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Said Rasooli Rizi firstname.lastname@example.org East Mediterranean University, Northern Cyprus Abstract Although some EFL learners manage to approximate target language proficiency in certain skills, thanks to years of painstaking studies, immersion in TL environments, availability of multimedia and educational facilities, as well as access to rich resources or simply due to God-given language talents, many will seldom take off from conspicuous learnerlanguage and might never produce authentic language either in speech or in writing. Along the same line, a large number of learners tend to master certain patterns and lexical combination at the stake of leaving others underdeveloped or ignored. In writing, in particular, though structures and tenses render themselves more readily to mastery by EFL learners, genuine collocations remain painfully far-fetched. In recent years, however, with corpus linguistics gaining currency in academia, a new light has begun to glimmer at the end of the tunnel that corpus-based materials and data-driven language instructions can actively and consciously engage learners and acquaint them with what authentic language is rather than what the text books prescribe it to be. Already, a growing body of research has been dedicated to data-driven learning across the world to survey the effectiveness of incorporating corpora in ELT. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to investigate the collocation patterns of compliments in the writings of the Turkish and Iranian EFL college students. The research is an ethnographic comparative study that will focus on the use of complimenting in the Turkish and Iranian college students' writings and tally the findings with the results of similar investigations carried out in English speaking countries in other parts of the world.
Key words: collocation patterns, compliment, corpora, data-driven learning Introduction The study of language via corpus has been in practice for a long time. Wilhelm Kaeding and his colleagues created a corpus of 11 million German words by hand about a century ago. In the 18th Century, Dr Johnson developed his dictionary in part on a collection of 150,000 quotations attributed to famous authors. Although in modern terms some of these works may only with difficulty be regarded as corpusbased, they were certainly some sort of corpus. 1
Modern corpus linguistics is primarily electronic or computerized and, as a result, draws heavily on the use of authoring software to help investigate enormous bodies of texts that run to millions in order to single out regularities as well as irregularities, special features, rules, collocations, etc. Naturally, corpus linguistics today has come to be understood as electronic corpus linguistics. The era of modern corpus linguistics began with the work of Charles Fries in 1950s with his compilation of spoken English by recording 250,000 words of telephone conversations. Oddly enough, Fries completed his collection at a time when computers were scarcely known and used. The first electronic corpus and the forefather of all electronic corpora that exist today—the Brown Corpus—was conceived in 1964 by W. Nelson Francis and Henry Kučera. The corpus however had to wait a lot longer until it came into its own years when descriptive linguists and some moderate generative grammarians began to appreciate the true value of computerized corpora in the study of English. Corpora are excellent sources of verifying the falsifiability, completeness, simplicity, strength, and objectivity of any linguistic hypotheses. Once digitalized corpora became available, researchers soon began using them to make a horde of new discoveries, some of which contradicted and managed to nullify earlier theories and assumptions about the nature and behaviour of the English grammar that were in common parlance in pre-corpus linguistics. While studies underline the function of ESP corpora in defining the contents of ESP works and exploiting them as instruments for the teachers and material writers, a similar perspective can also be adopted from the learners' viewpoints. By investigating corpus data, learners can discover how language is used in the domains they are concerned with in a process of "data-driven learning", drawing their own inferences about the meanings and used of particular features (Johns, 1991; 1994). One consequence of the development of learner corpora is that researchers are taking information from them to develop teaching strategies for individuals learning English as a second or foreign language. The idea behind using learner corpora to develop teaching strategies is that they give teachers an accurate depiction of how their students are actually using the language, information that then be incorporated into textbooks and lesson plans. In addition to using information from learner corpora 2
