres rubriques habituelles: météo,
, chat ainsi que des fonctions d’ag.
envoyait une copie de son adresse e-
 privée et le descriptif de son matériel
exion, pour l’envoi et la réception de
 en direct. Des versions de cette boîte
l’ordinateur pour les envoyer par
 à un ami inculte. Rien n’empêche, n
60, cette fête se tenait sur un grand
 jalonné de platanes vieux comme Du
plus grand utilité pour recevoir un
, consulter son agenda ou surfer sur
de signer sa dernière création, E-
, utilisant Internet pour délivrer un
ainsi le quotidien britannique Daily
 vient-il de consacrer sa première

Activity 8: dürfen and müssen

Aim of the activity: This activity takes its starting point in obvious similarities between two languages - in this case English and German. The activity ought to show the student that in German one can’t say: Du musst nicht! The following worksheet was made on the basis of KWIC-concordances of darf, dürfen, müssen.

Worksheet: dürfen and müssen

In English it is (grammatically!) acceptable to say:

  • You must not beat your children too hard.
  • You may not beat your children more than once a week.

Of course the meanings of these two sentences are different, but that is another story. In German the meaning of dürfen resembles that of may in English and must that of müssen. Is that really true?

A. Study these examples of the use of dürfen and müssen in German:

...............Wer ist dein Vater? Das darf ich nicht sagen. Was brummst ...
....dass Sie mein Landsmann sind, dürfen Sie um keinen Preis von ...
................Preis von hier fort. Das dürfen Sie mir nicht antun. Hätten ...

.........warum haben Sie denn fahren müssen? Ach was! sagte Karl und  ...
er im schmutzigen Hemd erscheinen müssen. Sonst wäre der Verlust des ...
..........vor der Abreise hatte flicken müssen. Jetzt erinnerte er sich auch ...
.....bis zum Morgen werde zuhören müssen. Also auch das noch. Dann ...
.......Klara nach seinen Händen. Sie müssen noch sitzen bleiben, sagte Klara. ...
......dem Sparen sofort anfangen zu müssen. Er wurde, seiner Forderung entsprechend, ...
......sie nur auf einem Sofa schlafen müssen. Und nun schlafen Sie wohl, ...
.................Sie tun. Und die Augen müssen Sie offenhalten, ich kann Sie ...

B. Fill in the correct verb in the correct form:

....................Sie das? Ich nicht. Das _____________ Sie sich nicht gefallen lassen, ...

...............Sorgen zu haben. Aber es _____________ die Folgen meiner früheren Sorgen ...

......faulen und gefrässigen Robinson _____________ du dir kein Beispiel nehmen ...

C. State the rule. To express disallowance in German you use:




Activity 9: The preposition am

The use of prepositions is a concordancer’s darling. Often a corpus will give a lot of output and though their collocations in different languages are somewhat similar they also differ quite a lot.

Aim of the activity: In the following output from a 50,000 word corpus of L. Tieck’s writings the idea is simply to answer the question by looking through the examples. We have done some editing of the output (but only to some extent) in order to give an example of a relatively “raw” output from a concordancer.

Worksheet: The use of am as a preposition of time in German

Look through the following KWIC-concordance of am and decide in which cases it is used as a preposition of time:

.......einem Gemache des Hauses bis am Morgen zu schlafen. Walther ging ...
......glänzenden Käfig hing ein Vogel am Fenster, und er war es ...              
....n andern noch seltsamem Traum. Am Morgen weckte mich die Alte, ...                       
.....................Alte aus und kam erst am Abend zurück, ich ging ihr ...                                
..............Stadt oder auf dem Felde, am lichten Tage mit scharfer Sichel ...
..bunden,   und wir zerstreuten uns. Am andern Tage sind wir in ...                              
.............Jugend sein sollte. Ich ging am folgenden Morgen zu ihm, und ...                                
.....einen Abschiedskuß verweigert. Am folgenden Tage, als Frau Catharina 1593 ...
......ich durch Tränen zu erleichtern. Am Nachmittag traf Friedrich seine verehrte ...               
........Befriedigung zu finden, und so am schönsten mein Leben zu erfüllen. ...                         
.....................mich nichts an. Als er am andern Tage etwas mehr bei ...                                        
...............mit der Erklärung, daß er am Abend wiederkommen wolle. Der Dech ...
.............gegen jedermann erlaubte. Am schönen Sommertage strömte eine große ...                 
.....der einen so glänzenden Prinzen am Arme halte. Jetzt kam Friedrich ...                           
..h gegen ausgezeichnete Gäste, die am Hofe vielen Einfluß haben, zu ...                       
....guten Leuten, die freilich niemals am Hofe gelebt haben.  Er umarmte ...                        
................hten der Lebensmahlzeit am meisten schätzen und genießen. Friedrich ...         
..Wundrich, und Labitte zeigte sich am meisten besorgt. Der Wirt des ...                       
.einige Schöffen. Man wollte gleich am folgenden Tage etliche aus ihrer ...                      
........Der Bischof von Baruth hatte am folgenden Tage die vornehmsten Geist ...
.chtlichen Tyrannei steuern würde. Am folgenden Morgen, fuhr Josset fort, ...
............noch milder und gütiger als am vorigen Tage. Eure Erzählung, sagte ...                        
....zurückhalten, ihr seid selbst heut am Tage ein wenig einfältig. Der ...                       
......Labitte und Frau Catharina viel am Morgen geweint hatte.  Nach Tische ...                        
.........Gnaden Briefe selbst, die ich am folgenden Tage erhielt, bewogen mich, ...
Stallmeister, wissen um die Sache. Am Abend in der Dämmerung, indem ...                         
ließ Köstein wieder fortführen, der am folgenden Tage enthauptet wurde, so ...                   
.er. Die Einwohner erstaunten, ihm am Morgen so zu begegnen, der ...                        
........Diener, und begab sich dann am Abend in den dunkeln, abgelegenen ...


Activity 10: Syntax of adverbs

Aim of the activity: this activity relies heavily on a statistical evaluation of the output. It took quite a while to figure out what corpus to use and what search words to use. In this case the activity makes use of an online corpus, but such exercises can equally well - or perhaps better - be done interactively with a corpus of a moderate size. If you do not narrow down your search, you may well obtain too much information to make it possible to draw a conclusion.

Worksheet: Syntax of adverbs

Open your browser and select one of the online concordancers and corpora that we list below under Websites.

