Increasing Language Awareness

So, what of the future? How will the relationship between corpus linguistics and the language classroom develop? There can be no doubt that the use of corpora can support many of the more 'traditional' activities of language classrooms. But how can we resolve the more radical questions corpora pose?

John Sinclair, one of the most important figures in contemporary linguistics, identifies a number of key points in New evidence, new priorities, new attitudes (2004).

He isolates a number of challenges. For example, he argues that access to corpora reminds us time after time that 'words have too many meanings' (2004:272). In other words, the notion of 'one word one meaning' is a fiction, and we must content ourselves with ambiguity. At the same time, corpora also remind us that there are 'too many ways of saying much the same thing'. Sinclair also believes that the terminology available to us does not meet our needs, and that as a result we can only partially describe what we can see in a corpus. Despite these challenges, Sinclair's message is positive. Teachers and students can access corpora easily and quickly, without waiting for new terms to be invented and new papers to be written. There are, he argues, ambiguities in language, but that if we look beyond the word, and beyond the sentence, we will find plenty of answers in corpora.

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