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Special Topics in Language Acquisition

General details of the subject

Face-to-face degree course

Description and contextualization of the subject

This course is a specialized one within the MA program and is taught in the second semester, usually in April and May. It is, in turn, composed of two special topics.

Special Topic 1: One of the special topics is devoted to the role of corpus linguistics in SLA and foreign language teaching.

This course is one of the two devoted to a special topic in SLA. ‘Corpus linguistics in SLA: (usefulness and usability of) learner corpora’ deals with a research methodology widely developed in applied linguistics over the past two decades. We will discuss the role of corpora in second/foreign language learning teaching, paying special attention to Learner Corpora. This course, which is taught in the second semester of the MA program, takes up three sessions over the month of May.

The aim of this course is to instruct students in Corpus Linguistics, what it is and its role in SLA research and L2 learning/teaching. It will also provide the students with the opportunity to browse a corpus and observe its research/teaching potential. The course will pay special attention to Learner Corpora as a source of data for language learning and teaching as well as for research in applied linguistics.

Special Topic 2: The other special topic is taught by an invited teacher from a different national and/or international university, who may cover a topic that varies each academic year. The program usually invites renowned specialists in the different SLA areas, which has proved to be extremely beneficial for the students. The names of the instructors and the course titles will be available in the flyer of the program, which is uploaded in the MA's webpage.

Teaching staff

NameInstitutionCategoryDoctorTeaching profileAreaE-mail
IZQUIERDO FERNANDEZ, MARLENUniversity of the Basque CountryProfesorado Titular De UniversidadDoctorNot bilingualEnglish

Study types

TypeFace-to-face hoursNon face-to-face hoursTotal hours
Applied classroom-based groups12012

Learning outcomes of the subject

Special Topic 1:

• To learn the basics of Corpus Linguistics (CL) and its interaction with SLA and EFL teaching-learning.

• To become aware of the links across CL, SLA and EFL teaching-learning and how they may complement each other.

• To assess the use of Corpus Linguistics in SLA and EFL teaching-learning, by comparing this methodology to other, well-established frameworks in the abovementioned linguistics field.

• To consider in what way (learner) corpus linguistics may be implemented in EFL teaching-learning within the framework of SLA/from an SLA approach.

• To do critical literature review about existing research in (learner) corpora and SLA/EFL, focusing on a given object of study.

• To analyse FL learner data (either written or spoken) and interpret it from a corpus approach.

• To do experimental research within the field of SLA/EFL teaching-learning using the corpus linguistics methodology.

• To improve presenting skills in an academic context and for an academic purpose.

• To promote autonomous and meaningful learning at the tertiary level.

On completion of this Special Topic 1, the learners will have:

• Learnt what CL is and what its main asset as a research methodology is;

• Seen different types of corpora and will have observed what kind of data corpora provide;

• Browsed actual (learner) corpora and attempted data interpretation (for EFL purposes), hence identifying strengths and weaknesses of corpus linguistics tools;

• Learnt about existing research that highlights the crossroads between learner corpora, SLA and EFL teaching-learning, hence gaining a new perspective from which they can approach their data analysis.

Ordinary call: orientations and renunciation

Special Topic 1:

Option A. Corpus-based analyses

Option B. Teaching proposal

Option C. Research proposal

Extraordinary call: orientations and renunciation

Special Topic 1:

eGela quiz to revise theoretical contents

guided data-driven exercise


Special Topic 1:

1. What is Corpus Linguistics?

a. Methodology or Discipline?

b. Corpora: types and descriptions

c. Learner Corpora

2. Corpus compilation and exploitation

a. (Research/Teaching) purposes and compilation criteria

b. Exploitation Software

c. Qualitative research

d. Quantitative research

3. Corpus Linguistics and SLA

a. Corpora in (Foreign) Language Learning-Teaching

i. Data-Driven Learning

ii. Corpus-informed pedagogical materials

b. Corpora in SLA research


Compulsory materials

Special topic 1:

PPT notes, set readings and corpus exploitation software provided by the teacher.

Basic bibliography

Special Topic I: Corpus linguistics and SLA

Bennet, G. (2010). An Introduction to Corpus Linguistics. Using Corpora in the Language Learning Classroom: Corpus Linguistics for Teachers. The University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor. Chapter 1.

Granger, S. (2002) A bird’s eye view of learner corpus research. In Granger, S., Hung, J. & Petch-Tyson, S. (eds.) Computer Learner Corpora, Second Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Teaching. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins, 3-33.

Nesselhauf, N. (2004) Learner corpora and their potential for language teaching. In J. Sinclair (Ed.) How to Use Corpora in Language Teaching, pp.125-152. John Benjamins: Amsterdam/Philadelphia. (Chapter 6)

McCarthy, M. (2016). Putting the CEFR to good use: Designing grammars based on learner-corpus evidence. Plenary Lecture given at the Languages in the Globalised World conference, Leeds Metropolitan University, 6 Sep

Special Topic II: As mentioned above, we cannot provide references for this course because they will vary each academic year. The students will receive the program with the objectives and learning outcomes of each of the two modules together with the references once the invited professors send them to the MA coordinator.

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