Recreate Live Air Traffic Control

Live Air Traffic Control recordings are available from sites such as LiveATC. In the Aviation English literature when transcripts of traffic are published most of the time the recordings are not generally available. There is a way to recreate these.

First use a text to speech site to get an audio file of a transcript you want to use. This one called FreeTTS for example is free with a number of voice options. Note this one does have limits on number of times you can use it in any one week. Another thing to note is that some words which have various pronunciations may be a sticking point. For example “wind” is pronounced as the verb and I want the noun. So I had to use “winnd” in the text.

Then use an audio program such as Audacity to process the audio. You need to apply first a high-pass filter and then a distortion effect. If you want to add a polish you can use what is called a radio beep/bleep noise and/or a static noise background. You may also need to normalise audio if volume is too low due to previous high pass filter and distortion effects.

Here is an example of a recreated audio (transcript from Prado et al. 2019) –


Prado, M., Roberts, J., Tosqui-Lucks, P., & Friginal, E. (2019). The development of aviation English programs. In E. Friginal, E. Mathews, & J. Roberts (Eds.), English in global aviation: Context, research, and pedagogy (pp. 215–246). Bloomsbury.


H5P, image choice, motion verbs

RIP Hotpotatoes

During lessons with (general aviation) air traffic controllers, students were often puzzled about the verbs plummet and hurtle. Although some managed to guess at their meanings after examining the context carefully, most could not:

“having plummeted down in a deadly spiral, flight KAL 007 slams into the ocean”
“the airliner continues to hurtle through the skies above the Sea of Japan”

David Rooney, About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks, 2021: 3

H5P has a content type called Image Choice – this allows you to make quizzes involving images.

I had also seen this interesting presentation titled Satellite or Verb Framed: How to improve manner of motion verb dictionary entries? by Tan Arda Gedik who found some benefits of using animated GIFs in definitions of (manner of) motion verbs over dictionary definitions and concordance examples.

Although the extent of the applicability of typology of manner of motion verbs in French is debateable, using animated gifs to illustrate motion verbs seems worth exploring.

And this is what I came up with:

Image Choice example 1

I tested an early version of the above with a student and they seemed to appreciate the format. Apologies for not having a re-use option on the above (when you click through) as the Lumi app does not seem to support exporting with re-use. I can supply H5P file if required.

Some points to note regarding use of H5P:

I used Iframe Embedder to integrate Image Choice into a Column content. The limitation with this is on mobile phones the iframe embedder is not responsive so you need to switch phones to desktop mode, nor is it good for accessibility.

You can compress animated gifs to reduce image memory loads, this one is good as it allows you to skip frames.

I used Lumi H5P app to generate the html file. If you are a beginner with H5P, this resource can get you started: H5P sample activities for language instruction.

Some content types that are not yet official  can be found here .

Here is another example using Image Choice (plus Course Presentation and Column):

Image Choice example 2

I would be interested in seeing what people are doing with H5P. Do please share.

Here is an example using Accordion, Drag & Drop, Multiple Choice, Column.
An example using Agamotto, Question Set, Column.

A Virtual Tour (360) example, works best in Chrome browser but theoretically other browsers should work.

An example with Image Juxtaposition, Column.

Using Memory Game with audio for decoding practice (plus Dictation, Column).

Thanks for reading.


Good folk writing about H5P to check is Vedrana Vojković Estatiev at her blog tagged H5P.

Neil McMillan describes some inventive ways to use Drag & Drop.

Means and ends

“All kinds of effective training programmes may be based on simplifying assumptions which turn out to be or are known to be false.”

(Harris, 2000: 186)

The above is part of a footnote by Roy Harris (2000) on the subject of the relation between speech and writing and in particular a critique of phonics training.

Previously on this blog I have reported on studies from cognitive linguistics (or more specifically cognitive semantics as Frank Boers, 2021, puts it) which has shown the effectiveness of using “core” meanings of expressions in improving the learning of polysemous words:
“Verspoor and Lowie (2003) who found that students who were given a core meaning were better able to interpret extended meanings better than students who were given translated meanings of a more peripheral sense. This difference held when students were tested 2 weeks later.” (Funky images)

Geoff Hall (2012) begs to differ and claims that such learning gains are incidental to cognitive linguistic strategies rather than direct results of them. He outlines several problems with the assumptions of cognitive linguistics in this area of which some are:

“presumption of precise semantic meanings for individual vocabulary items” (Hall, 2012: 184) which needs to account for meaning in longer stretches of discourse.