Exercise A

Search for “never+should”.

How many hits did you get? ______________

Try other combinations, such as “never+would”, “never+should”, “never+could”, “always+could” etc. and note how many hits you get.

Write down some of the citations here:




Exercise B

Now reverse the order. Search for “could+never” etc.

How many hits? _________

As for the word order of small adverbs of frequency and modals, the conclusion is that _______________ usually precedes ______________________.

Look at the examples you noted in Exercise A. Think of reasons why the author(s) used that position of the adverb of frequency. Write them here:


Exercise C

Use the same method to discover the position of adverbs of frequency in compound verbs.

e.g. Never+has/has+never/always+could etc. And now think about the answer to this question: is there a difference between UK and US usage?


Activity 11: reason + because

Aim of the activity: Correctness is often an issue with foreign language students. In this case online corpora can be used simply as a reference source. The sample also shows how the browser’s search function can be used. The corpus that is used here is fairly small which makes the outcome slightly more predictable. Furthermore: The idea is that the number of occurrences of “reason + because” is relatively small so the conclusion could be that though it does occur it is not a use that should be recommended.

Worksheet: reason + because

Question: How acceptable is a construction like this:
The reason is because he didn’t want to harm her?

1. Open your Web browser and point to the Corpus Concordance English section at The Compleat Lexical Tutor website. Enter the keyword “reason” in the search box at the top left of the screen and select a corpus in the box to the right of the search box. Choose Sort by 1 word to keyword only under CONTROLS and With associated word "because" within 4 words to the right under OPTION. Then click on the Get concordance button at the bottom right of the screen. Wait a few seconds for the results to appear.

2. Your search screen should look something like the image in Figure 5 (below).
4. How many instances of “reason + because” did you find?
5. Try selecting different corpora in The Compleat Lexical Tutor to see how the results vary. You can also try other online concordancers and corpora: see Section 2.2.4. For example, try entering "reason because" (without quotes) in the search box in WebCorp.


Figure 5: Screenshot from The Compleat Lexical Tutor

Activity 12: Students’ own writing

In this activity the corpus is the student’s own essay. It can best be done with a concordancer that can make a wordlist and a full concordance of the student’s essay, but of course KWIC concordances will work. Below we assume that the concordancer can do both (for example R.J.C. Watt’s Concordance).

Aim of the activity: To make the students aware of a variety of way to express coherence in their essays. It should be fairly easy to “translate” this worksheet into other languages.

Worksheet: Students’ own writing

1. General

Load your essay into the concordancer. Look at the wordlist. Are there any words you use many times? If that is the case, use a dictionary, a thesaurus or your imagination to change some of the occurrences. Below you’ll find some ideas.

2. Adding new information

Look at the wordlist again. Did you use any of these expressions:

what is more
in addition
in any case
above all

3. Causality

Make a KWIC concordance of the word “because”. How many times did you use it? See if one of the suggestions below can be used instead:

on account of
owing to
on the grounds of (quite formal)
the reason why
cause (caused by)

4. Conclusion

Did you remember to conclude? Maybe you did and just forgot to point it out verbally. Look in the wordlist to see if any of these words appear in your essay:

in short
to sum up/summing up
in a word
all in all
more generally
in conclusion
as a result

Of course the use of these indicators of concluding vary a lot, so it may be necessary to check the use of them using a large corpus to find authentic examples.

5. Contrast

Check the wordlist of your essay. How many “buts” do you have? Can any of these be used instead:

on the other hand
yet (in the beginning of a sentence)
on the contrary
contrary to

6. Comparison

Again look at the wordlist. How many times did you use “like”? Try to use some of these instead:

in the same way
more … than
by comparison
in the same way/fashion
as if

To see how these expressions are actually used you need a large corpus. Use one of the online concordancers and corpora that we list below under Websites.

Activity 13: L’aigle noir

In this section we are interested in using concordancers for helping learners with the analysis of literary texts. Inevitably, whatever text you select as the object of your study, there will be copyright restrictions on its use. Always make sure that you have obtained all necessary permissions before you undertake the (considerable) work of preparing a text for use with the concordancer. See our General guidelines on copyright.

When you’ve read the activity below, you might well feel that it doesn’t requires a concordancer to carry it out. You would be right. It could be done simply by using the Find facility of an ordinary word-processor, or even manually (if your learners apply themselves carefully to the task). To help us with the presentation of this activity, we decided to use a short song. This is why manual or semi-manual treatment could also apply. However, the techniques we show here can (and should be) transferred to more complex texts, for instance a longer poem, a legend, a short story, a novelette or a play. See further examples for English in Section 4.3.

Aim of the activity: to help students to gain a sense of underlying architecture of a text (here, a strikingly-structured French song, relying on a mirror-pattern to tell the story of a sudden flashback to a person’s childhood and equally sudden return to reality). You might want to do this kind of exercise to enhance your students’ enjoyment of e.g. songs and poems. But you night also go on to lead them to do productive exercises, where they have to structure their own creative writing. Ideally, you would be able to play the song L’aigle noir to the class either before or while they read the full text, in the first part of the activity.

Worksheet: First you will be asked to read L’aigle noir, a popular song by the late 20th century French singer Barbara. Then, by finding the position of a number of key-words in the song, you will discover how the story is structured and told.

i. Read this text and make sure that you understand the story.

L’aigle noir

 1 Un beau jour ou peut-être une nuit
 2 Près d’un lac je m’étais endormie
 3 Quand soudain, semblant crever le ciel
 4 Et venant de nulle part,
 5 Surgit un aigle noir.
 6 Lentement, les ailes déployées,
 7 Lentement, je le vis tournoyer
 8 Près de moi, dans un bruissement d’ailes,
 9 Comme tombé du ciel
10 L’oiseau vint se poser.
11 Il avait les yeux couleur rubis
12 Et des plumes couleur de la nuit
13 Sur son front, brillant de mille feux,
14 L’oiseau roi couronné
15 Portait un diamant bleu.
16 De son bec, il a touché ma joue
17 Dans ma main, il a glissé son cou
18 C’est alors que je l’ai reconnu
19 Surgissant du passé
20 Il m’était revenu.
21 Dis l’oiseau, O dis, emmène-moi
22 Retournons au pays d’autrefois
23 Comme avant, dans mes rêves d’enfant,
24 Pour cueillir en tremblant
25 Des étoiles, des étoiles.
26 Comme avant, dans mes rêves d’enfant,
27 Comme avant, sur un nuage blanc,
28 Comme avant, allumer le soleil,
29 E tre faiseur de pluie
30 Et faire des merveilles.
31 L’aigle noir dans un bruissement d’ailes
32 Prit son vol pour regagner le ciel
33 Quatre plumes, couleur de la nuit,
34 Une larme, ou peut-être un rubis
35 J’avais froid, il ne me restait rien
36 L’oiseau m’avait laissée
37 Seule avec mon chagrin.
38 Un beau jour, ou était-ce une nuit
39 Près d’un lac je m’étais endormie
40 Quand soudain, semblant crever le ciel,
41 Et venant de nulle part
42 Surgit un aigle noir.

