CLER Corpus Linguists Share their Research at Language@Leeds

 

The Corpus Linguistics satellite of Language@Leeds, in collaboration with BAAL Corpus Linguistics Special Interest Group, organised a one-day conference exploring the Past, Present and Potential of corpus linguistics from interdisciplinary perspectives on 13th of May 2022.    
Richard Badger  ‘Transparency and Trustworthiness: A Study of the UK Government’s Press Conferences on Covid-19’ 
Yen Dang  ‘How Can Corpus Linguistics Help to Tackle the Lexical Challenge of Academic Listening? 
Alice Deignan and Duygu Candarli (Dundee University)  ‘Using Corpora to Support UK School Students’ 
 It was great to be back at a face-to-face conference but with technology enabling people to attend online. The event was also attended by PGR students (Chengyan Li, Rasha Mohsen, Hongyi Zhao) and TPG student (Huanrong Wang) from the SoE. It was wonderful to see former colleagues: Duygu, who spoke with Alice, was a research fellow here from 2018- 2019, and Robbie Love, who worked with us from 2018- 2020, and is now at Aston, also attended. Many thanks to Mel Evans, Alison May and others from the School of English for organising the event! 

 Abstracts 

 Transparency and trustworthiness: a study of the UK Government’s press conferences on Covid-19 – Richard Badger 

 The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of effective communication about health care issues, with significant differences in how diverse groups have responded to government information, but we have little information about how the substance of those communications impacts on their transparency and trustworthiness for the public. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies the centrality of transparency and trustworthiness in health-related communication (OECD, 2020). However, we have little information of what linguistic and multimodal features make communications transparent and trustworthy. This study investigates whether a linguistic/multimodal analysis might enable us to identify what these features might be and relates them to public perceptions for the levels of trustworthiness and transparency of the press conferences. This paper reports on the linguistic part of the study. We constructed a corpus of UK Government ministerial speeches that were a part of the press conferences about the Coronavirus from 3 March 2020 to 5 April 2021. The corpus consists of 128 documents and totals just over 150, 000 words. The study investigated transparency through readability formulae (Crossley et al., 2017; Munley et al., 2018) and the clause as representation, particularly process types, within 4 functional linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014). Trustworthiness was also investigated using systemic functional linguistics focusing on mood and pronoun use. The aim is to use this study as the basis for a bid to Nuffield. The current research team comprises Jimmy Choo (Healthcare), Matt Homer (Education), Elisabetta Adami (Languages, Cultures & Societies) and Richard Badger (Education). The original team for this project included Martin Thomas and we would like to acknowledge the contribution he made to the project before his death.  

 How can corpus linguistics help to tackle the lexical challenge of academic listening?  Yen Dang 

To achieve academic success in English-medium university programs, students need to understand not only their reading materials but also lectures, seminars, labs, and tutorials. Yet comprehending academic spoken English is challenging for many second language (L2) learners, and insufficient vocabulary knowledge is frequently cited as a major reason for this difficulty. Despite the significant role of vocabulary in comprehension, vocabulary in academic spoken English is an under-explored area of vocabulary studies. In the talk, I will share the findings of some studies of mine which used corpus linguistics to develop word lists and identify resources for L2 learners to learn academic spoken vocabulary.  

 Using corpora to support UK school students – Alice Deignan and Duygu Candarli 

In early phases of corpus linguistics, we developed important insights into the nature of language, such as the centrality of lexis and collocation, the interaction between grammar and lexis, and the vast variation in language use across registers. More recently, many corpus linguists have started looking outwards at how their discipline interacts with others, and how it can contribute to society. Our research is an interaction between linguistics and education, and creates knowledge that can be used to support school students in the UK. We present a project (The linguistic challenge of the transition from primary school to secondary school, funded by ESRC, grant number ES/R006687/1) that researches the linguistic challenges facing school students when they move from primary to secondary school, based on data gathered in the north of England. We have worked with five secondary schools and eight primary schools to build corpora that aim to represent the language encountered by students in Years 5-6, and in Years 7-8, in academic contexts. We are in the process of developing a detailed description at the lexical, grammatical and discourse levels of the spoken and written language of Key Stage 3, contrasted with Key Stage 2 and with language outside the school. Our database allows for comparisons at the broadest level between late KS2 and early KS3, between separate year groups, and between individual subjects at different levels, and we are working on a number of studies. This talk will focus firstly on changes in the written materials that are encountered by school students when they start secondary school, and secondly, on changes in the vocabulary and structures found in the materials used for teaching.