“distinguishing core senses from peripheral senses” (Hall, 2012: 185) – Verspoor & Lowie (2003) define core meaning as literal but not necessarily concrete and not frequent. This last aspect of low frequency recognises that metaphorical meanings dominate in frequency over literal meanings which begs the question why teach less frequent core meanings?

Hall (2012) points out that the literal sentences used in the Verspoor & Lowie (2003) study are artificial e.g. “What is the bulge in your pocket?” (Verspoor & Lowie 2003: 561). Further outside of its context the sentences taken from the New York Times “make minimal sense or seem actually eccentric. A repeated example of a bulge as a basketball score is not comprehensible out of context” (Hall 2012: 185). The sentence being – “A breakaway dunk by Raheed Wallace ended a 12-0 run by the Bullets that gave them their 5-point bulge.” (Verspoor & Lowie 2003: 557)

“metaphor use is sporadic, one-shot rather than systematic and consistent” (Semino, 2008 as cited in Hall, 2012: 183)

“metaphor use in conversation is negotiated, emergent and highly contextualised” (Cameron & Deignan, 2006 as cited in Hall, 2012: 183)

Replications of Verspoor & Lowie (2003) have been done although they have been mixed and other studies looking at explaining links for semantic extensions (as opposed to core sense-based guessing of peripheral senses) have resulted in learning gains (see Lu et al., 2020). Notably Lu et al. (2020) found that cognitive linguistic enhancements to dictionary entries have some short term benefits over and above dictionary entries on their own.

Hall (2012) goes on to distinguish a weak claim and a strong claim from cognitive linguistics’ work. The weak claim is that “organising vocabulary learning in almost any way is better than not organising it at all” (Hall 2012: 189). The strong claim is that “cognitive linguistic approaches work because they are really telling us something about how the mind works” (Hall 2012: 189).

He then draws on Widdowson idea of linguistics applied where “the assumption is that the problem can be reformulated by the direct and unilateral application of concepts and terms deriving from linguistic enquiry itself.” which contrasts with applied linguistics where “recognition that linguistic insights are not self-evident but a matter of interpretation; that ideas and findings from linguistics can only be made relevant in reference to other perceptions and perspectives that define the context of the problem.” (Widdowson 2000: 5). As an aside this charge turns out to be double edged as Hall (2012) himself promotes the findings of corpus linguistics which Widdowson (2000) charged as being linguistics applied.

So what? The temptation to fall into the linguistics applied approach as a teacher when reading research needs to be noted and balanced by the fact as Hall (2012) says

“For everyday teaching, the means can justify the ends, this is not a problem, ‘it works’, so let’s use it where we can.”

(Hall, 2012: 191)

Do you agree?

Thanks for reading.


Boers, F. (2021). Evaluating Second Language Vocabulary and Grammar Instruction: A Synthesis of the Research on Teaching Words, Phrases, and Patterns. Routledge.

Hall, G. (2012). Revenons à nos moutons! Metaphor and idiom in EFL and ESL teaching and learning. In Burke et al. (Eds) Pedagogical stylistics. Current trends in language, literature and ELT. London: Continuum. 179-192.

Harris, R. (2000). Rethinking Writing. London, Athlone.

Lu, H., Zhang, Y., & Hao, X. (2020). The Contribution of Cognitive Linguistics to the Acquisition of Polysemy: A Dictionary Entry-Based Study with Chinese Learners of English. International Journal of Lexicography, 33(3), 306-336.

Verspoor, M. H., & Lowie, W. (2003). Making sense of polysemous words. Language Learning, 53, 547–586.

Widdowson, H. G. (2000). On the limitations of linguistics applied. Applied linguistics, 21(1), 3-25.