  1. Search for these phrases and jot down the line number(s) for each: soudain, aigle, jour, nuit, lentement, bruissement d’ailes, oiseau, rubis, couleur, front, main, cou, joue, passé, avant.
  2. Now plot each phrase on the grid below, according to the line(s) in which they appear. Use different columns for different phrases. (To help with the demonstration, we have filled in the students’ results, as they should appear at the end of this phase of the activity.)

1 jour nuit                      
3     soudain                    
5       aigle                  
8         br. ailes                
10           oiseau              
11             rubis            
15               bec          
16                 joue        
17                   main      
18                     cou    
19                       passé  
23                         avant
26                         avant
27                         avant
28                         avant
31         br. ailes                
34             rubis            
36           oiseau              
38 jour nuit                      
40     soudain                    
42       aigle                  


  1. Now discuss with your group possible answers to the following questions. Many of them have to do with the symmetry and repetition of phrases which you should be able to see in your grid.

Activity 14: Mariana

This activity relies on a corpus of just one text, Tennyson’s poem Mariana.

Aim of the activity: to provide a sound linguistic basis for a literary discussion of the text. The concordance itself was made with Concordance.

Worksheet: Mariana

Open your browser and point it to the text of Mariana at http://www.vordingbg-gym.dk/km/ict4lt/

Click on Study the poem underneath the title, Mariana. Follow the instructions.

4.3 Further ideas for working with literary texts

In this area, the principle that you must try it yourself applies more than anywhere else. The type of findings you elicit (and indeed the sorts of searches that you will want to carry out) will differ according to the sort of text that you use. Some really good ideas (for English) are given in Tribble & Jones (1997), for work with e.g. Katherine Mansfield’s The Fly, and Samuel Beckett’s Texts for Nothing. For the Mansfield story, the concordancer is used to identify structure (as in the example above), but also to work on the way that the characters are depicted, and how that changes as the story unfolds. The Beckett text, as Tribble & Jones point out, is usually thought to be a "difficult" but is has been used successfully with non-specialist EFL learners, who have expressed surprise at how much they got out of the story this way. Tribble & Jones’ method involves leading students in a hunt for patterns of frequently occurring keywords like "all", "here", "in", "me", "my" and "so". They conclude: “The learners were able to see how narrative structure was maintained in spite of the apparent absence of conventional narration”. Another great source is University of Dundee’s Web concordances and workbooks of romantic poetry.

And to end on a very perceptive quote from Tribble & Jones (1997), one of the most rewarding aspects of getting students to use concordances for literary analysis in the classroom may be that as they are "not being obliged to be 'sensitive' they were happy to talk about what was simply under their noses."

We have a lot of sympathy for this view, but our experience also suggests that learners often do not see what is under their noses, unless it is very carefully pointed out to them, in other words unless the teacher’s preparation has been thorough. The next section will deal with how to prepare your corpus, your raw texts, your concordances themselves and your activity instructions for use with learners.

5. Preparing yourself and your students for working with concordancers

Contents of Section 5

For this section we have used our experiences with our own students. The most fruitful of these have been … when we were not well prepared enough! Throughout the section, when you see a student quote, you can be sure that it is an example of what we did wrong. Our Discussion topics in this section are all based on those hard-learned lessons.

5.1 Preparing yourself

By now, working through this module, you will have got a feel for work with concordancers in your classroom. But we can only give you a limited amount of guidance. So before you set about planning concordance-based work for your students, how about giving yourself a couple of weeks in which you surf the Web for as many "concordancing experiences" as you can get? Follow our links in the Bibliography and references section. Ask all your favourite search engines to find words like "corpus" or "concordance". Only you know the level of your students and the needs of your syllabus. By playing with demos, you will be able to think of ideas for exploiting this tool for the benefit of your particular classroom.

As with all your other teaching activities you should have in mind a clear purpose to the task and an essential part of your self-preparation is that you should write down what that purpose is (for possible objectives see the beginning of Section 4), listing all the steps and sub-steps necessary to achieve it. This is particularly important because concordancing is new for most learners and they will not be able to second-guess your intentions (unlike students filling in a gapped exercise, who may not excel at French or German, but are used to the procedure and know what it is supposed to test).

Finally you will need to ask yourself the question: am I ready to cope with discovery learning? Once in control of the keyboard, students may go for "discoveries" you never thought of.

One is the predictable teenage search for rude words. You will want to deal with this according to the policy operated in your institution, but one good way is to do what a dancing teacher friend does: as she puts 4- and 5-year-olds on the stage, she has developed the wise habit of devoting the first two minutes of the ballet to "waving to Mummy and Daddy". That gets it over with and the show can then go on!

More seriously, unforeseen linguistic issues will arise. Are you prepared to justify the "rules" you have so carefully taught, in the face of authentic citations that contradict them? (For example you have just explained that difficile takes de plus verb, but the concordance throws up l’adoption est difficile à imaginer sans revenus importants). Have you got a strategy ready for when you are presented with incomplete discoveries, erroneous conclusions, over-generalisations?

Of course there are such strategies: they are not to do with being infallible, but with explaining to students the nature of authentic texts, and the nature of inductive reasoning. So do not be put off using these marvellous tools, but do make sure that you have thought your plans through before you embark.

5.1.1 Discussion topic

Looking at a screenful of citations with the keyword "therefore" in non sentence-initial position, one of our students concluded:

Ah, yes, it’s always in the middle of a sentence. You must never start a sentence with "therefore".

What precautions do you think we should have taken, at the corpus-preparation stage and at the instruction stage, in order to pre-empt this comment?

