‘Chunks’ (a.k.a. ‘phrases’, ‘formulaic sequences’, etc.) Fair trade coffee may be a familiar sight on supermarket shelves, but a new study has found the British do not practise what they preach when it comes to buying it. While most people claim to take social issues into consideration, their purchasing behaviour shows little evidence of this. Although the vast majority of consumers believe their choice could make a difference to companies' ethical policies, they are still failing to act on their beliefs.
Fair trade coffee may be a familiar sight on supermarket shelves, but a new study has found the British do not practise what they preach / when it comes to buying it. While most people claim to take social issues into consideration, their purchasing behaviour shows little evidence of this. Although the vast majority of consumers believe their choice could make a difference to companies' ethical policies, they are still failing to act on their beliefs.
More “chunking” practice Are the numbers of boys and girls in our families really down to the toss of a coin? In fact, it’s not quite so simple. You as an individual may actually load the dice towards a son or a daughter right at conception. Especially the condition of mothers could be playing a part according to some studies. Ruth Mace was in Ethiopia when that country was hit by a severe food shortage. As part of a study on nutrition she looked at the birth statistics of women caught up in the crisis: “Mothers that had a higher body-mass index were more likely to have boys than girls.” Why this happens is still open to debate. Valerie Grant says dominance in personality may also tip the balance towards male offspring: “I’ve come to notice that dominant women tend to have more boys.”
Plenty and varied collocations (e.g. commit a crime), social-routine formulae (e.g. Have a nice day), discourse markers (e.g. On the other hand), compounds (e.g. peer pressure), idioms (e.g. take a backseat), standardised similes (e.g. clear as crystal), proverbs (e.g. When the cat’s away …), genre-typical clichés (e.g. Publish or perish), exclamations (e.g. You must be kidding!) open-slot frames (e.g. it takes [time][for x] to …)...
Principal function of chunks in L1 Receptive and productive fluency As a matter of ___ On the other __ Through thick and __ Last but not __ It was two in the morning and I was still wide __ The difference was not statistically __ Cf. genre analyses by K. Kuiper Cf. eyetracking studies by N. Schmitt & colleagues Cf. work by J. Bybee
Principal functions of chunks in L2 Fluency Idiomaticity and Accuracy Avoidance of L1 interference: ? Do an effort ? With other words ? Realise a survey ? Let’s drink a glass ? Whose feet are you playing with?
Any evidence ? Research procedure: Speaking task in L2 Oral proficiency scores by blind judges Chunk-counts by more blind judges Calculating correlations: proficiency scores ~ chunk counts? Results: coefficients up to.60 (highly significant) Conclusion: chunks are good for you !
Proposals for a chunk-oriented pedagogy Nattinger and DeCarrico (1992). Michael Lewis’ (1993, 1997, 2000) Lexical Approach. Not really ‘new’: e.g. Firth (1957): “You shall know a word by the company it keeps”
Can you guess which verbs the following columns of nouns are strong collocates of? verb+ verb+ damage crime study task trouble offence research function pain murder survey music cancer adultery interview dance injury rape investigation song harm fraud experiment role
Just a couple of challenges for the learner... About 50% of native-speaker discourse is estimated to be chunky (cf. Erman and Warren 2000) The native speaker’s repertoire contains thousands of chunks (cf. Pawley and Syder 1983)
Lewis’ Lexical Approach in a nutshell The aim = learner autonomy: equip students with strategies to pick up L2 chunks outside the classroom. Class time is best spent on awareness-raising; not by focussing on individual items. The key activity is chunking of texts. Lexis is arbitrary teachers must not waste precious time on trying to give ‘explanations’ about chunks. “Why” questions should be answered by “That’s-just-the- way-it is” answers.
Learner autonomy? Set-up: –Experimental group: a school year of text chunking –Control group: same texts, but no chunking Post-test: both groups underline ‘chunks’ in a new text. Results: Experimental students underlined significantly more bits of text... But not more chunks... Catch 22: how can you recognise a chunk if you haven’t encountered it several times before?