See also

Certainty and the threat of scepticism

Bill Louw – I intend to revive logical positivism

My last two posts (Locating collocation and Thin word lists and fat concordances) have used the ideas of Bill Louw, who kindly agreed to talk about his work. (Note if you are reading this from a mobile device you may need to refresh a few times to get all the audio to load)

The title of this post indicates his overall goal to revive logical positivism 1 (Schlick refers to Moritz Schlick one of the founders of logical positivism):

Revive logical positivism

He describes how he is doing this by merging Firthian ideas with logical positivism via the shared idea of context of situation (semantic prosody is a type of contextual meaning):

Hand over to science

Louw claims that another of the founders of logical positivism Rudolf Carnap was prevented from continuing his work on induction and probability when Carnap moved to the USA. Apparently this is evident from letters between Carnap and American philosopher Willard VO Quine. The significance of induction was highlighted by Bertrand Russell who stated that we can’t have science without induction. A very common representation of induction is the “All swans are white” example or more generally “All A’s are B’s” however Moritz Schlick saw induction differently:

Schlick on induction

Louw goes on to add how Schlick describes the relation between thinking and reality:

Schlick on thinking

The above clip is important to understand how Louw critiques the idea of collostruction. Collostruction is a way to measure collocation as it relates to grammar and Louw points out the weakness in such an approach in terms of the “given” i.e. reality/experience (Gries refers to Stefan Th. Gries inventor of collostruction):

Collostruction and the given

Another way Louw illustrates his project to revive logical positivism is how he derives the idea of subtext from Bertrand Russell’s idea of a perfectly logical natural language:

Subtext 1

He then describes how Firthian collocation needs to be brought in to augment subtext if languages like Chinese are to be studied:

Subtext 2

For some reason until I started reading Louw I did not quite get the idea of progressive delexicalisation – that words have lots of meanings that differ from their literal meanings. Previously I was only thinking of delexicalisation with respect to verbs such as ‘make’ and ‘do’. And further that many words we may think have mostly literal meanings in fact have mostly delexical meanings. Louw & Milojkovic (2016: 6) give the example of ‘ripple’, where only one form in ten occurred with ‘water’ and ‘surface’ using the Birmingham University corpus.

Louw describes how John Sinclair called this the blue-jeans principle:

Sinclair’s blue jeans

In the early 90’s Louw tested the idea of Sinclair’s that every word has at least two meanings:


The start of the 80’s recalls how Louw encountered the idea of a computer writing a dictionary:

Computer writing

Louw gives an example of how the computer can help using US presidents Trump & Biden:

Computer reassurance

Louw is keen to distinguish collocation from colligation:

Deceptive colligation

Louw admits his self-obsession on the idea of bringing together Firth and the Vienna school:

Firth & Vienna

Louw’s conviction of his project reflects the certainty of the logical positivists and despite that stream of thought no longer being the force it was Louw’s drive recalls Richard Rorty (without condoning the sexist language) as quoted in Goldsmith & Laks (2019: 443):

“The sort of optimistic faith which Russell and Carnap shared with Kant – that philosophy, its essence and right method discovered at last, had finally been placed upon the secure path of science – is not something to be mocked or deplored. Such optimism is possible only for men of high imagination and daring, the heroes of their times”

Thanks for reading & listening and many thanks to Bill Louw for taking time to chat with me.


  1. Wikipedia Logical Positivism


Goldsmith, J. A., & Laks, B. (2019). Battle in the mind fields. University of Chicago Press.

Louw, B., & Milojkovic, M. (2016). Corpus stylistics as contextual prosodic theory and subtext (Vol. 23). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Locating collocation

The Wikipedia entry on collocation says:
“..a collocation is a series of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance”. 1
This is the description of collocation that is linked to by leaders in corpus tools SketchEngine in their syllabus for a new online course.2

Note the statistical aspect in the definition “more often than would be expected by chance”.

The wiki entry then reads “There are about six main types of collocations: adjective + noun, noun + noun (such as collective nouns), verb + noun, adverb + adjective, verbs + prepositional phrase (phrasal verbs), and verb + adverb. “

Note the emphasis on the grammar aspect of collocation.