5.2 Preparing your texts

We mentioned earlier (see Section 2) the sorts of restrictions which you should bear in mind when selecting texts for your corpus. One very practical way for you to demonstrate to yourself how important this is, might be to carry out the following learning task.

5.2.1 Learning Task

Do a few searches yourself with the aim of finding out which words are well illustrated in the corpora mentioned in Section 2. Are some words not well represented at all? Why might that be? For example, the works of Rabelais are good for a study of “merde” (if that’s what you want to do!) but a search based on a corpus from Le Monde will yield very few occurrences of that colourful word.

5.2.2 Discussion topic

On looking up the French word "puce" and finding that most occurrences were of "puce" meaning "computer chip" and not "puce" meaning "flea", a student said:

I can see that new technological words are used more and more… It’s difficult to explain … You hear a word on telly then the next morning everybody knows that word.

A reasonable conclusion, but a more focused one might have been that the corpus on which the student’s search was based came from newspaper articles, and did not include any transcripts of conversations in veterinary waiting rooms! What kind of precautions could we have taken to ensure a more valuable learning outcome for the student from this experience?

Judicious choice of source materials is the answer to most of the problems we mention. In the early stages of building corpora you will be reliant on much trial-and-error, but soon you will be able to predict what types of texts are likely to contain the material you want. Even then the golden rule is: always do the searches yourself first. Here are a few more "golden rules":

i. A critical mass of data

On producing a result screen with six citations, a student exclaimed:

Oh? Is that all?

It may be that the six citations were quite enough to provide the evidence that we wanted this student to work with, but her gut feeling was that this wasn’t sufficient. DDL promises learners direct contact with lots of language, so make sure that they get enough to feel that the promise has been kept, while not swamping them with too much material. Between 30 and 50 citations is about right for most classroom purposes.

ii. Control of contextual information

How much left and right context do you need? It depends on what you are looking for. For example if you want to work on the differences between "the world" and "a world", four character in the left context of the keyword "world" will suffice. If you are analysing a literary extract to home in, on how Le Petit Prince is characterised, up to 20 characters to the right of the word "prince" will be enough to display most of the verbs which describe what the Little Prince does in the story. But if the contextual information which your students need is likely to be found further away from the keyword, then you may have to doctor the citations (for a KWIC concordance), or to ensure that you use software that can display full context for each citation. Here is a student comment that might have been avoided if we had followed this advice.

Students were asked to look up difficile and to comment on the differences between difficile à and difficile de. One student carefully read the list then said:

Yes, I understand that you can do either, there’s no difference in meaning.

In choosing the exercise, we had concentrated on right-context (were there enough occurrences of each preposition, à and de, in the right-context of the keyword?) What we should also have been asking is: Are there enough characters to the left of the keyword to clearly show the subject of the sentence, which is the clue you need before you can decide which preposition to use?. In the list displayed, additional information in the left-context made this clue impossible for students to pick up.

iii. Scrupulous copy-editing of the original materials

Your originals may have been acquired from keying in printed texts, scanning, copying-and-pasting from CD-ROMs or from Web pages. Whatever the provenance, typing and punctuation errors in the originals will be reflected in the concordance, impeding the students’ search and causing them a lot of frustration.

iv. Deciding on the degree of editorial control needed

Corpora from published writers will contain idiosyncratic language uses. Texts from the press may contain these as well, and additionally you may find slip-ups that are the result of the haste of publication. Transcript of speech will show examples of oral usage which your learners will almost certainly not have been taught (in some cases they will have been taught the opposite of oral native speaker usages). How prescriptive you want to be will depend on the policy in your department and the needs of your learners.

5.3 Preparing your students

5.3.1 The obvious things you forget to mention…

The students we quote here were all very hard-working adults, who had had the benefit of what we thought was a thorough introduction to concordancing and were working with detailed instructions handouts. Yet, some basic misconceptions stopped some at the first hurdle. The first one we heard was:

But… are the sentences meant to be jumbled?

Then after reading a screenful of citations for "environment" a student concluded:

Ah, so you can say a … "computer environment" … but you can’t say a "Macintosh environment".

Clearly the first thing is to make sure that students understand the basic mechanism, appearance and limitation of a concordance.

Secondly, make sure the learning objectives are clear to them This basic rule of successful teaching is even more important with concordancing, as it is an activity which faces students with masses of strange-looking lists and requires them to change their learning strategies. Here is the puzzled comment of a newcomer to concordances:

I haven’t a clue what I’m meant to discover!

Detailed instructions on keying foreign characters, wild characters (*) and blank characters are crucial. A student looking at a concordance for "émission" asked:

Why has the screen added the word "démission"?

Unexpected problems can also arise. Here is the heartfelt cry of a student working on French:

Oh no! … you have to type in ALT and these numbers to get the accents. I’m left-handed!

5.3.2 Independence from authority

It is claimed that concordancers turn learners into researchers. So you will need to help them to prepare themselves to become researchers. In other words, you will be engaging them in language awareness.

Students brought up on a diet of authoritative texts (dictionaries, grammars, textbooks) may be surprised, not to say disappointed, by the "blurry" responses they get from the concordancer. So if you want to work with raw data, you will need to prepare your learners for this. They may also harbour the idea that there is such a thing as a "perfect" knowledge of the language, which dictionaries, grammars and teachers (particularly if they are native speakers) are supposed to give them.

Having been invited to compare what a dictionary entry, and the output of a search on that same word, a student remarked:

Yes there may be weaknesses in the dictionary, but there are also weaknesses in this system. […] you can’t find everything, look … it’s not perfect.

5.3.3 Discussion topic

How might you turn an incident like the one we have just mentioned from a negative learning experience to a fruitful insight into the nature of language learning?

5.3.4 The hard work of learning from raw data

Yes, it’s hard work!!! In our concordance-based sessions, students keep commenting on how tiring it is. "Let’s do a runner!" joked one student after a particularly sustained effort at making sense of one activity. The inductive mode of thinking required for concordance work is not to every one’s taste, nor within everyone’s possibilities. It certainly has not been inculcated in students by their previous experience of schooling.

