Introducing Challenge Panel Member: John Flowerdew

Our latest Challenge Panel introduction comes from Professor John Flowerdew via the City University of Hong Kong. Read his brief autobiography below.

John_FlowerdewThe person who introduced me to corpus linguistics was the sadly departed John Sinclair of Birmingham University and later the Tuscan Word Centre, a man who can be considered a doyen of corpus linguistics. John visited the Middle-Eastern university where I was working, Sultan Qaboos University, Sultanate of Oman, in the mid-1980s, and introduced me and my colleagues to corpus linguistics. Following this visit, a very talented technician there, David Poulton, designed a concordancer for our use (concordancers were not generally available at the time) and I started to do concordancing work with the academic discourse that students at Sultan Qaboos University were having to grapple with. We used the corpus to develop English for Academic Purposes teaching materials, which were quite successful. I reported on that project in one of my first papers, Concordancing as a tool in course design (Flowerdew, 1993). At the same time, I became very interested in definitions and published a series of papers on that topic, including one in Applied Linguistics, entitled Definitions in science lectures (Flowerdew, 1992).

At the beginning of the 1990s I moved to City University of Hong Kong and continued to work in academic discourse, but also became interested in the possibilities of corpus-based work in critical discourse analysis. Chris Patten became the last British Governor of Hong Kong at this time and he had a very powerful rhetorical style which I hope I was able to capture through the use of corpus tools based on a corpus of his speeches and other public pronouncements that I collected (in addition to interviews with him and his advisers and media data). I continued with this work after the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain to China, looking at the discourse surrounding the first Hong Kong Chief Executive (roughly equivalent to Governor). Most of this work is collected in my book Critical discourse Analysis in historiography (Flowerdew, 2013).

During all of my time working in academic discourse I have been interested in a particular type of abstract nouns, which I call signalling nouns, and which have very important discourse properties, words like problem, situation, result, importance, case, thing, etc.. I have spent several years working with a corpus of lectures, textbook chapters and research articles across disciplines on these nouns and my book on this topic, with Richard W. Forest, will be Signalling nouns in English: a corpus-based discourse approach (Flowerdew and Forest, in press).

As one of my contributions to CASS I am organising a one-day corpus workshop at my university in Hong Kong with colleagues from Lancaster to precede the Second Asia Pacific Corpus Linguistics Conference (APCLC 2014). The response has been great and we are likely to have to close the registration, which has to be capped at 80.

Flowerdew, J. (1992). Definitions in science lectures. Applied Linguistics, 13(2), 202-221.

Flowerdew, J. (1993). Concordancing as a tool in course design. System, 21(2), 231-244. Reprinted in Ghadessy, M., Henry, A. & Roseberry, R.L.(2001). Small corpus studies and ELT: Theory and practice. (pp. 71-92). Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins.

Flowerdew, J. (2012). Critical discourse analysis in historiography: The Case of Hong Kong’s evolving political identity. Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan.

Flowerdew, J. and Forest, R. W. (in press). Signalling nouns in discourse: a corpus-based discourse approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to the Challenge Panel page to see profiles, and check back soon for updates.

Introducing Challenge Panel Member: Alice Deignan

Our latest Challenge Panel introduction comes from Professor Alice Deignan via the University of Leeds. Read her brief autobiography below.


I am Professor of Applied Linguistics in the School of Education, University of Leeds, UK. I come from a language teaching background and many of my current students are language teachers. My interest in corpora dates back to my days as an MA student at Birmingham University where I was introduced to the Cobuild project in corpus lexicography. I was fascinated by the possibilities that corpus work opened up, and when I finished my MA, I joined the project as a lexicographer. I later worked for the project as a consultant on pragmatics and then as an author. Around the same time, I also became very interested in metaphors and other kinds of figurative language, partly because of the difficulties that my students had with this kind of expression.

I studied part time for a PhD, in which I used the Bank of English at Cobuild to explore the predictions that Conceptual Metaphor Theory makes for language patterns. I saw that the corpus could be cherry-picked to select examples that were completely consistent with the theory. However as a lexicographer I’d been trained to analyse entire concordances, or very large random samples of them, and to account for all the data. I was a huge fan of Conceptual Metaphor Theory so I was surprised to find that this rigorous analysis turned up patterns in the corpus that were not predicted by the theory, and needed other explanations. I later wrote up my findings as a book ‘Metaphor and Corpus Linguistics’ (Benjamins 2005).