Bill Louw would place this wiki definition (alongside Goran Kjellmer’s definition of collocation – ‘sequence of words that occurs more than once in identical form…and which is grammatically well structured’) at the bottom of the diagram below:

(Louw & Milojkovic 2016: 53)

The diagram shows two dimensions, the vertical dimension is how restrictive a view of collocation is with the most restrictive at the bottom and the least at the top. The horizontal dimension shows how much of the language a view of collocation covers, the top bulb of the diagram is larger than the bottom bulb.

Louw & Milojkovic (2016) argue that the link of collocation to context of situation is of great importance in applications of corpora in literature studies i.e. corpus stylistics.

Context of situation was illustrated by Firth in the following way:

“In his article ‘Personality and language in context’ Firth offers us what he calls a typical Cockney event in ‘one brief sentence’.
‘Ahng gunna gi’ wun fer Ber’. (I’m going to get one for Bert)
What is the minimum number of participants? Three? Four? Where might it happen? In a pub? Where is Bert? Outside? Or playing darts? What are the relevant objects? What is the effect of the sentence? ‘Obvious!’ you say. So is the convenience of the schematic construct called ‘context of situation’. It makes sure of the sociological component.” (Firth 1957: 182 as quoted in Louw & Milojkovic, 2016:61, emphasis added)

Awareness of the importance of context of situation is reflected in the following small Twitter poll where a majority of the 24 respondents opted for “meanings have words” over “words have meanings”:

Twitter poll

Although Louw concedes a view of collocation such as ngrams can reveal contexts of situation, opportunities to do so will be much rarer than if collocation is located near the top of the diagram – “abstracted at the level of syntax” as Firth put it.

Context of situation is also of great importance in language teaching and learning. For example task based teaching can be said to lay great weight on context of situation.

As Louw & Milojkovic (2016:26) put it :

“The closer collocation’s classifications are to context of situation, the more successful and enduring will be the approach of the scholars who placed them there. The more the term is constrained by the notion of language ‘levels’ and the linearity and other constraints of syntax, the less such classifications and the theories perched upon them are likely to endure. The reason for this is, as we shall see, that collocation takes us directly to situational meaning and acts as what Sinclair refers to as the ‘control mechanism’ for meaning”

Thanks for reading.


  1. Wikipedia Collocation
  2. Boot Camp online


Louw, B., & Milojkovic, M. (2016). Corpus stylistics as contextual prosodic theory and subtext (Vol. 23). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Thin word lists and fat concordances

One of the aspects of the proposed changes in the GCSE modern foreign language, MFL, syllabus in the UK is the use of corpus derived word lists 1. Distribution of words when counted follow a power law. A common power law is Pareto in economics – “Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population” 2 . Similarly in any piece of text a large percentage of it comes from a relatively small amount of words – the top 100 words in English accounts for 50% of any text. The MFL review wants to use wordlists of the most frequent 2000 words – which would cover about 80% of any text.

Currently the MFL syllabus is topic based, so one issue here is that most words one can use for any particular topic will be limited to that topic. Or another way to say it is that although the word may be frequent within a topic it won’t have range and appear in other topics. The NCELP, National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy in Vocabulary lists: Rationales and Uses writes “For example, many of the words for pets or hobbies will be low frequency words which are not useful beyond those particular topics. ” 3

There have been many critics of this wordlist driven proposal who have pointed out various weaknesses, see – AQA Exam board 4, ASCL, Association of School and College Leaders 5, Transform MFL 6 , Linguistics in MFL Project 7.

I want to take a different tack and argue that the wordlist driven approach is a half-hearted version of what could be a full blooded corpus approach to vocabulary content.

Corpus stylist Bill Louw writes that he “has become suspicious of decontextualised frequency lists” (Louw & Milojkovi, 2016:32). He calls such lists thin lists because they tend to cover things rather than events (Louw 2010). Events are states of affairs, what one of the originaters of the notion of meaning by collocation JR Firth has called context of situations. Looking at collocates of things in concordance lines allows us to “chunk the context of situation and culture into facts” (Louw 2010).

A concordance line brings together and displays instances of use of a particular word from the widely disparate contexts in which it occurs. To cover events one would need to examine collocates in concordances hence the term fat concordances.