Here is a pair, trying to work out the differences between difficile à and difficile de:

Student A: Erm…would it mean "of" when it’s "de"?
Teacher: Well… look here, on the left…
Student A: Ah! I’ve got it! It’s "il", isn’t it? You use "de" when it’s "il", don’t you?
Student B: But here it says "je l’ai trouvé difficile à avaler".
Student A: So if it’s "il" you put "de", but when it’s more personal, like it’s "moi", then you put "à".
Teacher: But look at this one "les perspectives sont difficiles à envisager".
Student B: Ah, when there is a noun you put "à" and when there is "il" you put "de"
Student A: Write down the answer…
Student B: (sighs) … Is it worth the effort?

5.3.5 Dynamics and pacing of group-work at the computer

If students are to work together at the keyboard (much the nicest way!), pairs have to be assembled carefully otherwise quick-witted students will produce the answers before their partners have even worked out what the instructions are. Also, the "wow!" factor may mean that, initially at first, students will be curious to try out the concordancer. But like visitors to interactive museums, they can easily go from one click to the next and fail to derive maximum benefit from the experience. In the computer-based classroom, even more than in the paper-based one, you will have to manage pacing.

Finally, our experience with concordances shows that students find them great fun to work with when the task is oriented towards spotting cultural differences, but they are less enamoured of grammatical or syntactic exploitations of the data. Make sure you advertise the "fun" activities in advance, but perhaps be sneaky and leave them to the end of the lesson, after the more arduous work has been done!

5.3.6 Helping students to move on: transferable skills

Re-use of knowledge gained at the keyboard is a worthwhile aim for extension work for intermediate learners. This can take the form of re-use of linguistic structures in writing or speaking. For advanced learners, the ultimate aim would be for them to create their own learning programmes (for vocabulary, syntax, stylistics or literature), and to implement their own searches accordingly.

6. The future of concordancing in the classroom

Contents of Section 6

Concordancing as a pedagogical strategy has not got a long past since it was not possible until cheap computers became available in the 1980s. The question is: Does it have a long and prosperous future? Basically this is up to you. At least we are not going to venture into any predictions. Instead we’ll focus on two aspects of concordancing in this section: Pedagogy and Grammar. This is certainly not because they are the only ones, but because they are likely to be the ones you’ll spend most time wondering about once you begin to get experience with concordancing.

6.1 Pedagogy

Stevens: Concordancing is “economical in terms of time to implement because it requires only a program plus a text base” (Stevens 1990:5, cited in Stevens 1995).

Whistle: “Students could not see why the concordances could not be prepared in advance and handed out in class. This would allow more time for what they saw as more useful activities, essential practice of translation and summary” (Whistle 1999:77).

The second quotation above is taken from an article by Jeremy Whistle of University College Northampton, UK. At this institution it was decided to introduce concordancing into the teaching of French to first and second year post A-level students. The idea was to try out a more learner-centred approach to grammar teaching, thus it was decided that the students were to perform the searches themselves, and they were to formulate the grammatical rules on the basis of the concordances they made. The search strings were given by the teacher, which is a good idea because finding the productive queries is a crucial issue with concordancing. In pedagogical terms one could say that the experiment focus was on a high degree of inductive learning strategies as opposed to the usual “present-practice-produce” strategy which is so common in language teaching. Careful attention to the corpus was also given so that it suited the educational needs precisely.

The hope was that this method could help remedy the “grammar deficit” that many college students suffer from. In this respect Whistle’s study is interesting because it tries to isolate the grammar-aspect of concordancing. No lexis, no collocations, no cultural awareness - just the grammar.

Judging from Jeremy Whistle’s report, the whole experiment was very carefully thought out and implemented and, apart from long printer queues, the hard- and software performed exemplarily.

In his conclusion Whistle emphasises two results: (i) those students who had little or no understanding of very elementary grammar, such as the word classes, basic syntax etc. were not able to formulate any rules or principles at all, whereas (ii) those who mastered these basic skills were clearly able to come up with relevant rules.

The most surprising and indeed disappointing result was that the method was fairly unpopular with the majority of the students. Their contention was that making the concordances themselves took too much time, and they could be produced in advance (by the teacher) thus allowing more time to what they considered important: practice of translation and summary. This did not, however, prompt the college to give up the idea. Instead it was decided to reduce the time spent on practical concordancing in favour of more work with pre-prepared concordances.

6.1.1 Discussion topics

  1. Who is right – (a) Stevens or (b) Whistle’s students?
  2. Think of other reasons than those stated above why the students didn’t like the method?
  3. Is giving in to conservative students who would rather do summaries and translations really a good idea?

6.2 Grammar

As teachers we often feel that traditional grammars are often far too removed from what happens when we are speaking. At the TESOL 1999 conference some called for a pedagogy which provides students with examples of grammar in an extended discourse. Above we have given a couple of French examples of this approach (e.g. Activity 13 in Section 4). All this points to an increased awareness of collocational, contrastive and contexted grammars, dictionaries and teaching methods. Aims which are furthered by the use of concordancers and relevant corpora. But surely, there must be a fly in the ointment?

In Jeremy Whistle’s study mentioned above he also gives some examples of this problem. While studying French adjectives using a concordancer and a French corpus he and his students found that “There were some problems with noun gender […] as certain adjectives, especially ancien and dernier, can generate concordances which are contradictory and do not conform to the accepted formulations.” (Whistle 1999:77). And another tricky one: “The lequel/laquelle concordance did however highlight the use of the pronouns after prepositions and was thus valuable although, interestingly for me but less so for the students, it threw up certain other uses, some of which I was not fully aware of” (ibid.).

Others have experienced similar thrilling things. Stevens (1995) suggests the following exercise to quite advanced students of English: “As a final exercise, students could be asked to compare their findings with the formulas for conditional sentences often taught in grammar books. The discrepancy is sometimes so large as to render further use of the grammar book potentially embarrassing. […] Similar observations have been made by Johns (1991a) and Johns (1991b).

All these ideas and observations challenge our belief in the “presentation-practice-production” (PPP) approach which communicative teaching methodologies have instilled in teachers. Although many of use still use this sequence we often do it with the uneasy feeling that it does not really address the issue: that of transforming the acquired knowledge of the target language into practical skills. Leaving the epistemological and neuropsychological aspects of this problem aside one might just suggest that one of the reasons why so many of our efforts bear little fruit is that we simply present the students with the wrong sort of information about the language we want them to master. In this context concordancing no doubt provides us with quite another sort of information.