More recently, I have become very interested in variations in figurative language across different genres and registers, and together with Jeannette Littlemore and Elena Semino wrote ‘Figurative Language, Genre and Register’ (Cambridge University Press, 2013). One of my studies for the book compared figurative language use in science research articles with their popularisations. This has led me to a broader interest in the language of science, especially as experienced by young people, an issue that has societal importance well beyond theories of language use. I am currently exploring this area with colleagues who work with secondary school pupils. I am also exploring the connections between collocation and different kinds of and degrees of metaphoricity.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to the Challenge Panel page to see profiles, and check back soon for updates.

Feature Challenge Panel Member: Yukio Tono

For this week’s Challenge Panel introduction, we are proud to feature Professor Yukio Tono, who joins us from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Read his brief autobiography below.

Img063I am a professor in corpus linguistics at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan. I finished my PhD at Lancaster University under the supervision of Tony McEnery in 2002. Before that, I was teaching at a national university in Tokyo for 8 years. After coming back from Lancaster in 2001, I taught at a private university for six years, and then moved to TUFS. I have been teaching English for more than 25 years.

My research interest is in the intersection of corpus linguistics and foreign language learning and second language acquisition. Especially I am interested in the acquisition of L2 vocabulary knowledge. Methodologically I use corpus-based designs involving multiple variables a lot. I am very keen to learn and employ new statistical techniques to examine cause-effect relationship between multiple variables as well as summarization (clustering, classification, etc.) of large quantity of data using machine learning.

My background is language teaching and not NLP, but I have been working with people with NLP or computational linguistics backgrounds intensively. I believe that collaboration between NLP and language learning/teaching would be a very fruitful area of applications for both parties.

I wrote several books, including Corpus-Based Language Studies, co-authored with Tony McEnery and Richard Xiao (Routledge, 2006), Frequency Dictionary of Japanese, co-authored with Makoto Yamazaki and Kikuo Maekawa (Routledge, 2012), Developmental and Crosslinguistic Perspectives in Learner Corpus Research, co-edited by Yuji Kawaguchi and Makoto Minegishi (John Benjamins, 2012) and Research into Dictionary Use in the Context of Foreign Language Learning (Max Niemeyer, 2001). I also edited a few bilingual learner’s dictionaries, such as the ACE-CROWN English-Japanese Dictionary (Sanseido, 2010), the Shogakukan’s PROGRESSIVE English-Japanese Dictionary (Shogakukan, 2012).

I have served as President of Asian Association for Lexicography (ASIALEX) for two years (2011-2013) and now the editor-in-chief of a new journal LEXICOGRAPHY – Journal of ASIALEX (Springer). I also serve as editorial board members for several journals such as Corpora (Edinburgh University Press), International Journal of Learner Corpus Research (John Benjamins), International Journal of Lexicography (OUP). I have been a leader of a large government-funded projects called the CEFR-J, in which we have adapted the CEFR for English language teaching in Japan, and prepare the reference level description using learner corpora and textbook corpora.

I do hope that I can make a contribution to this CASS Challenge Panel, which seems to be a great opportunity to find some hidden treasure on this crossroad of different disciplines in social sciences.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to the Challenge Panel page to see profiles, and check back soon for updates.

A criminologist’s introduction to AntConc and concordance analysis

My name is Julian Hargreaves ( and I’m a newcomer to these parts: a non-linguist and an outsider. Okay, the last bit is a slight exaggeration. I’m a member of the CASS Challenge Panel (an advisory board within CASS) representing post-graduate students from disciplines other than linguistics. I’m also a PhD student at the Lancaster University Law School where my research employs a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to study criminology, hate crime, British Muslim communities, and the concept of Islamophobia.

Recently, thanks to Professor Tony McEnery and the CASS team, I was introduced to some research tools for linguistics: a piece of software called AntConc and a research method known as concordance analysis. Before the linguistic experts amongst you start groaning, a quick health warning: I’m afraid what follows here may be of little use to those familiar with these basic tools. However, it is hoped that newcomers and non-linguists will be persuaded to approach, without anxiety, both the software and the research methods described below.

