Exploring Collocations with The Prime Machine

Exploring Collocations with The Prime Machine

Stephen Jeaco (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2019070103

Abstract

One of the greatest impacts of corpus linguistics on language teaching has been in the recognition of the importance of collocation. A very influential guide for language teachers with regard to teaching collocation has been the Lexical Approach. Activities pointing students to rich collocational information in monolingual dictionaries, in texts and specifically in collocation dictionaries provided ways for language learners to engage with collocation information: to notice, to remember and to acquire. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Data Driven Learning and new tools are now available to allow students to access collocation information from corpora for themselves. After introducing some pedagogic considerations, this article presents some of the features of The Prime Machine which were developed to support DDL activities focussed on collocation.
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Introduction

One of the greatest impacts of corpus linguistics on language teaching has been in the recognition of the importance of collocation for effective language learning. As computer searchable databases of authentic language texts became available to linguists and lexicographers, evidence for the patterning and co-selection of word choices required greater attention (Barnbrook, Mason, & Krishnamurthy, 2013; Sinclair, 1991). A very influential guide for language teachers with regard to collocation has been the Lexical Approach (Lewis, 2008) and its activities pointing students to the rich collocational information in monolingual dictionaries, in the examples in their texts and specifically in collocation dictionaries provided ways for language learners to engage with collocation information: to notice, to remember and to acquire (Hill, Lewis, & Lewis, 2000) 1.

While mobile phone technology and the internet have brought increased ease for checking and finding simple meanings of words, some of the pedagogic basis for spending time, thought and energy on retrieving, digesting and recalling this information has perhaps been lost. While web corpora have grown in size and scope, some of the opportunities for exploring collocations in specific contexts, perhaps for specific fields, have also to some extent been overlooked. However, one use of technology in the language learning classroom in particular – Data Driven Learning (DDL) – can offer opportunities for learners to engage directly with language data for a range of language learning pursuits (Flowerdew, 2015; Thomas, 2015; Tsui, 2004).

This paper presents an overview of some of the features of the newest version of The Prime Machine which have been developed to support the exploration of collocations as part of Data Driven Learning activities. Inspired by the theory of Lexical Priming (Hoey, 2005), The Prime Machine was developed as a learner-friendly corpus tool (Jeaco, 2015; Jeaco, 2017a)2. After introducing the pedagogical and theoretical background of collocation and DDL, this paper goes on to introduce the way collocation is measured and presented in several corpus tools, before describing the ways users of The Prime Machine can view and interact with collocation data.

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