Reference : The important thing is: marking relevance in lectures
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics
The important thing is: marking relevance in lectures
Deroey, Katrien mailto [University of Luxembourg > Central Administration > >]
British Association for Applied Linguistics
03-09-2009 to 05-09-2009
Newcastle upon Tyne
[en] Using the British Academic Spoken English corpus, this study investigates what linguistic devices lecturers use to signal important information. Such signals combining evaluation and discourse organisation would appear to be essential given the typical characteristics of the ‘high stakes’ lecture genre, i.e. long monologues containing a lot of new information which is processed in real time and later assessed, and considering the need for good note-taking. The main aim of the investigation is to provide corpus linguistic data to inform the design of listening and speaking courses for non-native listeners and lecturers.
For the quantitative analysis, lexico-grammatical patterns listed as ‘relevance markers’ in Crawford Camiciotolli (2004) were extracted with Sketch Engine. For the qualitative analysis, eight lectures were read to find other ways in which parts of the discourse are made salient.
Initial quantitative findings confirm results from other lecture corpora (Crawford Camiciotolli 2004, Swales 2001). The syntax and vocabulary of these relevance markers varies considerably and depends on the speaker rather than the discipline. Furthermore, the most common evaluative adjective is important, while thing is the most frequent metalinguistic noun by far. Patterns with adjectives and metalinguistic nouns (e.g. the important thing is) are preferred over those with predicative adjectives (e.g. this is important), and prospective patterns (e.g. the key point is) occur much more than retrospective ones (e.g. that is the key point). Finally, relevance markers often co-occur with the discourse markers now and so. Qualitative findings indicate that the extent to which and how discourse relevance is signalled varies with individual lecturers rather than with discipline or study level. The analysis uncovers further lexico-grammatical patterns (e.g. remember, i want to emphasize this) and other ways to mark apparently important content, including questions, repetition, reformulation, asides, exemplification and reference to visuals.

Crawford Camiciottoli, B. (2004). Audience-oriented relevance markers in business studies lectures. In Del Lungo Camiciotti, G. and Tognini Bonelli, E. (Eds.). Academic discourse-new insights into evaluation. (81-98). Bern: Peter Lang.
Swales, J. M. (2001) Metatalk in American academic talk: the cases of point and thing. Journal of English Linguistics 29 (1): 34-54.
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