Communicative approaches have found a new context in recent years: that of student centred learning. If concordance-based classroom work offers such a good fit with ideas underpinning student centred learning methodologies, i.e. promoting authenticity, inductivity, language awareness and independent learning, why is it not used more widely by teachers? Stevens (1995) sums up the answer eloquently: “teachers may tend towards traditional ways of instruction, especially when change involves massive retooling and when students seem most comfortable with traditional roles”.

Overcoming these reservations will involve a two-pronged strategy, at the level of the technology (which is getting more widespread anyway, through the Internet), and at the level of student expectations which it is the job of teachers to address, or to redress, whatever the discipline area.

Finally, for all levels of language proficiency, one bonus to be had out of concordancing is further development of electronic search skills (i.e. transferable skills). In this module we have given an introduction to concordancing as it is known now and with present technology - mainly in educational contexts - but increasingly web-sites run by publishers, newspapers, television stations and organisations of all kinds provide visitors with search forms. When putting a keyword in the search form you are frequently given what is in effect a full text concordance like the one we showed you in Section 1.1. Your students who spend more and more time surfing the Internet may become familiar with concordancing much sooner than you expect!

6.2.1 Learning tasks / Discussion topic

  1. Use one of the online concordancers and corpora that we list below under Websites to create a.KWIC concordance of “wait+on”. Study the output.
  2. Look up wait in any dictionary in book format: e.g. Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary.
  3. Have a look at the range of online dictionaries and encyclopaedias under the heading Dictionaries and encyclopaedias on Graham Davies's Favourite Websites page. Which ones do you find most useful?

Bibliography and references

Baker P., Hardie A. & McEnery T. (2006) A glossary of corpus linguistics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Chambers A., Farr F. & O'Riordan S. (2011) "Language teachers with corpora in mind: from starting steps to walking tall", Language Learning Journal 39, 1: 85-103.

Cobb T. (1997) "Is there any measurable learning from hands-on concordancing?" System 25, 3: 301-315. Available at: http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r21270/cv/Hands_on.html

Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary (1987) ed. John Sinclair, London: Collins.

Collins Cobuild English Grammar (1990) ed. John Sinclair, London: Collins.

Firth J. (1957) "A synopsis of linguistic theory 1930-1955". In Studies in linguistic analysis, Oxford: Philological Society. Reprinted in Palmer F. (ed.) (1968) Selected Papers of J. R. Firth, Harlow: Longman.

Hadley G. (1997) "Sensing the winds of change: an introduction to Data Driven Learning". In Field J., Graham A. & Peacock M. (eds.) Insights 2, Whitstable: IATEFL: http://www.nuis.ac.jp/~hadley/publication/windofchange/windsofchange.htm

Higgins J. & Johns T. (1984) Computers in language learning, London: Collins.

Hockey S. (1980 A guide to computer applications in the humanities, London: Duckworth.

Johns T. (1986a) "MicroConcord: a language learner's research tool", System 14, 2: 151-162.

Johns T. (1986b) "MicroConcord". In Lesbats M., Frankel F. & Köchling M. (eds.) Triangle V: new technology and foreign language learning. Paris: Didier Erudition, AUPELF, The British Council, Goethe-Institut: 120-133.

Johns T. (1991a) “Should you be persuaded - two examples of data-driven learning materials”. In Johns T. & King P. (eds.) Classroom concordancing, Special Issue of English Language Research Journal 4, Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, Centre for English Language Studies: 1-16.

Johns T. (1991b) “From printout to handout: grammar and vocabulary teaching in the context of data-driven learning”. In Johns T. & King P. (eds.) Classroom concordancing, Special Issue of English Language Research Journal 4, Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, Centre for English Language Studies: 27-45.

Johns T. (1996) "If our descriptions of language are to be accurate... a footnote to Kettemann", TELL&CALL 1996/4: 44-6.

Johns T. (1997) "Contexts: the background, development, and trialling of a concordance-based CALL program". In Wichmann A., Fligelstone S., McEnery T. & Knowles G. (eds.) Teaching and language corpora, London: Longman: 100-115.

Johns T. & King P. (eds.) (1991) Classroom concordancing, Special Issue of English Language Research Journal 4, Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, Centre for English Language Studies.

Kettemann B. (Date not indicated) "On the role of context in syntax and semantics". See Bernhard Kettemann's website: http://www.uni-graz.at/bernhard.kettemann/

Kettemann B. (1995) "Concordancing in stylistics teaching," in: Grosser W., Hogg J. & Hubmayer K. (eds.) Style: literary and non-literary. Contemporary trends in cultural stylistics, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press: 307-318.

Kettemann B. (1996) Concordancing in English Language Teaching. See Bernhard Kettemann's website: http://www.uni-graz.at/bernhard.kettemann/

King P. & Woolls D. Creating and using a multilingual parallel concordancer: http://xml.coverpages.org/kingCreatingConcordancer.html. See also MultiConcord.

Klapper J. (1998) “Language learning at school and university: the great grammar debate continues (II)”. In Language Learning Journal 18, December 1998.

Little D. (1996) “Learner autonomy and learner counselling”. In Little D. & Brammerts H. (eds.) A guide to language learning in tandem via the Internet. Occasional Paper No.46, Trinity College, Dublin, Centre for Language and Communication Studies.

McEnery T. & Wilson A. (1996) Corpus linguistics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. See Module 3.4, Corpus Linguistics, which was also written by McEnery & Wilson.

Möllering M. (2001) "Teaching German modal particles: a corpus-based approach", Language Learning & Technology 5, 3: 130-151. Available at: http://llt.msu.edu/vol5num3/mollering/default.html

Murison-Bowie S. (1993) MicroConcord Manual, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Renouf A., Kehoe A. & Banerjee J. (2007) "WebCorp: an integrated system for Web text search". In Hundt M., Nesselhauf N. & Biewer C. (eds.) Corpus linguistics and the Web, Amsterdam: Rodopi: 47-68.

Rézeau J. (2001) "Concordances in the classroom: the evidence of the data". In Chambers A. & Davies G. (eds.) Information and Communications Technology: a European perspective, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Robb T. (2003) "Google as a Quick 'n Dirty Corpus Tool", TESL-EJ 7, 2. Available at: http://tesl-ej.org/ej26/int.html

Sinclair J. (1986) “Basic computer processing of long texts”. In Leech G. & Candlin C. (eds.) Computers in English language teaching and research, Harlow, Essex: Longman.