The most frequent words are often bleached out of their literal meanings. Compare the word “take” on its own, most people would think of the meanings of “the act of receiving, picking up or even stealing” (Louw & Milojkovi, 2016:5), to a collocation such as “take place”, we see that the meaning here is distant from the literal meaning of “take” 8. When the NCELP say “Very high frequency words often have multiple meanings.” they are describing the notion of delexicalisation.

To demonstrate context of situation and context of culture, reproduced below is corpus linguist John Sinclair’s PhraseBite pamphlet which is reproduced in Louw (2008):

When she was- – – – – Phrasebite© John Sinclair, 2006.

  1. The first grammatical collocate of when is she
  2. The first grammatical collocate of when she is was
  3. The vocabulary collocates of when she was are hair-raising. On the first page:
    diagnosed, pregnant, divorced, raped, assaulted, attacked
    The diagnoses are not good, the pregnancies are all problematic.
  4. Select one that looks neutral: approached
  5. Look at the concordance, first page.
  6. Nos 1, 4, 5, 8,10 are of unpleasant physical attacks
  7. Nos 2, 3, 6, 7, 9 are of excellent opportunities
  8. How can you tell the difference?
  9. the nasties are all of people out and about, while the nice ones are of people working somewhere.
  10. Get wider cotext and look at verb tenses in front of citation.
  11. In all the nasties the verb is past progressive, setting a foreground for the approach.
  12. In the nice ones, the verb is non-progressive, either simple past or past-in-past.

Data for para 4 above.
(1) walking in Burnfield Road , Mansewood , when she was approached by a man who grabbed her bag
(2) teamed up with her mother in business when she was approached by Neiman Marcus , the department store
(3) resolved itself after a few months , when she was approached by Breege Keenan , a nun who
(4) Bridge Road close to the Causeway Hospital when she was approached by three men who attacked her
(5) Drive , off Saughton Mains Street , when she was approached by a man . He began talking the original
(6) film of The Stepford Wives when she was approached by producer Scott Rudin to star as
(7) bony. ‘ ‘ Kidd was just 15 when she was approached to be a model . Posing on
(8) near her home with an 11-year-old friend when she was approached by the fiend . The man
(9) finished a storming set of jazz standards when she was approached by SIR SEAN CONNERY . And she
(10) on Douglas Street in Cork city centre when she was approached by the pervert . The man persuaded

As Louw (2008) puts it:

“The power of this publication, coming as it did so close to Sinclair’s death, is to be found in the detail of his method. By beginning with a single word, she, from the whole of the Bank of English, Sinclair simply requests the most frequent collocate from the Bank of English (approximately 500 million words of running text). The computer provides it: when. The results are then merged: when+she. A new search is initiated for the most frequent collocate of this two-word phrase. The computer provides it: was. The concordances are scrutinized and cultural insights are gathered.”

The ASCL quotes applied linguist Vivian Cook:

“While word frequency has some relevance to teaching, other factors are also important, such as the ease with which the meaning of an item can be demonstrated (’blue’ is easier to explain than ‘local’) and its appropriateness for what pupils want to say (‘plane’ is more useful than ‘system’ if you want to travel)”

Blue is easier to explain than local because most collocates of blue are its literal colour meaning e.g. “blue eyes”. Yet consider this from a children’s corpus:

“There, I feel better. I’ve been needing a good cry for some time, and
now I shall be all right. Never mind it, Polly, I’m nervous and tired;
I’ve danced too much lately, and dyspepsia makes me blue;” and Fanny
wiped her eyes and laughed.” (An Old-fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott)

So while it is true that blue is often associated with color, it also associates with mental states where the colour meaning is delexicalised, or washed out.

To conclude, the MFL proposal on using corpus derived word lists to drive content is not taking full advantage of corpora. They are promoting thin wordlists when they could also be promoting fat concordances.

Thanks for reading.


  1. MFL consultation –
  2. Pareto –
  3. NCELP –
  4. AQA –
  5. ASCL –
  6. Transform MFl –
  7. Linguistics in MFL Project –
  8. Take place –


Louw, B. (2008). Consolidating empirical method in data-assisted stylistics. Directions in Empirical Literary Studies: In Honor of Willie Van Peer, 5, 243.

