|CHWP B.4||Wooldridge, "A CALL Application in Vocabulary and Grammar"|
I shall give two specific examples that illustrate the usefulness of TACT for revealing things about the text.
Chapter 9 is entitled "La boîte aux coquillages" -- the shell box, the box decorated with shells. In the TACT Index display for the word boîte(s) (fig. 1), the alignment of the occurrences of the keyword allows the eye to discover an excellent illustration of the use of the prepositions à and de following a word denoting a recipient (for containing / containing):
The list also allows one to comment on an ellipsis (boîte du journal = boîte aux lettres du journal) and on an idiomatic usage (boîte de nuit 'night club').
The red herring of the story is Léon, a stranger feared for his huge physique, his unkempt appearance and simply for being an outsider, a prime suspect in the eyes of just about everyone except of course Maigret and the cause, along with the symbolic, unknown yellow dog (who turns out to belong to Léon) of the fear which grips the population of Concarneau. The first evidence of the existence of Léon is the huge footprints found outside Michoux' villa; the colossus, the brute, the vagabond is then arrested by the police and brought into town by the police a prisoner (only to escape); only towards the end of the story is he humanized with a name. The TACT distribution display of the various designations reflects the progression from the unknown and threatening to the named and reassuring. In figure 2 I have combined the individual displays into one.
As can be seen from many of the above examples, the Chien jaune database has only been tagged for chapter and page. A more analytical version might contain tags for 'text level' such as title vs. text proper, narrative vs. dialogue, etc. In the case of Le Chien jaune, the distinction between narrative and dialogue is not very useful as the vocabulary and grammar of both are the same and unmarked, neither markedly literary nor markedly colloquial. This is one reason why the text works well at the advanced high school or first year university levels.
There are nevertheless a few places in the text where a text level discriminator is necessary, whether provided by a tag in the database or by the language instructor. These sequences could be labelled 'newspaper headline', 'newspaper article', 'telegram', 'notes', 'letter' and 'legal language'. The newspaper headlines and article can be characterized as using sensational language. The telegram and Maigret's notes use elliptical syntax. The syntax of Leroy's notes and Léon's letter is normal and they are formal in style. Louise's card is written in uneducated, phonetic French. Maigret uses official language in arresting Michoux and Madame Michoux.
Another, less obvious case where the instructor needs to make explicit distinctions is in the pragmatic, or situational, use of forms of address. Here the database is particularly useful in gathering together the various occurrences. Maigret's full title is "le commissaire Maigret". The contexts of commissaire yield the following forms and types (emphasis added).
In context 1 the full formal title is used for purposes of identification in the third person in a newspaper article. In contexts 2 and 3 the full title is used in the third person in an oral situation where the person referred to is present (2) or theoretically so (3). In 4 and 5 Maigret identifies himself on the telephone in the conventional third person; 5 is elliptical («Allô... [C'est] Le Phare de Brest?... [Ici, le] Commissaire Maigret... [Je voudrais parler au] directeur, s'il vous plaît!...»). In context 6, also elliptical, Maigret is being identified in the second person («[Vous êtes le] commissaire Maigret?»). 7 shows Maigret (identity established) being addressed in the second person by the unmarked form commissaire (a more formal address would be «monsieur le commissaire»). In 8 Maigret's identity is known to the speaker, who is establishing contact with him on the telephone using the conventional, and elliptical, third person form of address («[C'est] le commissaire?»). In 9 and 10 Maigret, known simply as "le commissaire", is being referred to in the third person by the narrator (9) and one of the characters (10).
For the moment the use of the TACT database of Le Chien jaune is limited to course instructors -- in actual practice, to those instructors who are interested enough to do so -- and, also on a voluntary basis, to a few students. The present interface of TACT is perhaps better suited to research and the preparation of teaching material than to language-learning. For the preparation of contextual language instruction material however I consider it an indispensable ally.
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 [Editorial note] Now called KWIC display.