Sinclair J. (ed.) (2004) How to use corpora in language teaching, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Stevens V. (1991) "Concordance-based vocabulary exercises: a viable alternative to gap-fillers". In Johns T. & King P. (eds.) Classroom concordancing, Special Issue of English Language Research Journal 4, Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, Centre for English Language Studies: 47-63.

Stevens V. (1995) "Concordancing with language learners: Why? When? What?" CAELL Journal 6, 2: 2-10.

St John E. (2001) "A case for using a parallel corpus and concordancer for beginners of a foreign language", Language Learning & Technology 5, 3: 185-203. http://llt.msu.edu/vol5num3/stjohn/default.html

Tribble C. (1997) "Improvising corpora for ELT: quick-and-dirty ways of developing corpora for language teaching". In Melia J. & Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk B. (eds.) PALC 97 Proceedings, Lodz: Lodz University Press. Paper presented at the Practical Applications in Language Corpora (PALC 97) conference, University of Lodz, Poland: http://www.ctribble.co.uk/text/Palc.htm

Tribble C. & Barlow M. (eds.) (2001) Language Learning & Technology 5, 3, Special Issue on Using corpora in language teaching and learning: http://llt.msu.edu/vol5num3/default.html

Tribble C. & Jones G. (1997) Concordancing in the classroom: a resource guide for teachers, Houston, Texas: Athelstan Publications.

Whistle J. (1999) “Concordancing with students using an ‘off-the-Web’ corpus”, ReCALL 11, 2: 74-80. Available at:

Wichmann A., Fligelstone S., Knowles G. & McEnery T. (eds.) (1997) Teaching and language corpora, Harlow: Pearson Education.

Willis D. (1999) “Grammar and lexis: a false dichotomy”, English Teaching Professional 10, January issue.

Wynne M. (2005) Developing linguistic corpora: a guide to good practice. Oxford: Arts and Humanities Data Service. Available at: http://www.ahds.ac.uk/creating/guides/linguistic-corpora/


See also the Websites listed in Module 3.4, Corpus Linguistics.

ABU (Association des Bibliophiles Universels), La Bibliothèque Universelle: A library of French-language texts in the public domain.

American English: See (COCA) Corpus of Contemporary American English, Brigham Young University. See also American English: Google Books, a new interface for Google Books allows you to search more than 155 billion words in more than 1.3 million books of American English from 1810-2009 (including 62 billion words from 1980-2009). Although this "corpus" is based on Google Books data, it is not an official product of Google or Google Books, but rather it was created by Mark Davies, Professor of Linguistics at Brigham Young University (BYU), and it is related to other large corpora at BYU.

ARCS (Advanced Reader´s Collocation Searcher), produced and maintained by Horst Bogatz.

ARTFL (American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language): A cooperative enterprise of the Laboratoire ATILF (Analyse et Traitement Informatique de la Langue Française) of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Division of the Humanities and Electronic Text Services (ETS) of the University of Chicago. Founded in 1982 as a result of a collaboration between the French government and the University of Chicago, the ARTFL Project is a consortium-based service that provides its members with access to North America's largest collection of digitized French resources.

Athelstan: Many useful products and publications: concordancers, corpora, etc.

Bookmarks for Corpus-based Linguistics: Compiled by David Lee: http://tiny.cc/corpora

BNC Spoken Corpus: As part of the above British National Corpus project, Longman has developed a Spoken Corpus. The Spoken Corpus consists of natural, spontaneous conversations heard all around us and from the language of lectures, business meetings, after dinner speeches and chat shows. This is the first time that spoken English has ever been recorded in any systematic way on such a huge scale and now lexicographers and linguists have their first opportunity to study English as it is spoken, the English that is found in the street.

British National Corpus (BNC): A large corpus of modern British English. See also the BYU-BNC website (Brigham Young University).

Business Letter Corpus: Yasumasa Someya. Kansai University, Osaka, Japan: http://www.someya-net.com/concordancer/

ClicNet: An important site for French resources. Has an exhaustive list of dictionaries: http://clicnet.swarthmore.edu/dictionnaires.html

COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English): Maintained by Brigham Young University, USA. See also: Word and Phrase, the top 60,000 words based on COCA.

Collins Cobuild Bank of English: A project initiated by John Sinclair at the University of Birmingham in the 1980s that led to the publication of a series of dictionaries and reference books. Search for Cobuild at the HarperCollins website for the range of publications that are available both in book and in digital format. See also Wordbanks Online.

The Compleat Lexical Tutor: A useful Data Driven Learning site, with an online concordancer and corpora in English, French, German and Spanish. Many other useful activities too. Maintained by Tom Cobb, Université du Québec à Montréal: http://www.lextutor.ca

COLT: The Bergen Corpus of London Teenager Language, Department of English, University of Bergen: http://torvald.aksis.uib.no/colt/

Concordance: A concordance program written by R.J.C. Watt, University of Dundee. Watt's website also includes concordances of the works of Shelley, Coleridge, Keats, Blake, Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins: http://www.concordancesoftware.co.uk. See Section 2.1 (above).

Corpora4Learning.net: Links and references for the use of corpora, corpus linguistics and corpus analysis in the context of language learning and teaching. Created by Sabine Braun, University of Surrey. Many useful bibliographical references and links to websites but some links are now dead as the site has not been updated since 2006: http://www.corpora4learning.net/

CorpusCALL: A EUROCALL Special Interest Group: http://www.eurocall-languages.org/sigs/corpuscall.html

Corpus Lexicaux Québécois: Canadian French corpora with search facilities: http://www.spl.gouv.qc.ca/corpus/

CREA corpus (Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual): A large corpus of Spanisn texts that includes a fast KWIC concordancer: http://corpus.rae.es/creanet.html

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias: See the list under the heading Dictionaries and encyclopaedias on Graham Davies's Favourite Websites page.

Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française: Includes full text search and other facilities: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wulfric/academie/

ELISA (English Language Interview Corpus as a Second-Language Application): University of Tübingen (Department of Applied English Linguistics, AEL) and the University of Surrey (Department of Languages and Translation Studies, LTS). Includes inbuilt concordancer: http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/elisa/html/elisa_index.html

Evaluations and Language resources Distribution Agency (ELDA): Offers a comprehensive set of written and spoken corpora: http://www.elda.org/

Exemplar: A simple online concordancer - scientific texts: http://springerexemplar.com

French: Chambers-Rostand Corpus of Journalistic French, Oxford Text Archive. A corpus of around 1,000,000 words from articles taken from three daily French newspapers: Le Monde, L'Humanité, La Dépêche du Midi.