Likelihood of incidental acquisition? Incidental uptake of vocabulary is very slow. Why? -Requires multiple encounters (cf. Paul Nation) -Insufficient ‘noticing’ Any more hopeful when it comes to chunks? -Is a given chunk likely to be frequent enough? -Are chunks (e.g. make an effort) likely to attract attention?
Verb-noun collocations in 120 pages of a popular novel Verb-noun collocations occurring more than once: make a point (p. 10; 61; 90); make a move (p. 26; 32; 78); make sense (p. 47; 73; 107); make a decision (p. 39; 50); spend time (p. 71; 88); pay attention (p. 91; 119); tell the truth (p. 28; 119). Verb-noun collocations occurring only once: complete a mission (p. 3); fulfil a task (p. 3); bend the truth (p. 6); spend the night (p. 15); lose your mind (p. 18); see the point (p. 21); clear your throat (p. 22); speak your mind (p. 23); make conversation (p. 26); do your duty (p. 28); shake hands (p. 32); practise a religion (p. 41); commit suicide (p. 44); waste time (p. 48); climb stairs (p. 52); pay a price (p. 54); take notice (p. 59); having a laugh (p. 63); do the right thing (p. 63); read your mind (p. 75); make a start (p. 82); give pause (p. 85); make an impression (p. 90); do your best (p. 92); shed light (p. 94); serve a purpose (p. 94); make a statement (p. 100); make no difference (p. 101); pay tribute (p. 102); spend the evening (p. 103); watch TV (p. 105); have a drink (p. 107); crack a joke (p. 112); take a look (p. 119); take a picture (p. 119).
Eye-tracking Eye-tracking experiment Procedure: comparison of reading behaviour real words versus pseudowords e.g. [...] push boundaries [...] versus [...] push paniplines [...] Results: longer contemplation of pseudowords But: NO evidence of any attention to immediately preceding or succeeding words (i.e. potential collocates)
But surely chunks attended to in class stand a good chance of retention ? Hmm... Treatment: - experimental groups: a school year of text chunking - control groups: same texts, no chunking Post-tests: speaking tasks; chunk-counts by blind judges Results: NO differential uptake from the course materials! (in fact, very limited uptake altogether)
Example What domain of experience do you think the following idiom comes from? “to show someone the ropes” Prison/torture Boats/sailing Games/sports
Feedback: a novice sailor needs to be taught by a experienced sailor which ropes he should handle
What domain of experience do you think the following idiom comes from? “to cut no ice with someone” Boats/sailing Games/sports Food/cooking
Feedback: Ice skating: if the blades of your skates are too blunt, they will not cut into the ice, and so …
What domain of experience do you think the following idiom comes from? “to jump the gun” Jurisdiction / punishment Games / sports War / aggression
Feedback: Athletics: a contender who jumps the gun sets off before the starting pistol has been fired.
What domain of experience do you think the following idiom comes from? “to run the gauntlet” food / cooking games / sports jurisdiction / punishment
Feedback: Running the gauntlet used to be a form of punishment in the military in which the wrongdoer was forced to run between two lines of men armed with sticks, who beat him as he passed.
Next stage What is the figurative meaning of the following idiom: “to show someone the ropes” To disclose the truth to someone To give someone a severe penalty To teach someone how to do a task
Next stage What is the figurative meaning of the following idiom: “to cut no ice with someone” To have a misunderstanding To get on well with someone To make no impression on someone
Next stage What is the figurative meaning of the following idiom: “to jump the gun” Defend someone at your own peril Do something before the appropriate time Be startled by an unexpected event
Next stage What is the figurative meaning of the following idiom “to run the gauntlet” Run away from your hometown Be in a position of power Go through an unpleasant treatment
consolidation When I started working here as a novice, nobody bothered to teach me how things were done around here. I had to find out all by myself how to do my new work properly. You could say that nobody showed me the _____________
consolidation Scientists argue that high voltage power lines increase the risk of cancer, but their arguments cut no ____________ with the big bosses of the electricity industry. The scientific evidence does not seem to make any impression on them.
