Conditional Sentences: ELT typology and corpus evidence

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    This paper presents the findings of a pilot study examining the representation of the typology of conditional sentences presented in English language teaching (ELT) materials (coursebooks and grammars) in a random sample of 1,000 conditional sentences from the British National Corpus. The if-clause and main clause of the conditional sentences in the sample was annotated for the form of the main verb (particularly tense and aspect), the modal auxiliaries and other lexis expressing modality, time reference and modality. Each sentence was also annotated for the type of relation holding between the two clauses, as well as their relative time reference. ELT materials essentially use the typology in logic (real, counterfactual and hypothetical conditionals), with the addition of two more types, �zero� and �mixed�. The vast majority of ELT materials provide information about the following aspects of conditional sentences: a. The tense-aspect marking of the main verbs in the if-clause and main clause. b. The modal auxiliaries that can be used in each clause. c. The time reference of the conditional sentence (not of each clause). d. The user�s attitude towards possibility. Maule (1988) examined 100 conditional sentences collected from television and found that there was a large group of sentences that could not fit in the framework of the 3 types. The study supports this finding, but also points towards the need to adapt the typology and information offered in ELT materials. The paper reports on the frequency of the five ELT types in the sample and outlines the cases that the typology does not cover. It also presents some preliminary findings regarding patterns in tense marking and modal expression on one hand, and time reference and modality on the other, briefly discusses implications for a pedagogical treatment of conditionals and proposes a tentative adaptation of the ELT typology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2003
    Event36th British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Conference - Leeds, United Kingdom
    Duration: 4 Sept 20036 Sept 2003


    Other36th British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • if-conditionals
    • modality
    • typology
    • English language teaching
    • pedagogical grammar
    • pedagogical materials


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