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Michael McCarthy
Taming the spoken language: genre theory and pedagogy

In this talk I will consider one of the most basic questions in the study of the spoken language: are there genres, or speech-types, which can be described and classified for pedagogical purposes, and, if so, how can we establish frameworks that will be useful for language teachers? In the study of written language there has been a long tradition of classifying texts into different types (eg narrative, descriptive, argumentative), but, can we do the same for spoken language?
I shall use the CANCODE (Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English) spoken English corpus, which consists of 5 million words of everyday conversation, to illustrate different types of spoken language and how we can classify them. We shall see how the relationships between speakers, the settings in which they are speaking, the types of tasks they are engaged in, and the goals of their conversations, affect the conversation in terms of language. From such observations it is possible to build a framework for spoken genres which can be immensely useful in language teaching. When we have established the genre-based framework, we can then ask the question: what are the core genres which will be useful to most learners? What are the characteristics of those core genres, and how can we incorporate them into syllabuses and materials? How do they relate to different world cultures?  However, we shall also find that a genre-based view of spoken language brings with it challenges to accepted methodologies, and I shall use the genre framework to critique the communicative methodologies now dominant in many parts of the world. I shall argue for a balance between communicative pedagogy based on models of  input-uptake-output, and models that have a component of language awareness at their core. The talk will be illustrated throughout by examples of real spoken data, and will be both theoretical and practical in its orientation.

Michael McCarthy is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Nottingham, Great Britain. He has been involved in English Language Teaching for 33 years. He has taught in Britain, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and Malaysia, and has lectured on English Language Teaching in more than 30 countries. He is currently Co-Director, with Ronald Carter, of the CANCODE spoken English corpus project at the University of Nottingham, which is investigating everyday spoken English for the purposes of producing language teaching materials and reference materials which support the teaching of speaking. He has published many books and articles on vocabulary teaching and on spoken language, including course books, dictionaries and more theoretically-oriented books. His most recent publications include Second Language Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, Pedagogy (1997), Spoken Language and Applied Linguistics (1998), English Vocabulary in Use; Elementary (1999), all published by Cambridge University Press.