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AAAL 2016 Preconference Workshops
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Stefan Th. Gries
Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Basic Statistics for Applied Linguists
with R


This workshop will familiarize participants with the statistical programming language R and how to use it for the (1) import and processing, (2) description, (3) visualization, and (4) analysis of linguistic data; it is aimed at beginners.

As for the first item, we will briefly discuss R's four most important data structures and how spreadsheet data are loaded into R and prepared for subsequent steps. In considering issues of description, we will turn to a variety of basic descriptive statistics used for categorical and numeric data, including frequencies, central tendencies, dispersions, and correlations. Next we will explore the visualization of data in a variety of simple but useful ways, such as dotcharts, boxplots, ecdf plots, and scatterplots. The emphasis will be on creating self-sufficient plots that can draw attention to trends or important data points in a data set. Then, in terms of analyzing linguistic data, we will discuss a variety of analytical scenarios that are frequently encountered in applied linguistics research.

Contrary to many introductory courses/workshops, however, this workshop will not deal with these scenarios in terms of simple monofactorial tests (chi-squared tests, t-tests, Pearson's r, etc.). Instead we will explore all these tests from a regression perspective. This approach may appear to be more complex than learning simple functions for simple tests. However, it is superior in that it shows how many statistical tests typically taught separately can in fact be viewed as only slightly different instantiations of a more general logic--generalized linear modeling. In addition, this approach better sets the stage for subsequent exploration of multifactorial regression modeling in the participants' own future work.


Stefan Th. Gries is currently (Full) Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Gries is Honorary Liebig-Professor at the Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Visiting Chair in the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science, Lancaster University, and was a Visiting Professor at the 2007, 2011, 2013, and 2015 LSA Linguistic Institutes.

Theoretically, he is a cognitively-oriented usage-based linguist (with an interest in Construction Grammar) in the wider sense of seeking explanations in terms of cognitive processes influenced in particular by R. Harald Baayen, Douglas Biber, Nick C. Ellis, Adele E. Goldberg, and Michael Tomasello.

Methodologically, Gries is a quantitative corpus linguist at the intersection of corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics, and computational linguistics, who has used a variety of different statistical methods to investigate linguistic topics such as morphophonology, syntax, the syntax-lexis interface, and semantics and corpus-linguistic methodology (corpus homogeneity and comparisons, association and dispersion measures, n-gram identification and exploration, and other quantitative methods), as well as first and second/foreign language acquisition. Occasionally, he has also used experimental methods (acceptability judgments, sentence completion, priming, self-paced reading times, and sorting tasks). His most recent work is particularly concerned with corpus research on second/foreign language learning and native vs. indigenized (South Asian) varieties of English; in particular, he has explored alternation phenomena, which have been widely studied using native speaker data, with an eye to determining to what degree non-native speakers exhibit similar patterns and preferences in their linguistic choices and how to analyze them best corpus-linguistically and statistically. Also, he has been involved in research questions of turn-taking in narratives (how patterned are narrators' turns and how much are they correlated with turn share?) and research in literary linguistics (do perceptions of climaxness in literary works correlate with tense switches?).

Johannes Wagner
Professor, University of Southern Denmark

Analyzing Second Language Conversations in the Wild:
An Introductory Workshop on Conversation Analysis


The workshop gives an introduction to Conversation Analysis (CA) as a method in applied linguistics. From its very beginning, CA has explored the resources through which participants create orderliness and make sense out of their interactions with other people. For many years, CA has worked exclusively on data in monolingual environments, but over the last few decades, interest in understanding the resources through which second language speakers create order, make sense, and learn how to navigate in their life-worlds has grown considerably.

The workshop will focus entirely on data that have been recorded outside of classrooms -- in second language speakers’ mundane interactions, in service encounters, workplaces, and institutional settings. The workshop will explore how CA contributes to a better understanding of what has often been referred to in SLA as language use. CA, however, does not distinguish between system and use. CA understands language and interaction as nothing but use -- but that many different resources (in talk, in embodied conduct, and in the situated environment) are available to participants to deploy for their interactional purposes.

The workshop will present issues and topics in the analysis of audio and video recordings of participants who use a second language for whatever they are doing in the interaction. The workshop will shift between short presentations of selected topics and exercises where the participants work hands-on with small collections of data examples.

A central topic covered will be different forms of repair activities and word searches. Taking newer work in Ethnomethodology and CA into account, the workshop will aim for a better understanding of second language learning in and through interaction.

Workshop participants will receive access to a pre-reading package as well as to selected data at


Johannes Wagner is a Professor of Communication in the Department of Design and Communication at the University of Southern Denmark. His interest in interaction originated in his early publications about foreign language teaching methodology, especially about games in language classrooms. He has published in English, Danish, and German on second language interaction inside and outside of classrooms. He is currently working on a comprehensive understanding of human social praxis as the nexus of verbal interaction, embodied practices, and tangible objects in the environment (

Dr. Wagner has recently published overview papers on the role of conversation analysis in applied linguistics (Kasper & Wagner, 2014; Mortensen & Wagner, 2012). Eskildsen and Wagner (2015) have traced gestures in second language interactions over time and shown how gestures that occur in early uses of a word or a construction reappear in later uses. With Dennis Day (2014), he has published on Objects as tools for talk and they are currently editing a special issue on small textual objects (e.g., PostIts) in professional interaction. He is part of a Nordic network of teachers, designers, and researchers ( to develop practices and material resources for second language learning outside of classrooms (Wagner, forthcoming).

Day, D., & Wagner, J. (2014). Objects as tools for talk. In M. Nevile, P. Haddington, T. Heinemann, & M. Rauniomaa (Eds.). Interacting with objects: Language, materiality, and social activity (pp. 101-123). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Eskildsen, S. W., & Wagner, J. (2015). Embodied L2 construction learning. Language Learning 65(2), 419–448.

Kasper, G., & Wagner, J. (2014). Conversation analysis in applied linguistics. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 34(1), 171-212.

Mortensen, K., & Wagner, J. (2012). Conversation analysis: Overview. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.

Wagner, J. (forthcoming). Designing for language learning in the wild: Creating social infrastructures for second language learning. In T. Cadierno & S. W. Eskildsen (Eds.), Usage-based perspectives on second language learning. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
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