consolidation Although we had agreed not to tell anyone about my pregnancy until we were absolutely certain about it, my husband jumped the ___________ and told his parents straightaway.
consolidation When her fellow-students found out she had started a relationship with one of their lecturers, she had to put up with a lot of verbal abuse. Her fellow-students really made her run the _______________.
Summing up the procedure Stage one: awareness of the origin of the idiom Purpose: dual coding (association with images) Stage two: figuring out the meaning of the idiom Purpose: deep processing (from image to meaning) Stage three: consolidation Stage four to stage n: revision
What domain of experience do you think the following idiom comes from? “to go for the jugular” Entertainment/public performance Animals/wildlife Food/cooking
The jugular is a vital vein in your neck. Predators (e.g. lions and tigers) tend to kill their prey by biting into this jugular.
Picture-superiority effect? Does the picture distract?
Within-subjects experiment Matched pairs of idioms, targeting unfamiliar content words (e.g. trumps, tether, gauntlet, roughshod) Half presented with a picture Results: recollection in gapfill better after presentation without pictorials (p.03) After presentation with pictorials: recollection of the concept, but not the word (violin instead of fiddle; rope instead of rein; throw instead of toss in the middle instead of halfway, etc.)
Motivation for lexical composition ? Why steer clear of rather than “sail clear of” ? Why cut and run rather than “cut and sail away” ? Why left high and dry rather than “left up and dry” ?
phonological motivation ? e.g. rhyme: brain drain; fair and square; a fat cat; horses for courses; an eager beaver; drunk as a skunk; when the cat’s away …
Scope of rhyme ? Only about 2% of the English idiom repertoire … Hmm...
How about other phonological repetition ? For example: why … Time will tell rather than “Time will show” ? It takes two to tango rather than “It takes two to waltz” ? Alliteration
Scope of alliteration ? About 17% of the English idiom repertoire
“Coverage” by alliteration + rhyme ? 19% of English idioms overall 23% of ‘frequent’ English idioms 28% of binomials (chop and change; part and parcel) 41% of similes (cool as a cucumber; fit as a fiddle)
Alliteration across phraseology Compounds: baby boom; baby buggy; baby blues; ballot box; bargain basement Collocations: tell a tale; wage war; commit a crime; make a mess vs. do damage Proverbs: curiosity killed the … ; where there’s a will …; he who pays the …; that’s the way the cookie … Discourse markers: first and foremost; It is safe to say that Exclamations: Good God! Trick or treat! Miscellaneous: by common consent; a sight for sore eyes; publish or perish
On-line collocations sampler data Inviting strong collocates: Seek + sanctuary; settlement; solution, solace, solitude, support; asylym; advice. Look for + /s/-nouns ? Only 1 (solution). Fulfil + function, fantasy, prophesy, life. Satisfy + /f/-nouns ? None.