to develop teaching strategies for learners of English, many have advocated that students themselves study corpora to help them learn about English, a methodology known as "data-driven learning" (Johns, 1994; Hadley, 1997). This method of teaching has students integrate a corpus of native speaker speech or writing with a concordancing program to give then real examples of language usage rather than the contrived examples often found in grammar books. Similarly, EFL writing in Iran have usually been subject to scrutiny and have proved interesting material for scientific research in foreign language acquisition. It appears that of all the language skills—reading, writing, speaking, and listening— writing often lags behind and sometimes does not even reach a similar proficiency as the other skills may arrive at. Moreover, college students' writings not only exhibit a number of problems such as grammar, spelling, organization, and register but they are also rife with a considerable lack of authenticity. While EFL learners may progress to improve upon the mechanics of writing, they often fail to use English naturally. One big example is the stark ignorance of English collocations or lexical cooccurrences. By definition, on some occasions, words appear to be close in pairs or groups and these are not necessarily adjacent. Collocations are divided between restricted or "semi-idiom", which allow a degree of lexical variation, and in which one element has figurative sense not found outside that limited context; the other appears, in a familiar, literal sense, and open whereas its elements are freely combinable and are used in a common literal sense into which the compliment patterns lend themselves. Compliment by definition is "a speech act which explicitly or implicitly attributes credit to someone other than the speaker, usually the person addressed, for some "goodness" (e.g., possession, characteristic, skill, etc.) which is positively valued by the speaker and the hearer" (Holmes, 1988:12). Research findings (Herbert, 1990; Holmes, 1986; Olshtain, 1991, to name a few) have exhibited that compliments are highly formulaic, both in their syntactic form and in their lexical items that carry positive evaluation. For example, it was discovered that five evaluative adjectives—nice, beautiful, pretty, good, and great—accounted for two thirds of the adjectives that speakers used. In addition, some focus has been placed on how interpersonal relationships relate to complimenting behaviours, cross-cultural differences and the values conveyed through compliments. Of course, there is little 3
research on how complimenting works within particular contexts and activities, and a broader understanding of how complimenting works in language requires addressing issues of both context and discourse. This, to a large extent, is instantiated by the lack of authentic English examples in course books in Iran and the inefficient instructions English learners receive. "In all kinds of text collocations, there are essential indispensable elements with which our utterances are very largely made" (Kjellmer, 1987:140). The above quote makes two points relevant to the EFL learners. First, that collocation patterns are an important part of the language to be mastered. Second, that it is an area which resists intuition and, therefore, requires special, systematic attention. A part from the unpredictability and low generalizability of collocations, another factor that poses difficulties for learners is that in many cases, one language will use a system where another language employs a single lexeme (Lyons, 1979: 262). Having said that, the research questions in this study are formulated as following:
1. What collocation patterns of complimenting do Turkish and Iranian EFL learners normally use comparing to English native speakers? 2. Do Turkish and Iranian students perform similarly on compliment giving? 3. Will there be significant differences in the ways male and female students compliment others? 4. Will proficiency of Turkish and Iranian students affect the way they compliment? 5. Will compliments differ syntactically and lexically with respect to the recipients – in this case “teacher” or “friend”? 6. What qualities in the recipients will be most complimented? 7. Will male and female recipients of compliment attract different compliments from Turkish and Iranian students?
This study therefore examines and compares the writing skills of Turkish and Iranian EFL college students in a bid to investigate the use of collocations in general, and collocation patterns of complimenting in particular. The researcher’s main concern 4
is two-fold: on the one hand, he aims to study and, as a result, to compare the degree of authenticity in Turkish and Iranian college students' complimenting with that of English native speakers in the US and New Zealand. On the other hand, he is bound to evaluate the effectiveness of learner corpus as a diagnostic instrument to evaluate learners’ language and as useful source for designing course materials and lessons that are better geared towards the real-time needs of language learners in comparison to prescribed materials in improving college writings. In planning the collection of the texts in this study, a number of decisions were made beforehand: 1. Even though the corpus would have contained both speech and writing, the researcher meticulously collected his subjects' writings. 2. A number of variables were controlled for the entire corpus, such as the age and gender of the writers. 3. Ultimately, the writings of 150 individuals were required to create a corpus balanced by age, gender social class and region of origin.
