positioning lexical bundles in university lectures
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Positioning lexical bundles in university lectures . Eniko Csomay [email protected] Viviana Cortes [email protected] Goals of this study.

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goals of this study
Goals of this study
  • To investigate which previously identified frequently occurring lexical bundles appear in the initial discourse units of university lectures in the T2KSWAL corpus.
  • To identify relationships between the bundles’ discourse function with the position they are in and discourse structure
research questions
Research questions
  • Which lexical bundles occur in the first three units?
  • What are the most frequent functions they perform in this position?


lexical pattern studies in university lectures

unit of analysis in university lectures





existing bundles

missing bundles

bundles and discourse structure


lexical patterns and university lectures
Lexical patterns and university lectures
  • lexical phrases & micro- and macro structures (Nattinger and DeCarrico 1992)
  • discourse markers & topic shifts (Hansen 1994)
  • lexical repetition & coherence (Tyler 1995)
  • specific word functions, frequent collocations of particular words, idioms (e.g., Mauranen 2003, Swales and Burke 2003, Simpson and Mendis 2003)
  • frequent word combinations & their functions (Biber, Conrad and Cortes 2004)
units of analysis and discourse structure in university lectures
‘Units’ of analysis and discourse structure in university lectures
  • “openings” and “closings”(Sinclair and Coulthard 1975)
  • “phases”(Young 1994)
  • “Vocabulary-Based Discourse Units”(Biber, Csomay, Jones and Keck 2004, 2007)
lexical bundles
Lexical bundles

Most frequently recurring lexical sequences in a register; not structural units or fixed expressions (Biber et al. 1999).

Methodology: Computer program captures and counts every four-word segment in corpus; cut-off point varies.


to do is

Four-word sequence # 1: ok what I want


do is


Four-word sequence # 1: ok what I want

Four-word sequence # 2: what I want to



Ok what

Four-word sequence # 1: ok what I want

Four-word sequence # 2: what I want to

Four-word sequence # 3: I want to do


Ok what I

Four-word sequence # 1: ok what I want

Four-word sequence # 2: what I want to

Four-word sequence # 3: I want to do

Four-word sequence # 4: want to do is

for example
For example

every day conversation

what do you mean, I don’t know why

academic prose

as a result of, in the case of, on the other hand

university lectures

if you look at, nothing to do with, I want you to

further classification
Further classification


verbs and clause components “you want me to”;

noun phrase and prepositional phrase components “in the case of” etc.


expressing different types of stance, e.g., “I don’t think so”, “if you want to”, “it is important to”

organizing discourse, e.g., “on the other hand”, “let’s have a look”

expressing reference e.g., “the rest of the”, “in the case of”, “at the same time”.

Bundles occurring more than 40 times per million words in university classroom sessions are positioned.
vocabulary based discourse units
Vocabulary-Based Discourse Units

Automatically identified lexically coherent discourse units (Biber, et al. 2004, 2007) using modified TextTiler (Hearst 1994).

Methodology: computer program compares orthographic words in adjacent window of running text and calculates a similarity value at each word. Unit boundaries are determined relying partly on next lowest similarity value.

further classification of units in spoken classroom discourse
Further classification of units in spoken classroom discourse


Co-occurring linguistic features in units cluster into four major groups.


Interpretation of those groups result in four unit- types: Contextual interactive, Informational monologue, Personalized framing, and Unmarked (Csomay 2007).

Discourse structure

Unit-types are re-entered into discourse flow.

Language used in the first three units in lectures is associated with “Contextual interactive” discourse (Csomay 2005);

Instructional functions associated: class management, instructional management; technical management; demonstration.

procedures for this study
Procedures for this study

Design computer programs to

  • track bundles previously identified in university class sessions and
  • to compute running count for each bundle in their position

Compare frequencies of bundle types across units.


Of the 84 most frequently occurring bundles in class sessions identified by Biber, Conrad and Cortes (2004):

65 bundles (77.4% of the total) at least once in the first three units

19 bundles (22.6% of the total) did not occur in the first three units

bundles in one unit only at least once
Bundles in one unit only at least once

Only in Unit 1

Discourse organizer “I mean you know”

  • You know it was really hard for me. I went to [xxx] and I was really trying to find, a book in the book… not the bookstore but the library but this is the only one I came up with. I mean you know, from, um, this had in the book review tonight and some of the other books that the other students had, you know I mean, I want it…

(Topic elaboration and clarification)

Only in Unit 2

Referential expression “and one of the”

Attitudinal/Modality stance expression “you need to know”

  • … but you certainly need to be aware of what are your pitfalls… one of the things that stay between you and getting a paper written and one of the things between between you and getting a paper in press… you want to think about that…


Only in Unit 3

Referential expressions “and this is the”, “in a lot of”, “greater than or equal”, “than or equal to”

  • …it will matter and the main reason is if you\'re not a member of the elite you get ignored. And this is the danger of society. Now do we think, and I\'ve heard this argument over and over again particularly in places like Arizona.


missing bundles
Missing bundles

Stance markers

  • Expressions of personal epistemic stance

“I don’t know if”, “I don’t know what”, “I don’t know how”

  • Attitudinal/modality stance indicating
    • personal desire

“I don’t want to”

    • personal obligation or directive

“you don’t have to”, “you don’t want to”

    • personal intention/prediction

“I’m not going to”, “we’re going to do”, “what we’re going to”

    • impersonal intention/prediction

“it’s going to be”

  • Identification/focus

“that’s one of the”, “and things like that”

  • Specification of attribute, quantity

“there’s a lot of”

Discourse organizers

  • Topic introduction/focus

“want to talk about”

bundles and discourse structure
Bundles and discourse structure

To clarify or anticipate future events in the course or in future classes, or what the current course is going to deal with.

  • uh as far as the kinds of questions that could be asked uh they are going to be since they are short answer questions, they are going to be the kind of answers that will only take about at best ideally would take only about a paragraph

(Attitudinal stance - Impersonal intention/prediction)

To stress desire or to tentatively provide directions or special information to students.
  • Uh, you know actually the best way to show me the results would be to show me the chart with the date column with the start date and finish date column. Uh, if you wantto put it in the form of the node diagram and put the put the right data in the right boxes, that\'s fine.

(Attitudinal/Modality stance - Personal desire)

To create a mental frame for the students for the given topic.
  • … but you certainly need to be aware of what are your pitfalls… one of the things that stay between you and getting a paper written and one of thethings between between you and getting a paper in press… you want to think about that…

(Referential - Identification/focus)

To guide students toward the organization of the class that is about to start (from the teacher’s point of view), providing a frame to the content about to follow.
  • But I, I was instructed that I must have you, and I assume you are familiar with this exercise…Uh, today, uh I assume today\'s the fourth. OK what I want to do is pick up with what uh, pick up where I hope you left off with it last week and maybe even take a, a bit of time to revisit that, and, uh, that exercise that you did

(Discourse organizers - Topic introduction/focus)

see Table 1 for summary


Positioning lexical bundles in the first few units in a university lecture provides further empirical linguistic evidence about those units.

This kind of lexical information and their discourse functions support previous empirical studies describing the linguistic characteristics of the initial units and their function in class sessions.

Further research investigates the position and distribution of bundles in the subsequent units.