Good old Google Fundamentally flawed: 1,130,000 hits Fatally flawed: 851,000 hits Badly flawed: 143,000 hits Basically flawed: 23,100 hits Mortally flawed: 550 hits
Multiword dictionary entries Beach bums, beer bellies and the big bang + B_ + other B_15% 85% D_ 9% 91%p <.001 + D+ other B_ 4% 86% D_10% 90%p <.001
More multiword dictionary entries Peer pressure on penny-pinching party poopers + P_ + other P_14% 86% T_ 8% 92%p <.001 + T_+ other P_ 5% 95% T_10% 90%p <.001
Many more multiword dictionary entries force-feeding French fries and fish fingers to fully- fledged flip-flops: far-fetched fact-finding? + F_ + other F_11% 91% M_ 2% 98%p <.000
Last but not least … Hard evidence from Harry Potter! Salazar Slitherin; Helga Hufflepuff; Godric Griffindor; Rowena Ravenclaw; Bathilda Bagshot; Dedalus Diggle; Dudley Dursley; Piers Polkins; Dinky Duddydums; Bertie Bott; Severus Snape; Parvati Patil; Pancy Parkinson;... About 1/3 of invented names alliterate About 1/3 chapter titles alliterate
And how about adding less salient kinds of consonance and assonance to the mix? Examples: off the cuffabove boardstark naked Hit and misssay a prayerfalse dawn
Combined scope In a sample of 508 “frequent” English idioms Type NExample Word repetition 3Shoulder to shoulder True rhyme 6Fat cat Allit + Asson 9Rule the roost Alliteration 58Too close to call Assonance 52A false dawn Total128 = 25 %
Combined scope In a set of 106 English binomial idioms Type NExample Word repetition 1Neck and neck True rhyme 3Fair and square Allit + Asson 2Part and parcel Alliteration38Spick and span Assonance13Airs and graces Total57 = 54 %
Mnemonic effect Long assumed in advertising (Guiness is … for you; Probably the best … in the world; Now probably in the best …) And entertainment (Mickey … and Donald …, Peter …; Bend it like …; Pride and …) But surprisingly little empirical evidence.
Experiment 1 26 target phrases: Ring roadKey hole LamplightHilltop Sea saltBath soap Green grassGrey hair West windRight hand Fast foodFresh air […]
Procedure Presentation in random order Sorting: alliteratives vs. unpatterned phrases Recollection
Next question: Does alerting learners to these patterns help retention?
Answer: Sure enough Two groups of language majors Teacher alerted experimental students to alliteration End of course test Results: –Alliteratives: Exp > Ctrl –No-pats: Exp = Ctrl
Summing up The chunk-learning task is formidable Incidental acquisition is bound to be slow Noticing has to be complemented by elaboration Non-arbitrary features of chunks provide pathways for teacher-led elaboration If productive mastery is the aim, then structural elaboration is called for
Teaching idioms?! You must be kidding: they’re just the icing on the cake! Well, no... Issue of comprehension: even when embedded in ‘exemplary’ context 61% misinterpretations. Non-negligible ‘pragmatic’ functions More common than you might think: e.g. 1/40 instances of a preposition = in an idiom.
Idioms in 120 pages of a popular novel Occurring more than once: keep _ at bay (p. 21; 28; 31; 55); on the same wavelength (p. 19, twice); _ up to speed (p. 19; 98); take the piss (p. 19; 72; 76); caught on the wrong foot (p. 31; 97); keep you on your toes (p. 41; 78); call it a day (p. 72, twice); cut the mustard (p. 42; 108). Occurring once: laid at the door of _ (p. 1); the rough and tumble of life (p. 1); He knew it in his bones (p. 4); a king’s ransom (p. 5); gone head to head (p. 15); the nuts and bolts (p. 19); thin on the ground (p. 20); stopped in her tracks (p. 21); off the hook (p. 32); make a face (p. 32); water off a duck’s back (p. 37); reaping what she’d sown (p. 37); for good measure (p. 39); hammer home a message (p. 42); gone far out on a limb (p. 42); run the gauntlet (p. 45); keeping me posted (p. 45); off the wall (p. 46); set the wheels in motion (p. 47); down the line (p. 47); screaming from the rooftops (p. 48); put my reputation on the line (p. 48); eyeball to eyeball (p. 52); the bottom line (p. 53); by the skin of his teeth (p. 62); for a song (p. 62); for peanuts (p. 62); rub shoulders with (p. 62); on track (p. 63); fit the bill (p. 67); on a platter (p. 68); run out of steam (p. 69); keeping tabs on (p. 70); keep on a tight leash (p. 70); at sea (p. 71); play the field (p. 72); a stay of execution (p. 75); up your street (p. 75); cut both ways (p. 79); hot on their heels (p. 79); raise the stakes (p. 80); make the grade (p. 85); put your foot in it (p. 88); chopping and changing (p. 91); a bone to chew on (p. 93); make headway (p. 94); rattling their sabres (p. 97); get up to speed (p. 98); at face value (p. 98); hang out to dry (p. 98); hidden agenda (p. 98); on the ground (p. 99); on the page (p. 99); cover your back (p. 99); run yourself into the ground (p. 103); fire on all cylinders (p. 105); have your wits about you (p. 105); footloose and fancy free (p. 106); carry a torch for someone (p. 106); make a dent in something (p. 107); look for a needle in a haystack (p. 108); get your hands on something (p. 108); keep _ at arm’s length (p. 110); not give a toss (p. 113); get in on the act (p. 113); shoot your mouth off (p. 113); put your oar in (p. 115); not miss a trick (p. 116); get your head around something (p. 117).