Methodology This research will be carried out in two phases. In Phase One 150 Iranian college students of English translation and English literature provided the researcher with invaluable written data to be analyzed for the degree of authenticity of the compliment patterns. Almost two-third of the students had taken a course in letter writing, and the classes were handed by two instructors separately. Prior to the datagathering procedure, a First Certificate Test of English was administered to the subjects that later on roughly graded the students in Low, Average and High levels. The students were also asked to observe two things in their papers: specify what they linked about their teachers, friend, or relative as well as suggesting how they could improve themselves. The overall format of the paper obliged the students to view their addressees as the one and only audience. The reasons for adopting this format were three-fold: firstly, to put the subjects in the same situations in which the American and New Zealand review writers (as the sample of native speakers) might do; secondly, to maintain a unified audience throughout all comments; thirdly, to strengthen the
chances that the students may pay due attention to politeness strategies as requirements in complimenting performance. In Phase Two a corresponding number of Turkish college students of English language will participate in the experiment and will be assigned a similar task. The students will be selected from 2nd and 3rd year candidates whose language proficiency roughly corresponds to their Iranian counterparts. It is expected that some 80 students will take part in the experiment, although outnumbered by their Iranian peers, still constitute a sizable learner corpus for this study. The fascinating point to the research was that the most frequent syntactic patterns used for complimenting occurred in the writings of the EFL Iranian college students. These patterns were listed in descending order of presentation:
Pattern 5 YOU (intens) V NP (Adv) (+Variation)
EFL f 40%
Native f 15.6%
For example: You sympathized with me. You know principle and techniques of letter writing. You talk to your friends in a gentle manner. Pattern 5 claims 40% of the total compliments recorded. However it did a number of variants which occurred with differing frequencies. Pattern 1 is the next major pattern in this series, relying on four copula verbs (be, get, seem, look, etc.) as well as a number of different adjectives to get success. Pattern 1 NP BE/SEEM/GET/LOOK Adj For example: You seemed very active. Your promises are reliable. Pattern 3, the next major pattern with 16% frequency, is an adjective modifying a noun phrase which expresses the positive evaluation. EFL f 20% Native f 34.8%
Pattern 3 NP IS (a) (intens) Adj N
EFL f 16%
Native f 5.5%
For example: Your job is a holy one. Affection and devotion are a few samples of your outstanding character.
With pattern 2 the diversity was more than expected. The head pattern accounted only for 12% of the collected data. In this systematic pattern, the verb carries the positive evaluative information. Pattern 2 I (REALLY) LIKE/LOVE NP For example: We really like you. I always remember you. EFL f 12% Native f 18%
Writers often used pattern 4 to comment on actions taken during the teaching process. These actions were expressed with verbs such as give, spend, employ, choose and teach. Pattern 4 NP V (DET) (intens) Adj N EFL f 4.2% Native f 10%
For example: You spent most of your dear time for me. You gave me useful experiences.
Pattern 6 is exceptionally valuable because it has not been reported in studies of spoken compliments. Pattern 6 is identified by a semantically positive verb which the writers used to express the rhetorical effects of the teachers' personality and methodology on the EFL learners. Pattern 6 NP INTEREST/HELP Pronoun EFL f 2.4% Native f 4%
For example: Your good management interested me. Your way of teaching helped me a lot.
Discussion Contrary to initial expectations, the Iranian EFL learners used a rather different number of syntactic patterns available to the English native speakers and their frequency of patterns outgrew those of the American and New Zealanders (Table 1). As Table 1 demonstrates, the most frequent Iranian complimentary patterns ranged up to six, as the findings report only three patterns were the most frequent in the English native speakers' usage.
50 40 30 20 10 0 p1 p2 p3 p4 p5 p6 EFL students English Native Speakers
The research findings, therefore, played fast and loose with the research question for which the researcher hypothesized that non-native production of Iranian EFL students would be as formulaic and frequent as that of English native speakers. The data left a surviving margin for this hypothesis by providing evidence that the more-than-normally wide range of compliments was significantly formulaic: approximately 76% of the compliments were expressed in only three groups of patterns, which was 21 percent greater than the corresponding data produced by English native speakers. The analyzed data connotes that the EFL students appeared to be more willing to load their compliments on action verbs and verbs followed by infinitives rather than on static verbs which were commoner practice among native speakers. In technical terms, the product is the major deciding factor in addressing compliments to recipients rather than the personality and the appearance of the addressee. In other words, in the Iranian EFL students' eyes people are more evaluated by what they do or what they have done rather than by how they behave or look. The selection of appropriate topics and the use of compliments to perform additional functions depend on factors which are relevant to developing sociopragmatic competence. When we consider how native speakers select appropriate compliments in particular social contexts, cultural beliefs and social values become the major focus. This becomes a question of who compliments whom in which contexts and on what topics. In summary, it can be claimed that the research managed to provide proper answers to question posed and investigate the collocation patterns of complimenting by Iranian EFL college students. The language learners under survey appeared to be considerably unaware of the social norms and codes of English complimenting which native speakers observe in everyday interactions. The formulaic nature of Iranian compliments initially confirmed the fact that Iranian EFL learners used more varied syntactic patterns and more diverse adjectives than native speakers. The answer to the research question held that although EFL learners' production contained changes at syntactic, social and lexical levels of language, the syntactic level was obviously liable to greatest unconformities with native production.
