Building your own corpus – using general English lexis

I was reading a post on money idioms by Martin Sketchley/ @ELTExperiences and was reminded that a lot of general English lexis and topics which crop up in coursebooks can be a good way into any specialised corpus you build. Usually I work with a single text with my class and then use any analysis from my corpus to focus on specific lexis, i.e. multi-media lexis. What you can also do is look at general English words, in this post I will look at the words – pay, payments, money, cost, costs, cheap, cheaper.

Note you can use the asterisk * wildcard to search for all forms of words you are interested in. e.g. pay*, cost* and cheap*.

Pay, payments, money, cost, costs, cheap and cheaper return 17, 8, 16, 10,10, 11 and 7 hits respectively, the following is an example of the pay concordance lines:


There is an option in Tool Preferences>Category>Concordance to Hide search term in KWIC display which will take out your word and replace it with asterisks.e.g. for the payments concordance lines:


You would then give out the concordances in 7 groups along with the 7 missing words and ask your students to fill in the gaps. It’s a good idea to examine your concordance lines in case of co-text that may be too difficult or needs explaining.

If students have not seen concordance lines they should be exposed to them beforehand.

So for example take a line from each concordance group:

1. Yes, thats right, IE7 users visiting Kogan will pay more than those using a modern web browser. Or
2. H.264 support to decode video. That means royalty payments are covered by hardware makers, not Mozil
3. lla) that Google is willing to spend that kind of money just to keep Microsoft from starting a partn
4.numbers, the Google Maps API will soon be another cost to factor into the plan. And that may be enou
5. some developers were worried about the potential costs. The vast majority of maps hackers and casua
6.ep prices for all smart shoppers down. Sure its a cheap, attention-getting gimmick, but who hasnt wa
7.t if its just backups you want, clearly there are cheaper alternatives. The real appeal of Cloud Dri

and ask students to try to work out the context in terms of the topic text, what comes before fragment, what comes after. Note if you want to expand the range of the sentence extract adjust the Search Window Size, the default is set to 50 characters to the left and right of the search word.

After the gap filling exercise, you divide students into seven groups and ask each group to examine one set of concordance lines for any patterns that they notice.

There is plenty of scope to use general English in terms of grammatical forms as well which I’ll talk about in another post.

Thanks for reading.

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