Reference : Relevance markers in lectures
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics
Relevance markers in lectures
Deroey, Katrien mailto [University of Luxembourg > Central Administration > >]
International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English
30-05-2012 to 03-06-2012
Lancaster University
[en] Relevance markers organise discourse by establishing a hierarchy of importance of lecture points and present the lecturer’s attitudinal evaluation of these along a ‘parameter of importance or relevance’ (Thompson & Hunston, 2000, p. 24). This paper surveys the lexicogrammatical devices used to mark relevant and less relevant points in lecture discourse using the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus. Helping students distinguish between important and less important discourse (e.g. the point is; remember; ignore that ‘cos it’s totally irrelevant) is arguably an important aspect of effective lecture delivery. However, we know surprisingly little about how relevance is marked in lectures as very few corpus linguistic studies have been concerned with this issue (a notable exception being Crawford Camiciottoli 2004). The authentic markers derived from the research presented here can be used in experimental research on listening comprehension and note-taking as well as in the design of courses for English for Academic Purposes or lecture training.
The paper summarises findings of two research projects. The first is on markers which indicate that particular points are relatively important or relevant. The approach here was multi-pronged. In a pilot study of four lectures, two researchers independently identified lexicogrammatical devices which appeared to highlight points to refine the inclusion criteria for relevance markers. Next, a further 36 lectures were searched manually for relevance markers and the concordances for the identified lexemes were then retrieved from all 160 lectures using Sketch Engine. Further candidates for relevance marking in the immediate co-text of these concordances and in a BASE frequency word list of words were also searched. Additionally, a few lexemes and patterns from existing pertinent corpus linguistic research were searched. For the second study on markers of lesser relevance, we restricted ourselves to a manual search of 40 lectures and retrieved potential indicators of lesser relevance from all 160 lectures.
Markers of relatively important points could mostly be classified according to their main element into adjective, noun, verb and adverb patterns. Quantification showed verb patterns to be predominant, followed by noun patterns. 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 according to how the lecturer signaled less important points. This was achieved through indications of message status (e.g. the detail is not pertinent), references to assessment (e.g. it won’t come up on an exam paper), topic treatment (e.g. I don’t want to drag you through all of this), teacher knowledge (e.g. I can’t quite remember), and class management (e.g. don’t copy it down).

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.
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.
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