Quick Cups of COCA | Book review


Title: Quick Cups of COCA. BYU-COCA Corpus Use Examples

Authors: Mura Nava

Publisher: Smashwords

Year of publication: 2016

Companion resources: NA


Mura Nava, through his blog Twitter handle and the G+ Corpus Linguistics community, regularly shares resources for using corpora in the classroom. He’s also been on the mentoring team for Lancaster University’s Corpus Linguistics MOOC on Future Learn. It’s clearly an area that he’s passionate about and what I really appreciate is all the practical classroom-oriented stuff on on his blog for us corpulent novices (do they collocate?).

Quick Cups of COCA distills all of that corpus goodness into a succinct booklet for language teachers who’d like to use corpora to prepare for lessons or demonstrate language use and answer queries during lessons. The booklet is structured around a set of search functions you can execute on the British National Corpus (BNC) and Brigham Young University’s Corpus of Contemporary American English (BYU-COCABYU-COCA).

While I use corpora intermittently and am familiar with the functions that help me respond to those perennial questions that start with “What is the difference between … ” or “When do we use …” , I wasn’t aware that COCA-BYU could be used to find synonyms (search term #2). Oh, it’s so wonderfully simple and the best part is that it shows you the frequency of occurrence, and lets you explore co-text. Bye bye meaningless list of words on Thesaurus.com, hello COCA.

The other interesting search strings include ‘Lemma & POS’ (search term #5) which allows the user to look for all the possible collocates of a word for all the forms of the target word (lemma), and ‘quantifier/determiner + of + relative pronoun’ (search term #4) which lets you query the corpus for examples of usage for phrases like ‘all of which’ which could possibly become marker sentences in your lessons.

All the screenshots from the corpus are hyperlinked to the actual searches on COCA which means this concise book potentially offers the reader an afternoon of happy COCA exploration.

Mura prefaces the booklet by suggesting that it’s intended for those are at least slightly familiar with the BYU-COCA corpus interface but that parts of it could be of value to absolute beginners as well. I’m not so sure absolute beginners would benefit because teachers I’ve introduced the BNC or COCA to have been a bit intimidated by it all, and some of those search strings are a tad scary looking for the uninitiated. However, I think I could use Quick Cups of COCA as a follow-up to an introductory session on using corpora where teachers explore language use through tasks that challenge them to deploy the search functions from the book.

Quick Cups of COCA is a must read if you’d like to know more ways of exploiting the BNC or COCA for your learners. Mura has very kindly made it available as a complimentary download from Smashwords in a range of formats.

If you haven’t heard of using corpora before, Mura recommends Integrating Corpora with Everyday Language Teaching by Ana Frankenberg (2012)



2 thoughts on “Quick Cups of COCA | Book review

  1. hi Adi
    many thanks for this great review : )
    the new interface for COCA may make it more approachable for complete corpus beginners;
    another option is to use Google search, I write about a bit of that here –
    Google Giveth and Google Taketh, Developments in Google as a Corpus [http://hltmag.co.uk/jun15/idea.htm]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Where to get free ELT & education-related books … legally | Immersivities

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