CTI Textual Studies Q & A

L a n g u a g e
S t u d i e s

Q I am looking for a grammar tutor for a TEFL course which will parse a sentence. Is there one?

A Grammar Tutors are difficult things and we appear to be getting an increasing number of enquiries about these and software for writing skills. Most of the packages currently available are either very basic (more suitable for schools) or have a heavy US style. You may wish to have a look at what OUP has to offer for English language teaching at http://www1.oup.co.uk/cite/oup/elt/ though it looks fairly basic and almost 'textbook on a disk' material.

Sentence parsing software has a strong tradition within linguistics though more often than not the software is intended for research purposes and for the creation of text corpora with parts of speech tagging. However, one interesting use can be found at the University of Birmingham which offers a Part-of-Speech tagging service by email. Send some text and receive a tagged text back by email. It does, of course, mean that the user has to look up the abbreviated tags to work out the sentence breakdown. Further information from http://clg1.bham.ac.uk/tagger.html

Grammar checkers, akin to those bundled with word processing software, often prove unsatisfactory and frustrating. More often than not they do not provide a proper breakdown of the sentence and concentrate only on a vague form of 'English usage'. At least, that is how I would summarise the comments I have heard. One which I have seen mentioned in more favourable terms is Stylewriter from Editor Software (see http://www.plc--waw.demon.co.uk/). There is also a page of links to shareware checkers etc at http://www.humberc.on.ca/~coleman/

There is a definite tendency now amongst some EFL teachers to concentrate on word usage rather than on formal grammar, where the place of computers is concerned anyway. You might be interested in two recently published concordancing packages for MS-Windows. Both are advertised as being designed for classroom use and both authors are involved in teaching English. The first is MonoConc for Windows by Michael Barlow and distributed through his company Athelstan. More information from his web page at http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~barlow/mono.html. The second is WordSmith Tools for Windows written by Mike Scott (Liverpool) and distributed over the web by OUP. WordSmith is a collection of text analysis tools including a concordancer and a wordlister. One of the advantages of this package for examining word usage is the additional material available from Mike Smith's web page (http://www.liv.ac.uk/~ms2928/).

Even the British National Corpus might be of interest for this area. 100 million words of modern British English tagged for parts of speech together with SARA, a search and retrieval engine. The network version is currently being tested but should be generally available later this year (http://info.ox.ac.uk/bnc/). Along similar lines but available now and with a more user-friendly interface is the COBUILD CD-ROM of English Collocations (http://titania.cobuild.collins.co.uk/).

Oh, and there's always the Grammar Clinic (http://www.lydbury.co.uk/grammar/contents.html) where students can send in questions relating to grammar and a human will respond, or one of the online writing laboratories (http://owl.trc.purdue.edu/, for example) and also (which I haven't got to work) an interactive grammar page using Shockwave at http://www.cant.ac.uk/departments/languages/grammar/shock.htm


Q & A

Email CTI Textual Studies

HTML Author: Sarah Porter
Document created: 27 May 1997
Document last modified:

The URL of this document is http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/enquiry/lan02.html