E.g. Abundance of idioms from seafaring in English Steer clear of something On course for something All hands on deck In the doldrums On an even keel Miss the boat Learn the ropes Plain sailing Show your true colours A steady hand on the tiller Be left high and dry Walk the plank Run a tight ship With flying colours When your ship comes in Clear the decks Etc.
Crosslinguistic variation SAILING idioms: English > French GARDENING idioms: English > French FOOD idioms: French > English
‘Productivity’ of source domains across languages SOURCE DOMAIN agriculture & gardening (e.g., Nip something in the bud); commerce & accounting (e.g., Wipe the slate clean); entertainment & performance (e.g., Play to the gallery); food & cooking (e.g., On the back burner); games & sports (e.g., Keep your eye on the ball); handicraft & manufacturing (e.g., Break the mould); health & medicine (e.g., Keep your finger on the pulse); religion & superstition (e.g., Fall from grace); vehicles & transport (e.g., Miss the boat); war & aggression (e.g., Break ranks) Etc.
Some references Boers, F., J. Deconinck & S. Lindstromberg (forthcoming) Choosing motivated chunks for teaching. In: S. De Knop, F. Boers and T. De Rycker (eds.), Fostering Language Teaching Efficiency through Cognitive Linguistics. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Stengers, H., F. Boers, J. Eyckmans and A. Housen (forthcoming) Does chunking foster chunk uptake? In: S. De Knop, F. Boers and T. De Rycker (eds.) Godfroid, A., A. Housen and F. Boers (forthcoming) A procedure for testing the Noticing Hypothesis in the context of vocabulary acquisition. In: M. Pütz and L. Sicola (eds.) Inside the Learner’s Mind: Cognitive Processing and Second Language Acquisition. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Boers, F. and S. Lindstromberg (2009) Optimizing a lexical approach to instructed second language acquisition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Boers, F., A. Piquer, H. Stengers and J. Eyckmans (2009) Does pictorial elucidation foster recollection of figurative idioms? Language Teaching Research 13(4). Lindstromberg, S. and F. Boers (2008) Teaching Chunks of Language: from noticing to remembering. The resourceful teacher series. Helbling Languages. Lindstromberg, S. & F. Boers (2008) Phonemic repetition and the learning of lexical chunks: The mnemonic power of assonance. System 36(3). Lindstromberg, S. & F. Boers (2008) The mnemonic effect of noticing alliteration in lexical chunks. Applied Linguistics 29(2): 200-222. Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (eds.) (2008) Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Teaching Vocabulary and Phraseology. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Boers F & S. Lindstromberg (2008) How cognitive linguistics can foster effective vocabulary teaching. In: Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (eds.), 1-61. Boers, F., S. Lindstromberg, J. Littlemore, H. Stengers and J. Eyckmans (2008) Variables in the mnemonic effectiveness of pictorial elucidation. In: Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (eds.), 189-116. Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (2008) Structural elaboration by the sound (and feel) of it. In: Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (eds.), 329-353. Boers, F. & H. Stengers (2008) A quantitative comparison of the English and Spanish repertoires of figurative idioms. In: Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (eds.), 355-373. Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (2008) From empirical findings to pedagogical practice. In: Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (eds.), 375-393. Boers, F. & H. Stengers (2008), Adding sound to the picture: An exercise in motivating the lexical composition of metaphorical idioms in English, Spanish and Dutch. In: Cameron, L, M. Zanotto, & M. Cavalcanti (eds.), Confronting Metaphor in Use: An Applied Linguistic Approach, 63-78. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
