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Contextual Analysis

Contextual analysis is using contexts to understand how and

when we select particular linguistic forms ( Celce- Murica ,1980)

The information needs to be checked against language use
e.g. If/ whether ( teacher are often asked to explain)
I like to run/ I like running
He stopped to talk/ he stopped talking
the first step in CA is to find an interesting question to research
e.g 1,2 p.266

High on the bluff stood Sergeant Begay

Sergeant Begay stood high on the bluff
Set up a questionnaire and present native speakers of the
language with a forced choice as to which of two forms is the best
question in context.

E.g p 267 (adverbial) clauses

In all the examples , the initial clause builds a framework for
what is to follow. We do not expect the information in this initial
clause to be challenged . It is shared knowledge between the
writer/ speaker and reader/ listener

Results of studies on If/ whether

if is for sarcasm/ tautology
If he is intelligent , then Im Albert Einstein
If she says shes the leader , shes the leader
if clause appears first . If clause guides the listener or reader
to what follows in the discourse
If you went there last night, they saw what happened .
If you have already learned to use the computer, this should
be easy for you.
other claims and explanations
Thus, contextual analysis can validate and elaborate on
claims initially based on insights from examples and linguistic
look for examples of particular structures within a discourse
database. It can validate findings of the first method of creating
minisituations that ask native speakers to decide which of
seemingly synonymous structures they would prefer.
e.g modality
choice of the modals and formality
frequencies and uses (p.269)
CA shows that will, should, and must are more formal than
their periphrastic modal equivalents ( going to, ought to, and
have to)

Thus, depending on interpretation, this search further validates
the notion of formality as accounting for selection of modal forms.

A contextual analysis can also illuminate differences due to
oral versus written mode.
e.g adverb just is used in informal spoken data seven times
more often than in formal written text. ( 10,000 oral words and
12,000 written words).
Language teachers and writers working in language teaching
materials often need to know how native speakers use
particular language structures.
This is the central concern of ESP ( English for Specific
Purposes) & EST ( English for Science and Technology)
grammar and lexical usage
context in CA is a very broad term. It could include all he
areas of discourse .

CA might be linked to other analyses
e.g . CA could be linked to rhetorical analysis
What types of material are being used
Narrative & descriptive
Science texts with novels or science texts with
science fiction
CA ha been linked to studies of mode ( oral versus
written text).
CA can be combined with speech act and speech event
e.g. . should / ought to/ and suppose to
e.g. perhaps, maybe, and sometimes
e.g. passive and active voice

CA methods can be layered with other types of discourse
analysis to reveal the many ways that context influences
our choice of syntactic forms

More examples p.273

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