Sinclair (2004) vs the theoreticians

Those who during the last decade tried to barricade the profession against the influence of corpora recycled the critical arguments of the theoreticians thirty years before, and we heard again that no corpus can be a totally accurate sample of a language, that occurrence in a corpus is no guarantee of correctness, that frequency is not a sound guide to importance, that there are inexplicable gaps in the coverage of any corpus, however large, etc.

That flurry of resistance is now largely behind us, and it is timely to consider the issue posed as the title of this book, how to use corpora in language teaching, since corpora are now part of the resources that more and more teachers expect to have access to.

Sinclair (2004: 2)

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

Corpus linguistics and instructional needs

Tyler & Ortega (2018: 317):

Quite simply, corpora are the place to look for patterns of usage. Moreover, we believe that in usage-inspired instruction L2 targets should be taught not just because they can be taught – that is, because we have a good linguistic description or can create good materials – but because corpus linguistic investigations of learner language development show them to be actual areas of instructional need.

Tyler & Ortega (2018: 318):

The diversity of learning goals just acknowledged is salutary. But it also carries the danger of encouraging a certain bifurcation of usage-inspired L2 instruction into two separate streams, one that privileges implicit and incidental learning (i.e.,absorbing new patterns of language without trying hard to learn them and without knowing they are being learned) and another that revalorizes explicit knowledge, explicit teaching, and explicit learning, thus going against the grain of suspicion over explicitness in much instructed SLA in the past. However, we do not see the explicit-implicit instructional continuum as a zero-sum game. Usage-based views of language development show that the bulk of language learning happens implicitly. But much of the fine-tuning also happens explicitly with the aid of top-down, conscious processing (Ellis, 2011, 2015). It follows that learning proceeds by dynamic interactions between implicit and explicit processing.
Thus, we argue that the full range of goals for learning needs to be addressed in instructional designs. Ideally, usage-inspired L2 instruction can vary so as to offer learners diverse benefits, including more fluent and more contextually effective language use (e.g., through close attention to meaningful input- and practice-driven implicit learning), greater metacognitive self-regulation for greater autonomy and life-long learning (e.g., through induction and deduction of new understandings of language during explicit, concept-guided, top-down learning), and heightened agency in making connections between language choices and social consequences
so the latter can be empowering (e.g., through ethnographic and corpus analyses of one’s and others’ communicative repertoires that make the social consequences and their language reflexes conscious).

Tyler, A. E., Ortega, L., (2018). Usage-inspired L2 instruction. Some reflections and a heuristic. In Tyler, A. E., Ortega, L., Uno, M., & Park, H. I. (Eds.). Usage-inspired L2 instruction: Researched pedagogy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 315-321.

English Language Corpora Workshop with Cambridge University Press

Are you a researcher interested in finding out about the English language corpora at Cambridge University Press? The Press has a number of English language corpora that University of Cambridge researchers can access.

This workshop will give you an introduction to the corpora at the Press and give you some hands-on experience of working with the data. The main focus will be on the 30 million word English language learner corpus, which can provide unique insights into the nature of learner language. We’ll work through some activities using the corpus analysis software Sketch Engine. We will look at the way this research can be used to inform the design of language learning materials and language teaching.

This workshop will be suitable for people who are new to corpus research or who are particularly interested in its application to language teaching and learning materials.

Please bring your own laptop to participate in the activities!

When? 14.00 on 28 February 2019

Where? The Library (top floor), Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies

Places are free, but limited, so please register here by Monday 25 February:


Deadline approaching ICAME40 Université de Neuchâtel June 1–5, 2019

ICAME40 at the Université de Neuchâtel June 1–5, 2019


December 15 deadline

Language in Time, Time in Language

In addition to contributions to the main conference, we are also inviting submissions for four exciting pre-conference workshops, to be held on June 1 (see website for descriptions):

* Big data and the study of language and culture: Parliamentary discourse across time and space (Convenors: Jukka Tyrkkö, Minna Korhonen & Haidee Kruger)

* Languages in time, time in languages: Phraseological perspectives (Convenors: Anna Čermáková, Hilde Hasselgård, Thomas Egan & Sylvi Rørvik)

* Register approaches to language variation and change in English(es) (Convenors: Elena Seoane & Douglas Biber)

* Corpus approaches to social media (Convenors: Sofia Rüdiger & Daria Dayter)

For more information on the call for papers, workshops, submission, keynote speakers, and updated conference practicals, please visit

Feel free to get in touch with us via email ( or Twitter (@icame40, #icame40).