Summer School 2011 - ACORN Aston Corpus Network

Report on 3rd Aston Corpus Summer School (Aug 1st-5th 2011) - Ramesh Krishnamurthy
It takes the cooperation of a wide range of people and organizations to make any event successful, so we
are very grateful to the following for their assistance at various stages of the planning and running of the 2011
Summer School: Dr Judith Baxter, Claire Richardson (and CELCA staff and students; for allowing us to use
NX06A/B and NX16 - the Cadbury Room - for the week), Oz Powles, Hayley Jones, Dave Pollard, Klaus Thiele,
Mingqing Jia, and Emma Cook (LSS); Paul Neale (Finance); Rob Poole (and others in ISA); Gill Ranson (ELT,
Cambridge University Press); Baalmail, corpora-list, Linguist list, and Martin Wynne (on behalf of CLARIN-UK);
Catering@Aston; Conference Aston, Campanile, and other local hotels; the Sack of Potatoes; Barajee (Broad
Street), Red & Hot (Hurst Street) and Miyako Teppanyaki (Arcadian Centre).
Once again, we had an excellent and diverse group of international academic session tutors: Ramesh
Krishnamurthy (Aston), Dr Carola Trips (Mannheim), Dr Achim Stein (Stuttgart), Dr Mike Scott (Aston), Philip
King (Aston), Dr Iztok Kosem (Trojina, Ljubljana), Dr Patricia Rodríguez-Inés (Barcelona), Dr Sylvia Jaworska
(London), Dr Veronika Koller (Lancaster), Klaus Thiele (Aston), Dr Astrid Ensslin (Bangor), and Dr Cem Can
(Cukurova) – a former tutee, who kindly delivered his session via Elluminate software (thanks to Dave Pollard),
because his institutional responsibilities prevented him from leaving Turkey.
The participants represented many countries of origin: Saudi Arabia (2), Italy (5), UK (2), Turkey (5), China (2),
Spain (2), Netherlands (1), Germany (1), South Africa (2), Venezuela (1), Greece (2), Japan (1), Poland (2); and a
range of experience, skills, and interests (including language teachers, translators, researchers, academics and
language professionals, several PhD students, 2 colleagues from the GeWiss project, and one undergraduate).
The content sessions were all held in the LSS computer labs NX06A/B, where (despite the heat and humidity
which was only partly mitigated by electric desk fans) every day between 10am and 5pm a variety of topics
were discussed and various software programmes were introduced: Introduction to Corpus Linguistics
(history, principles, applications, using ACORN for pedagogy, BYU corpora for language description and
reference, and AntConc to analyse your own data); Diachronic Corpora (for historical studies in English and
French, using syntactic annotation, POS-tagged and parsed corpora, CorpusSearch, TIGERSearch, and Penn
TreeBanks); Keywords (using Wordsmith Tools) and Literary Studies (Dickens, Austen); Parallel Corpora (using
MultiConcord) and Web Resources for Translation Studies; English for Academic Purposes and Lexicography
(using SketchEngine); Corpora for Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) applied to various topics (using AntConc,
WordSmith Tools, etc) - Language and Gender, Feminism (UK/Germany; UK/USA), Politics, Racism, Climate
Change, Business Discourse; Spoken Language Corpora to study Academic Discourse (GeWiss project; using
GAT notation and Exmaralda), and comparing Academic Corpus with an IT Corpus in the study of Metaphors;
Corpora and Pedagogy - using ACORN to improve students’ Academic Writing; the WHiG project - "What is
Hard In German"; Learner Corpora (using the International Corpus of Learner English). In addition to the
scheduled programme, Siân Alsop (a PhD student at Coventry University) gave a report on the Engineering
Lecture Corpus (ELC) project, and Amelia Burns (Bari University) issued a request for contributions to the
Journal of Cultural Mediation.
The coffee breaks and lunches took place in NX16, the Cadbury Room. As well as the academic programme,
participants took part in an informal social programme in the evenings, the British Pub (represented by the
Sack of Potatoes) walking through different parts of the city to enjoy Indian and Chinese food (thanks to Yu
Bai), and a spectacular Japanese meal at Miyako Teppanyaki!
The initial feedback was extremely positive: “brilliant sessions / wonderful corpus summer school / proved
very useful for me / helpful cooperation / valuable opportunity / a wonderful week / a completely invigorating
week / a wonderful experience and opportunity / a truly enjoyable week / I’ve enjoyed every moment /
exciting, stimulating, informative, and friendly / new wonderful things I’ve learnt from this wonderful
experience / very much enjoyed the seminars / hemos aprendido mucho y le hemos pasado muy bien / thanks
for all the enthusiasm you’ve given me / I really have taken much from the course / the best corpus linguistics
all over the world”.
I am now looking at the detailed feedback, and engaging in discussions with participants about how to turn
the ideas they developed during the week into future collaborative projects. Several immediate impacts can
be reported (i.e within one week!):
a) I'm currently working on an assignment about research methods… there was something missing. Helen
asked me to look for patterns, and I intended to do this manually. However, the course has opened my eyes to
corpus tools which I never thought I would utilize at this early stage of analysis.
b) I have decided to use corpora from now on to help me with collocation, as I have been suffering from the
lack of examples in Longman Dictionary, which I usually consult when I write.
c) Thank you for probably the most amazing week in my academic life. Just simple evidence for impact: day
after return, we were invited to give two speeches about what we've learnt (i) at a meeting of German
Linguistics Group at the University (in September) (ii) at a convention of Language Commission of Wroclaw
Scientific Society (in October).
d) I have no doubt that our discussions will continue online and we will build new partnerships for future
e) I feel that with CL I am onto something really exciting. I also know for a fact that very few secondary-school
teachers (in the Netherlands) have any notion of CL as a branch of linguistics let alone of its applications and
classroom potential – so there is still an incredible amount of work to do! I plan to design classroom materials
and carry out some action research using corpora in my classes this semester and then write up a short,
introductory article.
f) I'm putting together ideas and information on the Wipers Times project we discussed. As soon as I have got
something ready, I'll send it to you.
g) Please find attached a draft proposal for our joint project to create a corpus of academic book reviews.
Young researchers are encouraged to write book reviews for academic journals as a way of training to write
academic papers themselves. However, they frequently have no previous training on how to write a review,
and struggle to find the right style, register, expressions, etc, especially if English is not their mother tongue.
Nowadays, research evaluation standards are high and heavily based on the amount and quality of
publications, which include reviews. Many leading journals are published in English, which means that not only
the content, but the language used has to be correct. One of the things to decide is whether to restrict the
corpus to English, or to design the project to allow for the addition of other languages in the future. I have
looked at the Centre for Language Education Research at Aston (CLERA) website:
( and started to look
at funding opportunities. I’m not eligible to apply to AHRC because applicants need to belong to an HEI or
Independent Research Organisation in UK.
h) I wanted to understand how corpora could be used in my work in language assessment. I came away really
satisfied with what I had learned, and understanding the variety of ways that corpora can be used, particularly
on many of the projects I am working on. I didn't expect to be able to take so much from a very niche
academic context and work it into a mainstream business context. My boss was really excited by the links I
was able to draw between the course work and our future projects. All thanks to what I learned from the
summer school.
(picture courtesy of Dr Amelia Burns)