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Language and Education Network - Research Seminar - Prof Alice Deignan - Using corpus linguistic methods to study the language of school in England

Regular network meeting for staff and students (all welcome)

Event details

Alice Deignan will be discussing an ongoing ESRC-funded study into the linguistic challenges of the transition from primary to secondary school. Please see below for details of the meeting and here for details of the project.


Using corpus linguistic methods to study the language of school in England

In most parts of England and Wales, children move from primary, or elementary schools to secondary, or high schools, a move that is termed ‘the transition’ by educationalists at the age of 11. A significant minority of children find this move difficult, and their academic attainment drops in early secondary school. A number of factors contribute; I hypothesised that a step change in academic language use in secondary school may be part of the problem. I lead a project investigating this issue, using methods from corpus linguistics. The project team have collected texts such as books, handouts, worksheets and powerpoint presentations, and transcriptions of teacher talk from 8 primary and 5 secondary schools in our region, advised by teachers. These are held in two corpora, Corpus 1 representing the academic language of primary school, and Corpus 2 representing the language of secondary school. We are currently in the analysis stage of the project, which comprises a number of comparisons and case studies. In this talk I will focus in particular on work considering the issue of polysemy, that is, words with multiple meanings. We have found that in primary school, children are more likely to be faced with an everyday, accessible meaning of words such as ‘energy’, while in secondary school, these apparently familiar words are used with specialised and technical terms that prove highly problematic for many children.



The recording of this seminar is now available on the following link:

Access Passcode: 7@+RiJx4