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Anyway, the point I’m making is: relevance marking in lectures
Deroey, Katrien
2013Corpus Linguistics


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Abstract :
[en] Drawing on the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) lecture corpus, this paper presents an overview of how important and less important discourse is marked lexicogrammatically (cf. Deroey and Taverniers 2012a; Deroey and Taverniers 2012b). Such markers of (lesser) relevance (e.g. anyway, the point is) are metadiscursive devices which combine discourse organization with evaluation along a ‘parameter of importance or relevance’ (Thompson and Hunston, 2000: 24). Relevance marking can help students discern the relative importance of points and so may aid comprehension, note-taking and retention. However, until recently very little was known about this feature of lecture discourse and the few markers that can be found in educational literature and most English for Academic Purposes (EAP) listening materials seem based on intuitions rather than corpus linguistic evidence. Both studies are based on a close reading of 40 lectures to identify candidate markers which were then retrieved from the whole corpus of 160 lectures using Sketch Engine. In addition, for the study on relevance markers results were supplemented by items from the BASE word list and previous lecture research (Swales and Burke 2003; Crawford Camiciottoli 2004); markers discovered in the co-text of concordances were also added, as were words derived from or synonymous with all lexemes found through the above procedures. Interestingly, the manual analysis of 40 lectures yielded the vast majority of all markers. The research on relevance markers revealed a wide variety of markers, the most frequent of which are not amongst those which may intuitively come to mind or which are typically included in EAP materials. The markers could be classified into different lexicogrammatical patterns based mostly on nouns (e.g. the important point is, the thing is), verbs (e.g. remember, let me just emphasise) and adjectives (e.g. it is important to note, this is absolutely crucial). Adverb patterns are extremely rare (e.g. importantly), as are expressions referring to assessment (e.g. it is something that you can be examined on). The verb pattern ‘V clause’ (e.g. remember slavery had already been legally abolished) and the noun pattern ‘MN v-link’, a metalinguistic noun with a link verb (e.g. the point is) are the predominant types of relevance markers. Markers of lesser relevance were classified into five broad types according to how they signal lesser relevance: (i) message status markers assign a negative value in terms of relevance to part of the lecture message (e.g. not pertinent, joke) or signal transitions between more and less relevant discourse (e.g. anyway); (ii) topic treatment markers (e.g. briefly, not look at, for a moment) indicate limited discourse or time is devoted to a topic; (iii) lecturer knowledge markers (e.g. not know, not remember) suggest the lecturer has imprecise or partial knowledge about the topic; (iv) assessment markers (e.g. not examine, not learn) indicate what information will not be examined; and (v) attention- and note-taking markers (e.g. ignore, not copy down) direct students not to pay attention to or take notes of what is presented. Most denote partial relevance (e.g. detail, in passing, briefly) rather than irrelevance (e.g. not matter, trash) and some markers appear pragmaticalized in certain contexts. For instance, markers denoting limited coverage (e.g. briefly, quickly, a little bit) can serve as mitigation devices. As most markers require some or substantial interpretation to achieve their relevance marking effect, an understanding of the main characteristics and purposes of the lecture genre as well as co-textual, visual, non-verbal and prosodic clues seem particularly important in identifying the function of these lexicogrammatical items but poses a challenge to quantification. Indeed, Hunston’s observation that ‘much evaluative meaning is not obviously identifiable, as it appears to depend on immediate context and on reader assumptions about value’ (2004: 157) is particularly pertinent here. The research presented here should interest anyone interested in spoken (academic) discourse, evaluative language, identifying discourse functions in corpora, and EAP course design for lecture listening and delivery. References Deroey, K. L. B., & Taverniers, M. (2012a). ‘Just remember this’: Lexicogrammatical relevance markers in lectures. English for Specific Purposes, 31 (4), 221-233. Deroey, K. L. B., & Taverniers, M. (2012b). ‘Ignore that ‘cause it’s totally irrelevant’: Marking lesser relevance in lectures. Journal of Pragmatics, 44 (14), 2085-2099. Crawford Camiciottoli, B. (2004). Audience-oriented relevance markers in business studies lectures. In Del Lungo Camiciotti, G., & Tognini Bonelli, E. (Eds.), Academic discourse: New insights into evaluation (pp. 81-98). Bern: Peter Lang. Hunston, S. (2004). Counting the uncountable: Problems of identifying evaluation in a text and in a corpus. In Partington, Morley, A. & Haarman, L. (Eds), Corpora and discourse (pp. 157-188). Bern: Peter Lang. Swales, J. M. & Burke, A. (2003). “It’s really fascinating work”: Differences in evaluative adjectives across academic registers. In Leistyna P., & Meyer, C. F. (Eds.), Corpus Analysis: Language structure and language use (pp. 1-18). Amsterdam: Rodopi. Thompson, G., & Hunston, S. (2000). Evaluation: An introduction. In Hunston, S., & Thompson, G. (Eds.), Evaluation in text: Authorial stance and the construction of discourse (pp. 1-27). Oxford: OUP.
Disciplines :
Languages & linguistics
Author, co-author :
Deroey, Katrien ;  University of Luxembourg > Central Administration
Language :
Title :
Anyway, the point I’m making is: relevance marking in lectures
Publication date :
23 July 2013
Event name :
Corpus Linguistics
Event organizer :
Lancaster University
Event place :
Lancaster, United Kingdom
Event date :
23-07-2013 to 27-07-2013
Audience :
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