Google: Using Google as a simple concordancer, e.g. to check for possible collocations, works quite well: http://www.google.co.uk/ See our examples of Google searches in Section 2.2.4 and Robb (2003)

Gutenberg Project (English): http://www.gutenberg.org/. Browse the Gutenberg catalogue for books in other languages: http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/

Gutenberg Project (German): A large collection of German texts: http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/

Kettemann: Bernhard Kettemann's website: See the articles and links under the heading Corpus Linguistik: http://www.uni-graz.at/bernhard.kettemann/

Kaszubski: Przemek Kaszubski's Web page of links to corpus linguistics and related sites. A useful set of links: http://www.staff.amu.edu.pl/~przemka/corplink.html

KWICFinder: A concordancer that rides on the back of a standard search engine, enabling the whole Web to be used as a text corpus: http://www.kwicfinder.com

Linguatools: A multilingual context dictionary, using German as the starting point. Very useful for finding collocations and their translated equivalents - English-German, German-English, Spanish-German, German-Spanish etc: http://www.linguatools.de

Logos Library: A massive database of searchable texts in a wide range of languages, containing multilingual novels, technical literature and translated texts: http://www.logoslibrary.eu

McCarty: Willard McCarty's website: A useful website on concordancing: http://www.cch.kcl.ac.uk/legacy/teaching/av1000/textanalysis/concord.html

Mannheim Corpus: A very big - and free - corpus of German texts maintained by the Institut für Deutsche Sprache, including a choice of corpora and a lot of search facilities: http://corpora.ids-mannheim.de

MonoConc: An easy-to-use concordancer. See Section 2.1 (above). See the Athelstan website at http://www.athel.com

MULCE (Multimodal Learning Corpus Exchange): A repository of corpora originally designed, developed and implemented at the University of Franche-Comte, by LIFC (Laboratoire d'Informatique de Franche-Comté). It is now hosted by the LRL (Laboratory for Research on Language) in the MSH (Maison des Sciences de l'Homme) in Clermont-Ferrand.

Observatoire du Traitement Informatique des Langues et de l'Inforoute: Scientific and other specialised French language corpora can be found via the search form here: http://www.owil.org

OLAC (Open Language Archives Community): OLAC is an international partnership of institutions and individuals who are creating a worldwide virtual library of language resources by: (i) developing consensus on best current practice for the digital archiving of language resources, and (ii) developing a network of interoperating repositories and services for housing and accessing such resources: http://www.language-archives.org

Online Corpora: An extensive list of online corpora.

OVI (Opera del Vocabolario Italiano): A full-text database of early Italian vernacular sources (pre-1375), containing some 1410 documents: http://artfl-project.uchicago.edu/content/ovi. The database engine, in fact, is the same as the one which drives the ARTFL database, the PhiloLogic engine developed by Mark Olsen at the University of Chicago.

PhraseContext: A different kind of concordancer, written by Hans Jørgen Klarskov Mortensen: see Section 2.1 (above). An evaluation version of this program can be downloaded from the author's website at http://www.hjkm.dk

SACODEYL: European Youth Language. Structured video interviews in seven different European languages with pupils between 13 and 18 years of age - the outcome of an EU-funded project. The site includes a concordance of different words and phrases. Try searching for a common colloquial word like toll in German and the search tool will generate a list of examples showing how the word in used in authentic contexts. The interviews have been annotated and enriched for language learning purposes: http://www.um.es/sacodeyl/

Sherbrooke University (Canada): Many specialised glossaries (in French): http://www.usherbrooke.ca/biblio/

Simple Concordance Program (SCP): Written by Alan Reed, this program is available free of charge from: http://www.textworld.com/scp. See Section 2.1 (above).

Sketch Engine: Sketch Engine (SkE, also known as Word Sketch Engine), a product of Lexical Computing Ltd, is a Corpus Query System incorporating word sketches, grammatical relations and a distributional thesaurus: http://www.sketchengine.co.uk

Spanish: Corpus del Español: A 100-million word diachronic corpus of Spanish texts, created by Mark Davies of Brigham Young University.

Speech Accent Archive: The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed. The archive is used by people who wish to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers. Maintained by George Mason University, USA.

Virtual Linguistics Campus, University of Marburg: This includes a virtual lecture hall where the student can attend linguistics courses, a linguistics lab,chat rooms, message boards, etc. Some sections are only accessible if you have registered, but there are a lot of materials that are open to all: http://linguistics.online.uni-marburg.de

Visual Interactive Syntax Learning (VISL): A variety tools for different languages can be found here: sentence analysis, corpora, machine translation, as well as games and quizzes: http://visl.sdu.dk

Web Concordances: A collection of concordances and workbooks of romantic poetry, including Shelley, Coleridge, Keats, Blake Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Created and maintained by R.J.C. Watt of Dundee University.

WebCorp: A concordancer that works across the Web in a wide range of languages. Also includes a word-list generator that will produce a word frequency list of any Web page. Maintained by Birmingham City University, UK. See Renouf, Kehoe & Banerjee (2007).

Wordbanks Online is an online corpus that evolved out of the Collins Cobuild Bank of English corpus that forms the basis of the Collins range of dictionaries and reference books. Wordbanks Online is available by subscription, but there is also a trial version online.

WordSmith Tools: Concordancer, keyword finder and frequency counter, written by Mike Scott and published by Lexical Analysis Software Ltd and Oxford University Press since 1996. Version 5 (2007) is the latest version: http://www.lexically.net/wordsmith/

Wortschatz Universität Leipzig: A collection of corpus-based monolingual dictionaries in 57 different languages. Useful for finding synonyms, contexts and collocations: http://corpora.informatik.uni-leipzig.de

Your Dictionary: An online reference collection of over 800 dictionaries in 150 languages: http://www.yourdictionary.com

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Document last updated 10 February 2012. This page is maintained by Graham Davies.

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Lamy M-N. & Klarskov Mortensen H. J. (2012) Using concordance programs in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom. Module 2.4 in Davies G. (ed.) Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers (ICT4LT), Slough, Thames Valley University [Online]. Available at: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod2-4.htm [Accessed DD Month YYYY].

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