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Feature Challenge Panel Member: Michael Barlow

This week, we’re very pleased to feature Michael Barlow, our esteemed Challenge Panel Member from the University of Auckland. 


Michael Barlow received his PhD in Linguistics from Stanford University. He is currently Associate Professor in the Applied Language Studies and Linguistics Department at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and divides his time between Auckland and Houston in the United States. Dr. Barlow has created several text analysis programs including concordancers MonoConc and ParaConc and a collocation extraction program called Collocate. Recently, he has been working a software program, WordSkew, which links concordance data to the position of words or phrases within textual units such as sentences and paragraphs.

One strand of recent research involves examining aspects of the tension between the individual and the group with respect to the locus of linguistic investigations. There are obvious forces pushing studies at the group level: the use of corpora representing the language of a group of speakers or writers; the notion of language as social behaviour; Saussurean ideas about signs and conventionality; the desire to produce generalisations about language; an interest in the linguistic variation among different social groups; and so on.  These are all fundamental considerations in carrying out linguistic investigations and yet it is also important to understand the language of individuals as something more than an average, or an idealisation, associated with a particular social group.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to the Challenge Panel page to see profiles, and check back soon for updates.

Introducing CASS Challenge Panel Member: Douglas Biber

This week, we are proud to announce Douglas Biber’s membership on the CASS Challenge Panel. Find his brief autobiographical introduction below.

douglasbiberI have been interested in lots of different research issues over my career, but for the most part, these have all involved the analysis of linguistic variation in natural texts, and the description of the ways in which linguistic features vary across registers.  Surprisingly, I began to develop this emphasis even before I got interested in corpus-based approaches.

So, for example, I recently re-read an article that I wrote in 1984, on focus markers in Central Somali, and I was surprised to be reminded that I was already developing this research focus.   In that article, I argued that focus markers in Somali oral narratives are used for important discourse functions — signaling aspects of textual organization and prominence — rather than simply distinguishing between given versus new information.  But the surprising thing to me was that I was already developing the view that register/genre differences are centrally important to the description of language use:  “…pragmatic roles should be studied in a broad range of discourse genres…since each genre may illustrate different functions of the same constructions” (Biber 1984:1).

Shortly afterwards, I started working with computerized corpora, and I have found corpora to be extremely useful as collections of natural texts representing different spoken and written registers. As a result, basically all the research that I’ve carried out since the 1980s has been based on the analysis of corpora.

Beyond my overall interest in register variation, I have used corpus analysis to explore patterns of variation at many different specific linguistic levels, including collocational patterns, phraseological patterns (lexical bundles and lexical frames), lexico-grammatical patterns, grammatical features (with a particular recent interest in grammatical complexity), and discourse units.  I have been interested in the description of register variation from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives, and in describing patterns of register variation in English as well as other languages.  My most influential works have probably been my 1988 Cambridge book Variation across Speech and Writing, where I develop the ‘multi-dimensional’ approach to the analysis of register variation, and the 1999 co-authored Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English.  But I’ve authored or co-authored a dozen other books over the years, on topics ranging from linguistic variation among university registers, to corpus approaches to the analysis of discourse organization, to cross-linguistic patterns of register variation.  At present, I’m actively working on several projects, including a book describing the historical development of grammatical complexity features in written registers, a major NSF-sponsored grant project to describe the patterns of linguistic variation among Web registers, and an ETS-sponsored grant project to describe the patterns of linguistic variation among university student written registers across disciplines.

Visit the CASS Challenge Panel page to read about our other members.

Introducing Challenge Panel Member: Karin Aijmer

We are very pleased to announce Karin Aijmer’s membership on the CASS Challenge Panel. An introduction, in her own words:


I am Professor Emerita in English Linguistics at the University of Gothenburg. I have been using corpora and corpus-linguistic methods to study topics in several different areas.

One of my research areas involves the study of spoken English. The research deals for example with speech acts, discourse coherence as well as words and constructions which have special functions in spoken language (pragmatic markers, speech management phenomena such as pausing and self-repair). In my own research I have used the Lund Corpus of Spoken English to study speech acts which have been conventionalized and can therefore be studied on the basis of particular speech act words. We can use more or less fixed ‘conversational routines’ for thanking, apologising and requesting in addition to less conventionalized ways of expressing the same acts.  Another topic which I have dealt with in several publications is connectives and pragmatic markers (such as you know, well, oh). These are essential for successful communication. However they are notoriously difficult to describe since they do not have meanings in the same way as lexical words but contribute to discourse coherence or express attitudes and feelings.

