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The importance of SLA theory when designing L2 corpora

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Learner corpora are becoming a significant asset for second language acquisition research, and are becoming more varied and sophisticated (Barlow 2005; Granger 2009; 2011; Granger, Gilquin & Meunier 2013; Myles 2005; in press; Tono, Kawaguchi & Minegishi 2012). In the early stages, the focus of Learner Corpus Research (LCR) was on description rather than interpretation. This focus has gradually shifted, and efforts have been made in the LCR community towards a better grounding in SLA theory (Granger 2011). Despite such evolution, second language researchers have been rather slow in taking advantage of learner corpora and their associated computerised methodologies (Myles 2005), and LCR is often not well informed by SLA research, making collaboration between the two fields sometimes more of a wish than a reality (Hasselgård 1999).

This talk will take stock of bi-directional moves (more corpora in SLA research and more SLA theory in LCR ) and will argue the theoretical and empirical case for the need for SLA research methodologies to move into the digital age and for LCR to take full account of developments in SLA theorising. It will outline what the purpose of SLA research is, and some of the current agendas of interest to SLA theorists. It will then present the theoretical case for learner corpora, specifying the requirements of current SLA agendas in terms of learner corpus data, before providing a brief survey of current learner corpus research, and evaluating how far it meets the requirements of SLA research. The talk will conclude with a discussion of a possible agenda for the further development of corpus-based research in SLA , paying particular attention to issues of design principles, bottom up and top down analyses of L2 corpora, ethical and copyright issues in building L2 corpora, and storage and access principles for users of L2 corpora.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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