Teaching linguistics via the web

Author: Nicole McBride


This section lists different resources widely available on the web and can contribute to the teaching of linguistics. It also refers to customised web resources specifically developed to teach or test linguistics on-line, often with restricted access. Some urls are provided as examples. Different models of integration are considered as are issues related to quality control and assurance.

Table of contents

1. Why use the web?

Using the Web can significantly increase the range of tools and resources available to students of linguistics. The availability of Web sites does depend, however, on the branch of Linguistics taught: for example, there is currently a greater number of public access sites relevant to issues in sociolinguistics, language planning, corpus linguistics and phonetics than in syntax and semantics.

Web sites and Web tools can be integrated into the teaching of linguistics in many different ways. They can be proposed as a parallel or an added resource to supplement taught sessions, as an integral part of the delivery, or alternatively to deliver distance learning. Access is then usually restricted to registered students. Use of Web resources for the teaching of Linguistics is a growing field but little work has gone into testing its effectiveness. Research to date has focussed on the use of computers rather than of the Web and on educational technology.

2. Web resources for linguistics

The following section reviews the range of Web resources available for the teaching of Linguistics and provides examples of particularly useful public access sites.

2.1 Primary Resources

Authentic corpora

The Corpus Based Linguistics site provides well annotated links to on-line language corpora in English and in other languages. These can be used with statistical packages such as concordancers to support linguistic and corpus analysis. Reference to web sources for concordancers are supplied in the CBL site.

Language policy documents and reports

Examples can be found at:

European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages

Euromosaic Report and Foreign legislation

Law of 4 August 1994 (Loi Toubon)

Sites of institutions playing a part in language policies

Académie Francaise

Office de la Langue Francaise au Québec

European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages

Grammatical descriptions of a wide range of languages

Searches with keywords such as 'grammar' and the name of a language provide a wealth of descriptions and lexicons of varying quality.

2.2 Linguistic glossaries

Two useful tools are available for exploring linguistic terminology:

Lexicon of Linguistics

SIL International Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Encyclopedia of English Grammar and Word Grammar
by Richard Hudson. Concentrates on terminology and concepts related to the syntactic theory of Word Grammar.

2.3 Current research in a variety of linguistic domains

Online abstracts from linguistics journals and accessible electronic journals and articles

The Blackwell Publishers Linguistics Resources page
Includes a whole section on journals and the Linguistics Abstracts Online, service available through library subscription only.

Active Learning
Two accessible electronic journals are worth a visit

ALSIC (Apprentissage des Langues et Systems d'Information et de Communication)
in French

Electronic chapters and books

Blackwell Linguistics Publishing Programme
Selected chapters of books can be read as pdf file

Machine Translation: an Introductory Guide
Some books are available as web-browsable versions, e.g. D. J. Arnold, L. Balkan, S. Meijer, R.L. Humphreys and L. Sadler

2.4 Networking Opportunities

Specialist forums

The Linguist list

Professional associations and national organisations

BAAL, the British Association for Applied Linguistics
which lists association links

LLAS, the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies

2.5 On-line tutorials on specific topics

These have usually been developed by university lecturers to accompany specific modules and may have restricted access. On-line tutorials take a variety of forms:

Notes on a particular topic

For example on natural language processing

Fact sheets on Phonetics and syntactic theories prepared by Dick Hudson

Comprehensive tuition including learning tasks, hints, solutions and built-in opportunities for interaction and collaborative work

Linguistics Online
Describes itself as a virtual linguistics campus including a virtual lecture hall and a linguistics lab. Most courses are only accessible to registered users but there is a substantial demo section (referred to as the exhibition).

ICT4LT website
Offers relevant modules on Corpus linguistics (3.4), Human Language Technologies (3.5) and Using concordance programs in the modern foreign languages classroom (2.4).

Linguistic variation in French
A smaller scale project (single module on Linguistic variation in French)

2.6 On-line tests and self-tests through multiple choice questions

Early Corpus Linguistics and the Chomskyan Revolution
Each section of the Lancaster web-based course in corpus linguistics includes a self-test page. For example, one may try a self-test.

Linguistics question bank
Two web-based question banks for first year linguistics students are currently being developed, one commissioned by the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies and the other at UWE.

3. Teaching considerations

Lecturers may not all use the Web as a resource but students increasingly do so and they have to be helped to evaluate these new sources of information. The integration, within linguistics modules, of carefully selected web links can give students an idea of the quality and authority to look for in web material. The validity of such links has to be checked regularly to avoid frustration on the part of the learner.

In order to assume control, students need to develop both advanced searching skills and on-line critical awareness. They require to learn how to focus their searches and achieve results which meet their needs as closely as possible, and how to differentiate between adequately researched and referenced information and subjective or ungrounded information. This forms part of more generic study skills relevant to any critical analysis. The next stage is to engage actively with the material and perform appropriate tasks using resources such as discussion groups, private electronic spaces and message boards.


Arnold, D. J., L. Balkan, S. Meijer, R. L. Humphreys, & L. Sadler (1994). Machine Translation: An Introductory Guide, London: Blackwells.

Chambers, A. & G. Davies (eds) (2001). ICT and Language Learning, A European Perspective. Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Laurillard, D. (2001). Rethinking University teaching: A Conversational Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Technologies, 2nd ed.. London: Routledge.

Lawler, J. & H. Aristar Dry (eds) (1998). Using Computers in Linguistics: A Practical Guide. London: Routledge.

McBride, N. (2002). Web-enhanced Approaches to the Teaching of Linguistic Variation in French, ReCALL 14, 1:129-42.

McEnery, T. and A. Wilson (1996). Corpus Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Universit`y Press.

Related links

Blackwell Publishers Linguistics Resources on the Internet

Humanist discussion Group

ERIC/Clearinghouse on Language and Linguistics Digest

ERIC/Clearinghouse on Language and LinguisticsResource Guides

Lee, D. Bookmarks for Corpus-based Linguists: the Web as a Corpus.

Referencing this article

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