Conclusion Paying appropriate compliments and identifying them accurately is an aspect of communicative competence which may differ in a variety of forms from one culture to another. The markedly different patterns of linguistic form and function in expressing compliments indicate that there is no single set of linguistic features to be emphasized for all students, once they have mastered the rudiments of English grammar (Biber et al, 1994:174). Rather, it is important to teach the linguistic characteristics and functions of particular target registers, so that students would be able to control the language structures they encounter in actual discourse and to adjust their language use appropriately for different registers. Aston (1995, 1996) underlines how such activities can be learner- rather than teacher-directed with appropriate corpora providing a self-access resource from which learners can derive information for themselves. If we can strengthen the students' awareness of the fact that they will be inevitably influenced by their first language on the path of achieving native-like proficiency in their second language, their development can potentially be much faster (Lin, 2007). The problem is how to find a proper way to explain these kinds of language phenomena to the students. Conducting a structural comparison between their native tongue and a foreign language is too theoretical and lacks the power to motivate the students. Pure grammar teaching may be considered boring by some students. However, when data from the corpus of students' own writing are employed to help them gain a better understanding of these structures the motivational effect is increased. As teachers, what we actually have to do is simple: "We simply provide the evidence needed to answer the learners' questions and rely on the learners' intelligence to find the answers (Johns, 1991:34). In the context of corpus application in language teaching, a corpus may contain millions of attested instances of language that you can use as a stimulus for appropriate language activity. EFL students, however, seem unlikely to be motivated by a language learning activity if the instances of language use they studying are taken from a context which makes no connection with their interests and concerns. It may well be possible to use, for instance, either a corpus of telephone engineering tests or BNG (British National Corpus) itself to provide an elegant account of the rules for definite article use in written texts. It may be extremely difficult, however, to persuade students to engage with this account if contextualizing instances do not engage them in some way other than the purely analytic ones. Genuine examples of language in use will not necessarily have to be authentic language use or effective language learning activity. References Aston, G. (1995). Corpora in language pedagogy: Matching theory and practice. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Aston, G. (1996). Involving learners in developing learning methods: Exploiting text corpora in self-access. In P. Benson & P. Voller (eds.), Autonomy and independence in language Learning. London: Longman.
Biber, D., S. Conrad & R. Reppen (1994). Corpus-based approaches to issues in applied linguistics. Applied Linguistics, 15 (2). 168-189. Francis, N. & Kucera, H. (1967)The American Heritage Word Frequency Book. New York: American Heritage. Fries, Ch. (1951). The structure of English. London: Longman. Hadley, G. (1997). Language acquisition from sparse input without error feedback. London: Longman. Herbert, J. (1990). Powermice and User Performance. In J. Carrasco & J. Whiteside. Proceedings of the ACM CHI 90 human factors in computing systems conferences. 1990. Seattle. Washington, USA. Holmes, J. (1986). Compliments and compliment responses in New Zealand English", Anthropological Linguistics, 28, 485-508. Holmes, J. (1988). Paying Compliments: A Sex Preferential Positive Politeness Strategy, Journal of Pragmatics 12(3): 445-465 Kjellmer, G. (1987). Aspects of English Collocation. In W. Mejis (ed.), Corpus Linguistics and Beyond. Rodopi. Johns, T. F. (1991). Should you be persuaded: Two examples of data-driven learning. In Johns & King. Johns, T. F. (1994). From printout: Grammar and vocabulary teaching in the context of data-driven learning. In T. Oldin (ed.), Perspectives on pedagogical grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Johnson, S. (1755). A dictionary of the English language. London: Strahan. Lin, L. (2007). Miseducation into American racism. Teachers College Record 109: 1725-1746. Lyons, J. (1979). Introduction to the linguistic theories. Sao Paullo: University of Sao Paulo Press. Olshtain, B. (1991). Course Design: Developing Programs and Materials for Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
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