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[en] This paper uses the British Academic Spoken English corpus to survey how lecturers verbally indicate comparatively (un)important points. Educational and EAP literature generally advocates discourse organizational signals to aid lecture comprehension, note-taking and recall. The ability to distinguish between points that merit special attention and those requiring less attention is arguably particularly beneficial, especially for non-native speakers. However, until the research reported here was undertaken we knew very little about how such ‘relevance marking’ was achieved. I present a wide variety of markers, which often are not the ones that intuitively come to mind and rarely refer to assessment. Some prevalent markers may furthermore be difficult to discern. The findings can be used in lecturer training, EAP courses in lecture listening and educational research.
The paper summarizes the findings of two projects. The first on markers of important points (Authors 2012a) combines a manual analysis of 40 lectures from different disciplines with other methods identifying further markers. The markers were then automatically retrieved from and quantified in all 160 lectures. They were mostly classified according to their main element (adjective, noun, verb, adverb) and how it forms a pattern with co-occurring elements. The predominant markers are ‘remember’ and constructions of ‘the point is’ type. The second study (Authors 2012b) identified potential markers of less important information through a close reading of 40 lectures and retrieved instances from all 160 lectures. They were classified pragmatically as indications of message status (e.g. the detail is not pertinent), topic treatment (e.g. i’m not going to say very much about this), and teacher knowledge (e.g. I can’t remember), and as attention- and note-taking directives (e.g. don’t copy it down) and references to assessment (e.g. it won’t come up on an exam paper).