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Tracing disciplinarity in primary and secondary teachers’ talk: A corpus-based study
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Paper presented at the 3rd Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, Singapore, 1 - 3 June 2009
In this paper, I focus on recurrent word sequences, or ‘lexical bundles’ (Biber et al. 1999), as markers of disciplinary variation in a corpus of primary and secondary teacher talk. Frequently occurring lexical bundles can be classified using functional categories such as epistemic stance expressions, modality and topic related discourse organising expressions (ibid). However, in order to account for variation in lexical bundle distribution across disciplines, there is a need for an interpretative framework that relates to a specific community of language users operating in a single genre (Hyland, 2008). Classroom talk is a
hybrid discourse (Biber, Conrad and Cortes, 2004) that exhibits both the characteristic interpersonal features of spoken language and ‘literate’ features of written language from textbooks, and that is especially rich in lexical bundles.

Using data from the Singapore Corpus of Research in Education (Doyle and Hong, 2009), I trace variations in discipline specific pedagogic practices as evidenced in teacher talk from English medium lessons in English Language, Mathematics and Science in Singapore classrooms. Frequent lexical bundles are classified using a framework adapted from Hyland’s (2008) taxonomy, and the distribution of the various categories is compared across the three school disciplines. The approach is evaluated for its ability to relate linguistic variation to significant disciplinary differences, and to highlight processes of knowledge construction in the classroom.
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