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Communicative language teaching and the ELT Journal : a corpus-based approach to the history\ud of a discourse

By Duncan Hunter


Despite recent challenges, CLT remains influential and continues to be implemented in a\ud number of contemporary ELT contexts. This project represents an attempt to investigate the\ud history of CLT as a means of gaining a clearer understanding of its main principles and ideas.\ud The investigation aims to identify some key concepts in the discourse of the ELT Journal over\ud the period when the communicative approach is believed to have emerged. Two\ud consecutive periods are studied; an earlier (1973 to 1981) phase when the journal was\ud edited by W.R. Lee, and a later (1981 to 1986) period under Richard Rossner. The project\ud makes use of two separate keyword “traditions” to examine words that play an important\ud role in the discourse of the journal. Firstly, a machine-based, corpus procedure was carried\ud out, using the collections of articles as a kind of corpus. Later, a more thorough, detailed\ud keyword analysis was undertaken, borrowing from the techniques pioneered by Raymond\ud Williams, in which the histories of individual words are traced chronologically across texts.\ud Chapter One, the literature review, presents a rationale for the project and the use of\ud history to illuminate our understanding of CLT. It carries out a review of the existing body of\ud literature covering the emergence of the approach and suggests a more systematic and\ud thorough-going historical approach based on primary sources is now needed.\ud Chapter Two describes the process by which I assembled the methods and tools necessary\ud to carry out the analysis. Chapter Three describes the project procedure itself, explaining the\ud decisions made, and processes arrived at, to carry out the investigation.\ud Chapter Four presents the first phase of the project’s findings. Quantitative keyword lists are\ud presented and briefly discussed in relation to existing accounts.\ud Chapters Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine are “word histories” for the keywords\ud COMMUNICATIVE, LEARNER, ACTIVITY, TASK and SYLLABUS, respectively. Using the findings\ud from Chapter Four as a starting point, each chapter traces the history of an important\ud keyword across the chronological period of the corpus, recontextualising data isolated by\ud the quantitative keyword procedure.\ud Chapter Ten is the project’s discussion and conclusion

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