I have also been part of a research team compiling the English-Swedish Parallel Corpus. A parallel corpus consists of translations from one language into another and vice versa. By confronting two languages in translation we can get a fine-grained picture of similarities and differences between the languages. Cross-linguistic studies can therefore contribute to our knowledge of what is universal and what is language-specific. The area is also of interest for translation studies and for the training of translators.

Another branch of my research deals with learner corpora and is closely associated with foreign language teaching and second language acquisition. The Swedish learner corpus was compiled as a part of an international project (International Corpus of Learner English) and consists of argumentative essays written by advanced Swedish learners of English.  On the basis of learner corpora we can study learner problems which do not involve errors and are therefore difficult to detect unless we use quantitative methods.  In addition a spoken learner corpus has been compiled with Swedish learners of English. We can therefore compare the English spoken by non-native speakers and native speakers.

My publications in these areas include several books where I use corpora to study spoken English. I have also co-edited Handbooks of Socio-Pragmatics and Corpus Pragmatics as well as corpus-based studies in contrastive linguistics, on pragmatic markers in contrast and on the use of corpora in language teaching.  I am also the co-author of a text-book on Pragmatics.

I much enjoyed meeting members of the challenge panel at the Corpus Linguistics 2013 conference at Lancaster in the summer.  I am looking forward to future cooperation at the Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to the Challenge Panel page to see profiles, and check back soon for updates.

Introducing Challenge Panel Member: Fiona Farr

farrWe are happy to announce Dr Fiona Farr’s membership on the CASS Challenge Panel.

Dr Fiona Farr is Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where she is also a member of the Centre for Applied Language Studies (CALS), and the Inter-Varietal Applied Corpus Studies (IVACS) Research Group. Her background is English language teacher education, which she has been involved with at undergraduate and postgraduate levels for more than 15 years. Her professional and research interests include language teacher education, especially teaching practice and feedback, spoken corpora and their applications, discourse analysis and language variety.

Other positions include Series Co-Editor, Edinburgh Textbooks in TESOL; Editorial Board Member, Classroom Discourse Journal (Routledge); Co-Manager of the Limerick Corpus of Irish English (with Anne O’Keeffe); Executive Committee Member, Irish Association of Applied Linguistics; and Visiting Research Scholar, Queen’s University, Belfast (2012/2013) and Lancaster University, (2012-2015). She has published on corpus linguistics, language teaching and teacher education in several international journals including TESOL Quarterly, the Journal of English for Academic Purposes, Language Awareness, Intercultural Pragmatics, Language Learning, Classroom Discourse and Language Teaching. She has published many chapters in edited collections, as well as co-editing two books. Her own 2011 book, The Discourse of Teaching Practice Feedback: An investigation of spoken and written modes (Routledge), is an applied corpus-based examination of spoken language as it is used in 3rd level language teacher education contexts. She is currently writing a book for Edinburgh University Press entitled Practice in TESOL, to be published in 2014, and is co-editing (with Liam Murray) The Routledge Handbook of Language Learning and Technology, to be published in 2015.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to read about Challenge Panel members Michael Hoey, Alan PartingtonMark Davies and Stefan Th. Gries

Introducing Challenge Panel Member: Michael Hoey

We are extraordinarily pleased to announce Michael Hoey’s membership to the CASS Challenge Panel. Below, Professor Hoey shares a bit about his personal and professional successes. 

I am a funny kind of corpus linguist in that all my publications for the first twenty years of my career were devoted to the study of written discourse analysis. However I had co-authored (with Sue Atkins), under John Sinclair’s direction, the proposal to Collins Publishers that led to the development of the Collins COBUILD dictionary at the University of Birmingham and I inevitably become heavily involved with the running of the project, working closely both with Antoinette Renouf and Patrick Hanks as they wrestled the first-ever corpus-driven dictionary into shape. Without realising it, I was slowly mutating into a corpus linguist, and when near the end of my time at the University of Birmingham I was asked whether I would like to write one of their little COBUILD handbooks on lexical signalling, I leapt at the opportunity. The handbook, though, never appeared – the more I investigated the ways the words were used, the more radical my thoughts on the way language is organised became, and when I was appointed to a Chair at the University of Liverpool, my inaugural lecture was on corpus linguistics.

