*The longer version of the letter to the Editor of English Studies regarding Pieter de Haan’s highly subjective piece on Computer Corpus Lexicography; a shorter 400-word limit, given by the journal, was published there. See also Some citations for Computer Corpus Lexicography as another response to his comments.**

 

Pieter de Haan's purported review of my book, Computer Corpus Lexicography, which appeared in your journal (English Studies, Vol. 82, pp. 86-87), contains fundamental misunderstandings that compel me to produce this response. Being an academic reviewer myself, I know that book reviews typically do contain both bouquets and brickbats. However, after reading Mr de Haan's piece (which is found not only in your journal but also prominently displayed on his website), I cannot help but feel being bashed repeatedly with brickbats only. A good book review should include a sketch of what the book is about, why it has been written, which audience would find it most compelling, how it sets out to do what it says, whether the objectives have been achieved, and also perhaps how a future edition of the book could improve its coverage.  Such elements are systematically missing or misunderstood in Mr de Haan's highly subjective piece.

 

Instead, the central displeasure that Mr de Haan's piece displays is to complain, long and hard, about "accessibility."  I interpret this term to mean either "ease of reading" or "ease of concept understanding", or both.   In terms of style or ease of reading, I continually strive for universal clarity, and I am the first to admit that there is always room for improvement. In terms of technical content, a good course book can never replace the instructor, who has the pleasant task of making clearer those concepts that cannot be fully detailed within a 250-page volume. The book is not a mere summary of other people's work, but legitimately sees lexicon-building from my perspective.  For this reason, the book details my model for understanding the process of lexicon-building more fully.  In order to demonstrate how the model works in practice, I include a case study (Chapter 6) -- what is so unpedagogical (as Mr de Haan implies) about this inclusion?  In fact, I would have thought that the inclusion of the case study would lead to greater accessibility and understanding. Also, a book of this nature (with its exercises and further reading) increases accessibility to the field by incrementally initiating the reader to this particular academic discourse. As a course book, perhaps it should not be read at one go.  For instance, you would probably not want to read Nelson & Parker's Advanced A-level Physics, no matter how interesting it is, in the course of one evening (unlike the Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh series). Thus, depending on the person, the book should be savoured like a good wine, instead of some soft drink. 

 

In this book, I detail an agenda, no less interesting (hopefully, to Pieter de Haan) than the Harry Potter series,  known as ‘computer corpus lexicography’, a combination of three traditions related to lexicon-building.   This agenda, which I term ‘computer corpus lexicography’ (probably the first time that all three terms collocate in this manner), comprises best principles and practices gleaned from the fields of computational linguistics, computational lexicography and corpus linguistics.  Perhaps Mr de Haan's indictment of this programme and its attendant issues is not so much one of me, as of those (computational) linguists, lexicographers and corpus linguists whose work I cite.

 

Mr de Haan may also have his own ideas of mutual exclusivity between university textbooks and research monographs.  I am encouraged, however, by the more recent publication of Professor Joan Bresnan’s Lexical Functional Syntax in the Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics series.  Not only are readers set questions on the tenets of Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG), but also the latest research findings within the LFG tradition are disseminated in her technical volume.  I hope my own book invites a similar comparison in its dual incorporation of pedagogical and research value.

 

Finally, Mr de Haan's other major complaints include the observations that  (1) I abbreviated Computational Linguistics as "CL1", Computational Lexicography as "CL2", and Corpus Linguistics as "CL3"; (2) I merely refer to the International Corpus of English (ICE) project on p.51 as a major international effort in the direction of building various regional corpora, and (3) I did injustice to Table 3.3, which "does not align a column of figures correctly."  Concerning point (1), these terms are explained in both the abbreviations page and main text.  Further, if Mr de Haan cannot store these simple symbolic equivalents in his mental lexicon while reading the book, well, then it must underscore the point that humans really do vary in the competence of their mental lexicon. Concerning (2), the book is not primarily (or even secondarily) about the ICE project, and I do list the relevant reading to those who would like to find out more about it.  Concerning (3), I would urge your readers to buy the book, if merely to see whether their eyes can adapt better than Pieter de Haan's.

 

I am sorry to have to respond to Pieter de Haan's piece in the somewhat similar tone that he has adopted with regard to his piece.  An earlier review of my book in the International Journal of Applied Linguistics by M. Katsoyannou and C. Economou (and  I have not had the privilege of meeting them) demonstrates a far more careful reading of the work, and I good-naturedly accept their criticisms (and deeper understanding) of the book.

 

 

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