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Teacher feedback to the student.

This happens in many different ways: error

correction, how close the teacher comes to the student
physically, the teacher's voice features in talking to
the student, the teacher's fielding of student doubts
and questions, etc.
Teachers' unconscious feedback will include
projections, fantasies, and hidden demands:
Think of a class you currently teach: quickly write
down the names of all the students in the group.
Who heads the list? Whose names can't you
remember? Why that order? You are quite
possibly giving feedback to your students in quite
powerful ways that you are unaware of. You may
be surprised that X comes at the end of your list,
but maybe she would not be!

Further reading
Dufeu, B. 1994. Teaching Myself. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Gattegno, C. 1976. The Common Sense of Teaching
Foreign Languages. New York: Educational
Krashen, S. D. and T. Terrell. 1983. The Natural
Approach: Language Acquisition in the
Classroom. Oxford: Pergamon.


Key concepts in ELT


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The concept of register comes under the larger

concept of language variation in applied linguistics.
According to some applied linguists there are two
main types of variation in language, i.e. variation
based on the user of language, and variation based on
The problem with this feedback situation is that it is the use of language (Gregory 1967). Dialects,
parental by nature, with power on the side of the idiolects, sociolects, and genderlects are examples of
feedback provider. How often does a learner have to the first type, while the language of science and
put up with language-corrective feedback that she technology, legal English, the language of buying and
does not want or feel ready to absorb at that particular selling, and the language of classroom interaction
moment? From the learner's point of view much belong to the second type. The term 'register' has
teacher feedback is ham-fisted, though it has to be been used to refer to variation according to the use of
socially accepted as the teacher is seen to be doing her language, i.e. functional varieties.
job in offering it.
According to de Beaugrande (in Ghadessy 1993) we
Similar problems attach to other forms of can find some rough equivalents of 'register' in
hierarchically-downward feedback, be it inspectors foundational linguistic works, i.e. Pike (1967) refers
sitting in on classes or trainers offering trainees to 'the universe of discourse', and Firth (1957) talks
lesson criticisms. Feedback is seriously deformed if of 'restricted language'. However, it was Halliday
(1978) who eventually gave currency to the term
the recipient does not want it.
'register'. Halliday defines register in the following
Third party feedback
At the end of a course some institutions ask the teachers
Types of linguistic situation differ from one
to give out feedback forms to the students on how the
another, broadly speaking, in three respects: first,
course has gone for them. In such end-of-course
as regards what actually is taking place; secondly,
feedback students are asked to communicate with
as regards what part the language is playing; and
people they sometimes barely know about their own
thirdly, as regards who is taking part. These three
performance and that of the teachers. It is an odd
variables, taken together, determine the range
situation, in terms of feedback, odd because the aim of
within which meanings are selected and the forms
this feedback is to improve the course for the next batch
which are used for their expression. In other
of students, not for those who have given the feedback.
words, they determine the 'register'.
(Halliday 1978:31)
Feedback is central to any attempt at learner-centred
teaching. It is the central, guiding element. Its place is
harder to determine in a syllabus-focused course, or The above three dimensions of register have been
one lifted straight out of a coursebook. The areas in referred to by Halliday and others as the field, the
which feedback can affect the process are reduced, mode, and the tenor of discourse. Thus, the
and the teacher is less free to respond to what she fundamental purpose of register analysis is to uncover
the general principles which govern the range of
feels, hears, and sees in the group.
variation, i.e. to find out 'what situational factors
Modern marketing theory suggests that the best way determine what linguistic features' (Halliday 1978).
to develop new products is by asking potential clients Register analysis has been developing very fast in the
what they think they need. The slogan is: 'Collect last few years. Many people are now working with
feedback and act on it.' Learner-centred teaching examples of genuine texts in the hope of establishing
works in much the same way.
the linguistic features that characterize them. This is
Mario Rinvolucri, Pilgrims, Canterbury and the the focus of two recent publications (Ghadessy 1988,
1993). In the first of these, for example, Halliday
Cambridge Academy.

number of universities are now dedicated to register

analysis by using computers, for example the project
called 'Register Profiling' at Sydney University
under the direction of Christian Matthiessen. The
findings of such research will no doubt strengthen the
foundations of register analysis as a sub-discipline of
applied linguistics.

The most detailed study of the concept of register and

its application to date is by Matthiessen (in Ghadessy
1993). He brings the various approaches to register
analysis under a 'unified theory of register'. Many
references are made here to descriptionswithin and
across registersby several applied linguists in
recent years. These include, among others, the
language of narrative, exposition, history, geography,
physical science, religion, news reporting, service
encounters, business communication, advertising,
classroom interaction, courtroom interaction, gossip,
and caller-operator interaction.

Mohsen Ghadessy, Department of English Language

and Literature, National University of Singapore.

Register analysis has benefited greatly from new

in computational
Compared to analyses in the past which were based
on a limited amount of spoken and/or written data, we
can now analyse millions of words from any register
to determine the characteristic linguistic and
discoursal features. Several large projects in a

Ghadessy, M. (ed.). 1988. Registers of Written
English: Situational Factors and Linguistic
Features. London: Pinter Publishers.
Ghadessy, M. (ed.) 1993. Register Analysis: Theory
and Practice. London: Pinter Publishers.
Gregory, M. J. 1967. 'Aspects of varieties
differentiation'. Journal of Linguistics. 3:177-98.
Halliday, M. A. K. 1978. Language as a Social
Semiotic. London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K. 1991. 'Corpus studies and
probabilistic grammar' in English Corpus
Linguistics. K. Aijmer and B. Altenberg (eds.).
London: Longman.

Key concepts in ELT


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adopts a historical perspective to show how the

language of physical science has evolved, i.e. he
explains the 'prototypical syndrome of features' that
characterize such a register. However, the majority of
studies are synchronic; they deal with the use of
present day spoken and written English in various
contexts of situation.