Lifelong Learner Challenge – Reading


September 12, 2011 by k. liz

So, just last week I posted about a challenge that I am giving myself to try to actively embrace lifelong learning. My Monday posts for the next six weeks will be about something that I am reading/have read and how I am learning from it. Now, I had hoped to have a book finished to share with you, but as it would be I am caught up in a thriller, and haven’t quite finished it, though I do believe it is a good learning experience. For instance, had you realized that the word sans has become so commonplace that we can use it in our general English usage sans dictionary or quotation marks? Yeah, so . . . something else I’ve been reading. 🙂

Well, tonight I just finished up my first reading assignment for my Applied Linguistic Master Class. I decided to back and read a couple of the non-assigned pages that had interesting tid-bits on them. So – here is my report from

Computers and Linguistics and Using Computers to Study Words

these articles are located on pg. 24 and pg. 61 of Finegan’s Language: Its Structure and Use 5th Edition. 

In summary, both of these articles were discussing ways that people can use computers as tools when studying languages. It is amazing to see the advances that have been made in using computers to analyze and therefore make very measured decisions regarding teaching and/or learning based on computer research in linguistics. As Computers and Linguistics put it,

To understand how computers can test theories of language, it’s helpful to view linguistics as an endeavor to make explicit exactly what it is that speakers implicitly know about their language.

Even with all of the advances in technology in our world, scientists are still not happy with where they are on speech recognition and interpretation software. This makes me wonder if part of that is because speech is such a personal thing. Your speech, your words, your accent, your style are all connected to who you are. The way I like to view linguistics is the beautiful meeting of science and art. You cannot tear art away from language – look at poems, songs, love letters . . . but at the same time, there is no language that is not scientifically classified, categorized, analyzed. How awesome is this field?!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Scientists have been working to create programs and software that will further assist teachers (like myself) and others working with language-learners (or other linguistics fields, such as forensic linguistics) to study and grow in our knowledge of language itself so that informed decisions and steps can be taken to benefit everyone involved.

One such program that is mentioned in Using Computers to Study Words is the Brown Corpus. This Corpus is from back in the 1950s-1960s, but it contains nearly 1 million words and over 500 texts. The purpose of the Brown Corpus is to allow people to search words and find their frequency as well as the genres they appear in. Most people I’m sure would wonder what good this would do them, but I see it as a tool for finding and teaching collocations (words that often appear together, such as get off) and also for finding what types of words certain genres contain the most of. Now, I spent just a little bit of time trying to find a good corpus tonight to link here so you could go and check it out yourself, but I have limited time and I couldn’t find an easily manageable one. So, that might be a later post.

So, to sum up, computers can be awesome tools for analyzing language, and that can be helpful for . . . well, for a lot of things – writers, speakers, teachers, students . . . all of these can benefit from a tool that would allow them to view, analyze and manage language easily. If there was a Turkish corpus that I could find and use, I’d be writing down my list of 100 most used vocabulary words to start memorizing!!

Thanks for bearing with me!

If you’d like to take part in my challenge, just leave a comment with a link to your post on what you’ve been reading, and I’ll link it here! 


One thought on “Lifelong Learner Challenge – Reading

  1. Ted Barker says:

    To adapt a phrase, “May you have ‘learning assignments’ as long as you have life and may you have life until you learning assignments are completed.


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