Louw, B. (2010). Collocation as instrumentation for meaning: a scientific fact. In Literary education and digital learning: methods and technologies for humanities studies (pp. 79-101). IGI Global.

Louw, B., & Milojkovic, M. (2016). Corpus stylistics as contextual prosodic theory and subtext (Vol. 23). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Picture labelling with Hot Potatoes

This post is adding to what has been written already on how to do picture labelling exercises with Hot Potatotes. It assumes you know how to make a JCloze exercise.

The following video shows a sample of my current favourite kind of exercise to make with Hot Spuds:

The maker of the software has called this Smart positioning or How to overlay drop down lists on a background picture.

You can use the following html code to copy paste into a JCloze exercise, it creates a picture labelling of 6 terms.

<table style="border-style: solid; border-width: 0px;  width: 640px; "><tbody>
<td style=""height: 80px; text-align:right; ">Label 1</td>
<td style="width: 480px; height:430px;" rowspan="3" ><img src="name-of-image" alt="name-of-image" title="image-title" width="416" height="352" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"/></td>
<td style="height: 80px; text-align:left; ">Label 2</td>
<td style="height: 80px; text-align:right; ">Label 3</td>

<td style="height: 80px; text-align:left; ">Label 4</td>
<td style="height: 80px; text-align:right; ">Label 5</td>

<td style="height: 80px; text-align:left; ">Label 6</td>

If you want to label 8 terms just add another row and increase rowspan to 4. You will need to adjust image dimensions appropriately depending on your picture.

The following 2 videos details how I go about cropping the image using screenshotting and picture editing to add arrows on OSX, you can find similar tools for your systems:

You may well have to go back to your picture editing software to modify your image until you are satisified that the arrows match up with the drop down boxes. You can also try to change the height: 80px for the cell that is not aligned but I just fiddle with the image editing program.

The following code is to make the table responsive i.e. table will wrap around when displayed on phones:

<div style="overflow-x:auto;">
//put in the table code here//

Hope this post is of help as information on creating such an exercise is hard to find now on the web. Happy to take questions.

Create your own interactive transcript

Interative transcripts are where text appears next to a video or audio and the words being spoken are highlighted on the text as the video or audio plays.

This video-post is about making your own. I assume you 1) have your own website, 2) have already transcribed your media and 3) use OSX Mac or Linux.

The programs in order of use are – Gentle forced aligner (, Hyperaudio convertor ( and Hyperaudio Lite (

Note that if you don’t use OSX/Linux then, in order to get an appropriate file to feed into the Hyperaudio convertor, you can use one of the online transcription services that have free minutes such as Maestra (

Or there is an online demo of the Gentle forced aligner though not sure what file size limit is for that.

I apologise for the noise that appears later in the video! Thanks for watching and don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

Funky images

In my last post one of the comments (by nmwhiteport) was skeptical about the notion of core meaning of words as I used it to describe the verbs make and do in Collocations need not be arbitrary. One issue here is how to define core (of which the definitions I used may be debatable) and the other is even if people agree on definitions of core meaning is it more effective than learning words by memorisation?

Taking the first issue, Verspoor & Lowie (2003) give one definition of core (taken from a dictionary) as :

“The core meaning is the one that represents the most literal sense that the word has in modern usage. This is not necessarily the same as the oldest meaning, because word meanings change over time. Nor is it necessarily the most frequent meaning, because figurative senses are sometimes the most frequent. It is the meaning accepted by native speakers as the one that is most established as literal and central.”

Verspoor & Lowie, 2003: 555

Note that Tyler & Evans (2003) give a more rigorous approach in identifying what they refer to as primary sense.

Using the Verspoor & Lowie (2003) definition one can say the literal meaning of make is to create something new from nothing and that of do is to execute an activity. A diagram could be presented to illustrate this over time:

(Tsai, 2014: 94)
(Tsai, 2014: 94)

Perhaps nmwhiteport’s puzzle loving student would be less likely to produce ‘make a crossword’ having seen the above diagrams and noted how make involves “a nothing to a something” compared to do which has a “something to a samething”?

