The Survey of English Usage
Quarterly Newsletter
June 2009

This newsletter is part of a series of quarterly newsletters from the Survey of English Usage, intended to keep the academic community and other interested parties informed about research in the Survey. The newsletter will be sent out in March, June, September and December. The March issue is the Survey’s Annual report.


The Survey's corpora will be available from next session for staff and students at UCL via the UCL managed system. This includes the British component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-GB), the Diachronic Corpus of Present-day Spoken English (DCPSE) and the sound files for ICE-GB.

New funding

We are very pleased to announce that the Survey received a grant from UCL Business PLC (a subsidiary of University College London) to employ Sean Wallis on a project entitled A Proof of Concept for Developing a Web-Based English Language Teaching and Learning Platform. The strategic aim of this Proof of Concept (PoC) is to make the Survey's resources available much more widely and to initiate a route to market. In order to do this we will create an English language teaching and learning platform based on the existing corpora housed at the SEU. The plan is to source example sentences used in classroom settings dynamically from a corpus database on a web server, rather than use static, hard-coded and invented examples. The platform would be specifically designed for teachers and students at secondary schools.

The impetus for this PoC is a recent DfES review of grammar teaching in UK schools which found that teachers and students were ill-equipped to deal with the grammar demands of the national curriculum, a view which is echoed in a recent scholarly article by R. Hudson and J. Walmsley (2005) who write:

“Most younger teachers know very little grammar and are suspicious of explicit grammar teaching. Not surprisingly, therefore, new recruits entering teacher-training courses typically either know very little grammar (Williamson & Hardman 1995) or have no confidence in their knowledge, presumably because they have picked it up in an unsystematic way (Cajkler & Hislam 2002). This situation raises obvious problems for the implementation of the official programme.”

They also observe:

“In the education system, the quality of government documents, the quality of teaching about language, and specifically the training of future teachers of English are all areas where standards could be raised by improving the quality of input from linguistics.”

Our PoC aims to address the issues raised here. Our approach increases the modularity, re-use and maintainability of the resource, and provides vast numbers of ‘real language’ examples and context (including audio) for teaching purposes. Teachers could restrict their examples to particular texts, e.g. use particular data to teach academic writing and use speech to teach English for Academic Purposes.

Fifty years of the Survey of English Usage
ICLCE 3 Conference
SEU’s fiftieth birthday celebrations: 14 July 2009

To mark the 50th birthday of the Survey Bas Aarts, Jo Close and Geoffrey Leech are organising a symposium entitled 'Current Change in the English Verb Phrase'. This symposium precedes the Third International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English, which the Survey is organising at the Institute of English Studies, Senate House, with colleagues at Queen Mary, University of London.

The programme of the symposium is as follows:

9:00 - 9:30 Registration
9:30 - 9:45 Bas Aarts, Jo Close, and Geoffrey Leech: Welcome and introduction
9:45 - 10:15 Bas Aarts, Jo Close, and Sean Wallis: Choices over time: methodological issues in current change
10:15 - 10:45 Christopher Williams: Changes in the verb phrase in legal English
10:45 - 11:15 Alexander Bergs and Meike Pfaff: I was just reading this article: Is the present perfect of recent past on its way out?
11:15 - 11:45 Coffee break
11:45 - 12:15 Manfred Krug: Recent change and grammaticalization in constructions marking intention
12:15 - 12:45 Magnus Levin: Progressives changing in time
12:45 - 1:15 Stig Johansson: Must and have to in Time magazine 1923-2006
1:15 - 2:15 Lunch
2:15 - 2:45 José Ramón Varela Pérez: Negative and operator contraction with present tense be: A study of change in progress in spoken British English
2:45 - 3:15 Marcus Callies: The spread of bare infinitival complements in present-day English
3:15 - 3:45 David Denison: A new class of verbs taking that-clause complements
3:45 - 4:15 Coffee break
4:15 - 4:45 Geoffrey Leech and Nicholas Smith: Verb constructions over fifty+ years of written English
4:45 - 5:45 Round table/panel discussion, chaired by Geoffrey Leech
5:45 - 6:30 David Crystal: Surviving Surveying (keynote lecture)
6:30 - 8:30 Reception (Hosted by the Department of English, UCL and Oxford University Press)

AHRC grant: The changing verb phrase in present-day British English (AHRC AH/E006299/1)

Jo Close and Bas Aarts presented a paper entitled 'The Subjunctive in Spoken British English' at the 30th International Computer Archive of Medieval and Modern English (ICAME) conference in Lancaster, 28th May 2009. A paper on the use of the progressive in English by Bas Aarts and Jo Close has been submitted to a Festschrift for Professor Renaat Declerck which we expect to be published in 2010. We hope to hear this month whether an article by Jo Close and Bas Aarts on modal verbs has been accepted for the proceedings of the 15th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL). Jo Close is currently writing a paper on the subjunctive, to be submitted either to English Language and Linguistics or the ICAME proceedings.


The following research seminars took place during the Spring term.

Wed 4 March
  Jonathon Green
A drudge reports


Jonathon Green is a Lexicographer and author of the recently published Chambers Slang Dictionary.

Mon 27 April
Philip Durkin

Lexemes and dictionary words: some issues from the new edition of the OED

Philip Durkin is Principal Etymologist, Oxford English Dictionary and author of the soon-to be published Oxford Guide to Etymology.

Bas Aarts

June 2009

This page last modified 21 July, 2014 by Survey Web Administrator.