continued Eyckmans, J., F. Boers and H. Stengers (2007) Identifying chunks: Who can see the wood for the trees? Language Forum 33(2): 85-100. Boers, F., J. Eyckmans & H. Stengers (2007) Presenting figurative idioms with a touch of etymology: More than mere mnemonics? Language Teaching Research 11(1): 43-62. Boers, F, J. Eyckmans, J. Kappel, H. Stengers & M. Demecheleer (2006) Formulaic sequences and perceived oral proficiency: Putting a lexical approach to the test. Language Teaching Research 10: 245-261. Boers, Frank and Seth Lindstromberg (2006) Cognitive Linguistic approaches to second or foreign language instruction: Rationale, proposals and evaluation. In: G. Kristaensen, R. Dirven, M. Achard and Ruiz-Mendoza (eds.), Cognitive linguistics: current applications and future perspectives, 305-358. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Boers, F., J. Eyckmans & H. Stengers (2006) Motivating multiword units: Rationale, mnemonic benefits, and cognitive style variables. In: S.H. Foster-Cohen, M.M. Krajnovic & J.M. Djigunovic (eds.), EUROSLA Yearbook Vol. 6, 169-190, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Boers, F. & S. Lindstromberg (2005) Finding ways to make phrase-learning feasible: The mnemonic effect of alliteration. System 33: 225-238. Lindstromberg, S. & F. Boers (2005) From movement to metaphor with manner-of-movement verbs. Applied Linguistics 26: 241-261. Boers, F., M. Demecheleer & J. Eyckmans (2004) Cultural variation as a variable in comprehending and remembering figurative idioms. European Journal of English Studies 8: 375-388. Boers, F. (2004) Expanding learners’ vocabulary through metaphor awareness: What expansion, what learners, what vocabulary? In: Niemeier, S. and M. Achard (eds.), Cognitive Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, and Foreign Language Teaching, 211-234, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Boers, F., M. Demecheleer & J. Eyckmans (2004) Etymological elaboration as a strategy for learning figurative idioms. In: Bogaards, P. & B. Laufer. (eds.), Vocabulary in a Second Language: Selection, Acquisition and Testing, 53-78, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Eyckmans, J., F. Boers & M. Demecheleer (2004) The Deleted-Essentials Test: An effective and affective compromise, Humanising Language Teaching 6. www.hltmag.co.uk Pilgrimswww.hltmag.co.uk Boers, F. (2003) Applied linguistics perspectives on cross-cultural variation in conceptual metaphor. Metaphor and Symbol 18: 231-238. Boers, F. & J. Littlemore (eds.) (2003) Cross-cultural Differences in Conceptual Metaphor: Applied Linguistics Perspectives. Special Issue of Metaphor and Symbol. Mahwah, New Jersey / London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Boers, F. & M. Demecheleer (2001) Measuring the impact of cross-cultural differences on learners’ comprehension of imageable idioms. English Language Teaching Journal 55: 255-262. Boers, F. (2001) Remembering figurative idioms by hypothesising about their origin, Prospect 16: 35-43. Boers, F. (2000) Enhancing metaphoric awareness in specialised reading. English for Specific Purposes 19: 137- 147. Boers, F. (2000) Metaphor awareness and vocabulary retention. Applied Linguistics 21: 553-571.
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