One clue to the second issue of the efficacy of core meaning is seen in Verspoor and Lowie (2003) who found that students who were given a core meaning were better able to interpret extended meanings better than students who were given translated meanings of a more peripheral sense. This difference held when students were tested 2 weeks later.

Similarly when lexical items overlap as described in the last post with the example of high and tall, Beréndi, Csábi & Kövesces (2008), provided central senses of hold and keep to one group of students (key idea of hand in hold and control in keep) and asked another group of students to translate various hold and keep sentences from English into Hungarian. The first group of students who got the core meanings did better than the second group in both immediate and delayed post-tests.

A core meaning approach has been used with prepositions (Tyler & Evans, 2004), phrasal verbs (Condon & Kelly, 2002, as cited in Tyler, 2012) and article use (Thu, H. N., & Huong, N. T., 2005).

One interesting thing to note is that the addition of images in cognitive linguistics studies seem to be very helpful in learning performance. Hence I have started a database of images that could be useful in language teaching, mainly for English but other languages can be added. So please do let me know or do share link with people who may be interested.


Beréndi, M., Csábi, S., & Kövecses, Z. (2008). Using conceptual metaphors and metonymies in vocabulary teaching. In F. Boers & S. Lindstromberg (Eds.), Cognitive linguistic approaches to teaching vocabulary and phraseology (pp. 65–100). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Thu, H. N., & Huong, N. T. (2005). Vietnamese learners mastering English articles (Published doctoral dissertation).

Tsai, M. H. (2014). Usage-based cognitive semantics in L2 collocation: A microgenetic analysis of EFL students’ collocational knowledge (Unpublished doctoral dissertation).

Tyler, A. (2012). Cognitive linguistics and second language learning: Theoretical basics and experimental evidence. Routledge.

Tyler, A., & Evans, V. (2003). The semantics of English prepositions: Spatial scenes, embodied meaning and cognition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Verspoor, M. H., & Lowie, W. (2003). Making sense of polysemous words. Language Learning, 53, 547–586.

Why the pineapple?

This post can be considered a follow on from the post Collocations need not be arbitrary.

One response that proponents of the lexical approach in language teaching could make to the issue of looking at meanings and collocations is simply to define collocation as one level of meaning. John Firth, as cited by Joseph (2003), put it thus:

“The statement of meaning by collocation and various collocabilities does not involve the definition of word meaning by means of further sentences in shifted terms. Meaning by collocation is an abstraction at the syntagmatic level and is not directly concerned with the conceptual or idea approach to the meaning of words. One of the meanings of night is its collocability with dark, and of dark, of course, collocation with night.”

Joseph, 2003: 130

Defining collocations as one level of meaning is reasonable but it does not provide an explanation that may be pedagogically useful. Cognitive linguistics claims to provide such a use.

Let’s take the question of the difference between choosing highest mountain and tallest mountain that arose in a class recently. One explanation is based on the distribution of what collocates with tall – that is living things (tall man, tall tree) and man made objects (tall building, tall pole). Tall tends not to collocate with natural objects such as mountains.

That is where a Firthian (and by consequence a lexical) approach stops. A cognitive analysis by Dirven and Taylor (1988) showed that general cognition (in the form of concepts) can explain further.

Highest mountain is preferred as the concept HIGH includes both a meaning of vertical position (positional meaning) as well as vertical length (extensional meaning) whereas the concept TALL only includes the meaning of vertical length. So although you can find tallest mountain people often think of being at the top of a mountain hence the vertical position is emphasised rather than vertical length (see figure below):

Figure 1. after Dirven & Taylor, 1988: 386

Thanks for reading. And do have a read of a less favourable view of cognitive linguistics at a recent Geoff Jordan blog Anybody seen a pineapple?


Marc Jones writes about cueing as a way to learn chunks Pinneapples?


Dirven, R., & Taylor, J. R. (1988). The conceptualisation of vertical space in English: The case of tall. In Topics in cognitive linguistics, B. Rudzka-Ostyn (ed), 379. John Benjamins.

Joseph, J. (2003). Rethinking linguistic creativity. In Rethinking Linguistics, H. Davis & T.J. Taylor (eds), 121–150. London: Routledge.