The second 20 years of my career have seen few discourse analytical publications but more and more corpus linguistic, and particularly lexical priming, papers and books. My corpus linguistic perspective, though still heavily influenced by John Sinclair, one of three giant figures in my development (the others being Randolph Quirk and Eugene Winter), has become ever more eclectic but I am convinced that the current findings of corpus linguists of every tradition not only torpedo most of the major models of linguistics of the past 100 years but point to a quite different way in which language should be conceived, as having a complex lexicon and a very simple grammar. I also believe that we urgently need to link up corpus thinking with psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic thinking that has been done by psychologists and sociologists, rather than tame adherents of existing linguistic models.

The ‘Who’s Who’ facts about me are that I am currently Pro-Vice Chancellor for Internationalisation, Director of the Liverpool Confucius Institute and Baines Professor of English Language at the University of Liverpool. I am an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences and a member of Council of the University of Chester. I am also a proud grandfather, an inveterate traveller (even when not on University business), a Christian and the former editor of a magazine on beer ‘Ale & Hearty’. Indeed my book on the real ale pubs in the area around Southport has, I regret, been my only best-seller.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to read about Challenge Panel members Alan PartingtonMark Davies and Stefan Th. Gries

Introducing Challenge Panel Member: Alan Partington

The latest in our series of Challenge Panel introductions is Alan Partington, in his own words:


I work at Bologna University in Italy and live just north of the city in the town of Ferrara, which – I like to tell people – is exactly half way between Venice and Florence. I teach in the School of Political Science. The main topic of my undergraduate courses is the relationship between politicians and the media in English-speaking countries, as witnessed in the language used by each ‘side’.  My postgraduate courses are in the area of International Relations, where we discuss topics such as globalisation, Euroscepticism (and Europhilia), economic development, aid and trade, and the increasingly important social and economic roles of women in the developing world.

I’ve long been keen on using corpus techniques to study the language of political and social-sciences discourses and so I’m very pleased to be a member of the CASS Challenge Panel. Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in a couple of large-scale political-sociolinguistics projects, one into the reporting of the conflict in Iraq (funded by the Italian Ministry for Universities) and one into the perceptions  of European identity (funded by the EU). I’ve also looked at how antisemitism is discussed and evaluated in the UK broadsheet press and at how the Arab Uprisings were reported in the UK and US media. I am currently thinking about ways in which corpora might be used to study issues of social class.

I am also interested in the methodologies employed in using corpora in the social sciences and a team of scholars in Italy (‘SiBol’ from Siena and Bologna, the two universities involved) has been active in experimented techniques for corpus-assisted discourse studies which involves using corpora to investigate non-obvious meaning, that is, meaning which might not be readily available to naked-eye perusal. We have also looked at ways of tracking discourses around social issues over recent time, which we have named modern diachronic corpus-assisted discourse studies (or MD-CADS). The SiBol team has lately been investigating ways in which corpus techniques can be used to study areas often thought to be ‘tough nuts’ for corpus linguistics research, such as metaphor, irony, wordplay, politeness (including strategic laughter-talk), cohesion, investigating similarities between datasets (rather than the more common focus on differences) and searching, measuring and tracking what might be absent from a particular dataset (for example, which governments are sometimes called a ‘regime’ by the White House and which are never labelled as such?).

But a final word of caution. We need to be suspicious of approaches, however well-intentioned, which simply mine corpora to find evidence to support a preconceived argument. One of the added values of using corpora in social-sciences research is that this can help the data to speak for itself, which not only provides a measure of objectivity and replicability but also forces us to refine our hypotheses and frequently throws up suggestions for fresh avenues of research. As Tony McEnery pointed out in his recent TED talk, ‘we don’t throw away inconvenient data because it disagrees with our hypotheses. In fact we’re unusually interested in such data: we want to be challenged by it’. This takes a great deal of intellectual honesty, which has not always been in evidence, but it should be adopted as a slogan throughout the social sciences.

Did you miss our previous introductions? Click through to brush up on the exciting works of Mark Davies and Stefan Th. Gries