Scott & Tribble (2006) on discovering pottential patterns

The second aspect is summarised in that phrase “potential patterns”. How so? The process operates in two stages. First, all the effort of a concordancer or a word-listing application goes into reducing a vast and complex object to a much simpler shape. That is, a set of 100 million words on a confusing wealth of topics in a variety of styles and produced by innumerable people for a lot of different reasons gets reduced to a mere list in alphabetical order. A rich chaos of language is reduced, it is “boiled down” to a simpler set. In the vapours that have steamed off are all the facts about who wrote the texts and what they meant.We have therefore lost a great deal in that process, and if it damaged the original texts we would never dare do it.

The advantage comes in the second stage where one examines the boiled down extract, the list of words, the concordance. It is here that something not far different from the sometimes-scorned “intuition” comes in. This is imagination. Insight. Human beings are unable to see shapes, lists, displays, or sets without insight, without seeing in them “patterns”. It seems to be a characteristic of the homo sapiens mind that it is often unable to see things “as they are” but imposes on them a tendency, a trend, a pattern. From the earliest times, the very stars in the sky have been perceived as belonging in “constellations”. This capability can come at a cost, of course: it may be easy to spot a pattern in a cloud or in a constellation and thereby build up a mistaken theory; but the point is that it is this ordinary imaginative capacity, that of seeing a pattern, which is there in all of us and which makes it possible for corpus-based methods to make a relatively large impact on language theory. For with these twin resources, namely the tools to manipulate a lot of data in many different ways and without wasting much time, combined with the power of imagination and pattern-recognition, it becomes possible to chase up patterns that seem to be there and come up with insights affecting linguistic theory itself. The tools we use generate patterns (lists, plots, colour arrangements) and it is when we see these that in some cases the pattern “jumps out” at us. In other cases we may need training to see the patterns but the endeavour is itself largely a search for pattern.

Scott, M. & Tribble, C. 2006. Textual Patterns: keyword and corpus analysis in language education. Amsterdam: Benjamins. (pp. 5-6).

On corpus linguistics ways

Mike Scott

Q: How much should a discourse analyst know before he or she engages in corpus work?

A: I don’t agree with the presupposition. No discourse analyst needs to know anything doing Corpus Linguistics. What they need (for either) is an open mind, a willingness to learn, to take risks, to make mistakes, to ask for help or find it for themselves. There is not just one way of slicing bread, and the CL ways of slicing it are not necessarily superior to non-CL ways.

Mike Scott, Viana, Zyngier & Barnbrook (2011: 218)

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.

Brillante Elvis Costello sobre las redes sociales


¿Qué piensa de esta locura en torno a las redes sociales que vivimos hoy día?

Han convertido el hecho de sentirse ofendido, esa indignación estúpida, en toda una industria. La gente que promueve el uso de opiáceos hasta convertirlos en una epidemia a nivel mundial tiene la misma mentalidad que los que desarrollaron estas plataformas. Son el mismo tipo de parásito, traicionan algo que podría ser bueno para la humanidad y lo transforman en algo perverso. Han creado la posibilidad de comunicar cualquier cosa que pienses con extraños, ignorando que los impulsos naturales de mucha gente son acosar, censurar, aprovecharse de las debilidades del otro y propagar información falsa. Y, de paso, ser ciego ante cualquier otra opinión, consideración o decencia. Es lo mismo que envenenar a la gente a propósito. No dudo que estas nuevas formas de comunicación tienen cosas positivas, lo que me da rabia es ver en lo que se convierten. Así que así seguimos. ¡Esto es el progreso!



Mi fe en el multiculturalismo / Why Does Our Side Keep Losing Elections? Orhan Pamuk

Mi fe en el multiculturalismo

Publicado en El Español, 26/12/2017

Pero también debemos preguntarnos cómo este viento intolerante ha arraigado en lugar de nuestra bienintencionada declaración de igualdad y humanismo. ¿Por qué nuestro bando sigue perdiendo elecciones?

Precisamente cuando trato de explorar las distintas perspectivas en conflicto mientras escribo, la imagen actual del multiculturalismo estadounidense, que propugna que los inmigrantes añadan sus experiencias singulares a una nueva cultura antes que abandonar su historia para ser asimilado, puede animar a la gente a luchar contra el autoritarismo pujante. Aprendiendo a entendernos mejor los unos a los otros nos quedaremos tranquilos en la certeza de que conocemos a nuestros vecinos, sin importarnos lo diferentes que puedan ser.

Para mí, la forma estadounidense de integrar a las minorías religiosas en una sociedad aún más amplia me parece mucho más efectiva que los métodos europeos. Los inmigrantes musulmanes en Estados Unidos parecen mucho más felices y más cómodos que los musulmanes en Francia. Creo que el multiculturalismo ha sido mucho mejor que la laïcité, el modelo secular francés, a la hora de salvaguardar la libertad religiosa. Las estudiantes de secundaria en Francia no tienen permitido llevar velo a clase, igual que las estudiantes universitarias en Turquía, como describo en mi libro Nieve.

40 años escribiendo novelas e intentando entender a gente distinta a mí me han enseñado lo mismo: a mantener la calma ante estas fuerzas históricas y contemporáneas de Oriente y Occidente. Los vientos intolerantes a los que nos enfrentamos hoy no son tan fuertes como para hacer desaparecer toda lógica. No olvidemos que Hillary Clinton consiguió 2,5 millones de votos más que Donald Trump; que en Gran Bretaña el concepto de Brexit ha acabado por teñirse de arrepentimiento; que, en Turquía, el autoritarismo de Erdogan ha sido respaldado en las elecciones de abril por un margen demasiado escaso como para cimentar su poder.


Why Does Our Side Keep Losing Elections?

The New York Times, 4/12/2017

As ever, we must resist authoritarian instincts that restrict our liberties, demonize anybody who appears to be different and — as is happening in Turkey — outlaw freedom of expression, judiciary independence and pluralism. We must stand unflinchingly in defense of our dearest values: women’s rights, freedom of thought, academic liberties.

By learning to understand one another more fully, we remain calm in the assurance that we know our neighbors, regardless of how different they may be.

Forty years spent writing novels and trying to understand people different from me have taught me the same thing: to remain calm in the face of these easterly and westerly, historic and contemporary forces.

Comprehending these forces requires us to recognize why other people might disagree with our most deeply held convictions. Doing so is not a cure-all for either newly born nationalist movements or generational enmity, but it can both keep us calm and help us to endure. In this endeavor, the novelist and the multiculturalist share a similar approach, one based on imagining and understanding the humanity of people who are not like us.