Concordancing

As a response to a German lesson that gave the use of certain verbs in German, I posted a note about the use of concordancing. Concordancers are computer software programs that find all examples for you of any word you enter a search for, together with surrounding words, in a large body of text called a ‘corpus’. This is similar to the LingQ function that enables you to find other examples of a word that is used in a particular language, in other lessons in the LingQ library. Concordancers generally enable you to search for a short phrase as a keyword.

Because concordancers enable you to search for many words in their context, they can help you to find out the ways native speakers and writers use particular words. For example, http://www.dwds.de/ takes you to a German concordancer. Here you can enter a word and find many examples of its use in context in German newspapers and other writing. You can click on a particular exemplar and find about four lines of surrounding text. For newspaper articles, clicking on the title of the article takes you to the whole article. This can then be imported into LingQ using the bookmarklet.

You could also make a lesson by taking several examples of the word in use, and import these as one lesson. This is not easy to explain but you can easily see how it works by trying it for yourself. One English, German, Spanish and French concordancer can be found at http://www.lextutor.ca/concordancers/

There are many other ways of using concordancers. Concordancers are also probably available in other languages such as Chinese.

Has anyone else used a concordancer for language learning? Why not try this tool and see what you think?

I have used the Leipzig Corpora Collection - Wortschatz of the University of Leipzig, but I did not know until now that it is called a concordancer. Wortschatz has corpora of dozens of languages. I have used it for French, Spanish and German primarily to find sample sentences for words I insert into my LingQ vocabularies. Rather than bother to type the sentence in which the word originally appears. Wortschatz’s databases for those three languages were adequately large for my purposes. It seems to have corpora for all LingQ alpha languages and for at least some (Hebrew, Latin) beta languages. Obviously I cannot speak for the adequacy of the databases of languages I don’t know.

I will say that I do not think beginners will find Wortschatz very useful because they won’t understand the context of the word, and hence they won’t understand much about how native speakers use the word. But otherwise using a concordance for creating lessons sounds like a workable and useful idea.

This is the url for the Leipzig Corpora Collection - Wortschatz:

Thanks for your reply, Don.

The Leipzig Corpora Collection does not appear to be quite the same as a concordancer. It seems to be a kind of dictionary. Concordancers give many examples in a vertical list. They display the search word or words highlighted in a vertical line, with words that surround the keyword on either side.

Or perhaps I have not understood how to cause the Collection to create such lists. However, the Collection does seem very interesting. You obviously have found sentences, but I can find words and links to their neighbouring words. How do I find the sentences?

My idea with concordancers was not at first to create lessons for other students, but to give other LingQers tools for making lessons for their own use and to find examples of native speaker constructions. Thus they could come across interesting material they would not have discovered in other ways. I myself have found some articles on farming and food production in Europe that discuss the many problems faced by farmers in this century that are quite different from the problems that were faced by farmers in the past. These articles are leading me to think of other words I can search for, to explore particular aspects or to go off on a tangent to other topics. The other use is to find uses of specific constructions.

However, like you, I was wondering about using concordancing for making lessons for students of my own mother tongue. I would want these to be interesting and fun to use, also not just little scraps of unconnected language. Another problem is copyright. Am not sure how copyright laws work concerning these online concordances. All this means that the task would be quite time-consuming. So no promises. But I intend to give it a go.

I now see sentences up the top of the lists of associated words. Yes, it works well. I don’t think that it is possible to search for more than one word at a time.

I use two quick and dirty concordancers: Google and LingQ. Google I use mainly in my native language (when teaching other people) because I can skip-read the hits very quickly. On LingQ I am uploading all my favourite books (at least the ones I have German translations of) so I get hits from Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams etc.

@Gingko “I don’t think that it is possible to search for more than one word at a time.”

You’re correct. Wortschatz’s usefulness is much more limited than a concordancer’s.

Yes, I use LingQ in this way also. I did not think of importing lots of books just for this purpose. Thanks!

Here is the link to a top-rate concordancer. It contains over 450 million words of text that. Text is taken from 1990 to 2012. It is completely free, but you have to register if you use it more than 15 times.

@Gingko: “Here is the link to a top-rate concordancer. It contains over 450 million words of text that. Text is taken from 1990 to 2012. It is completely free, but you have to register if you use it more than 15 times.”

Er?

As a university French teacher, I’ve done a bit of work on the use of concordancing in language learning and teaching. I think it’s a great aid for advanced learners. More and more online concordancers are becoming available. See my page: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~bjkerr/CSC_DDL_Bib.htm (sorry, it needs updating!) for more information and links. Some good sites for French are Compleat Lexical Tutor, Lexiqum, CorpusEye, and Leeds Internet Corpus.

@Gingko What I meant by my cryptic “Er?” 13 April was that the link you promised to a top-rate concordancer is missing.

@bjkerr Thanks for the new leads on the four French concordancers.

I thought concordancing stopped back on 2003 when British Ariways realized they could not make money on it anymore.

Ha! ha!

Sorry, I did not mean to leave off the link. Since then we have had serious internet outages here. Here is the link: http://www.lextutor.ca/concordancers/concord_e.html There are German, French and Spanish versions also.

Just out of interest, try searching for ‘different from’, ‘different to’ and ‘different than’.

The corpora in the lextutor are rather old.

Here is another more modern corpus. English-Corpora: COCA

@Gingko “Just out of interest, try searching for ‘different from’, ‘different to’ and ‘different than’.”

Using Lextutor and the BNC Commerce corpus (because it has the most words), the condordancer returned many examples of ‘different from’ and ‘different to,’ but only three for ‘different than.’ Interesting.

And thank you for both links. I hope your outages have cleared up.

Here’s one for Portuguese: http://cintil.ul.pt/