The lexicogrammar of ‘BE interested’: Complementation patterns and pedagogical implications

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‘BE interested’ exhibits a variety of complementation patterns (Quirk et al., 1985: 1061, 1063): a) BE interested in + Noun Phrase b) BE interested in + –ing participle Clause c) BE interested in + Noun (wh-) Clause d) BE interested + to-infinitive Clause e) BE interested (no complementation) However, only the first two patterns are included in pedagogical grammars. Pattern (a) tends to be treated at elementary level (e.g. Murphy, 2007), and again at intermediate level, with he addition of pattern (b) (e.g. Murphy, 2012). Although it would be reasonably expected that the remaining patterns would be presented at higher levels, this is not the case (e.g. Hewing, 2013). It is also pertinent to mention that none of the patterns is examined in corpus-based pedagogical grammars (e.g. Carter & McCarthy, 2006), and no relevant frequency information is provided in descriptive grammars (e.g. Biber et al., 1999). As the frequency of grammatical constructions can, and should, inform decisions on their inclusion in pedagogical materials (e.g. Leech, 2011), it seems useful to examine the frequency of the complementation patterns of ‘BE interested’ in native speaker corpora, and establish whether their comparative frequency supports the inclusion of some and the exclusion of others. It would also be useful to compare the relative frequency of each pattern in written and spoken language. Finally, pedagogical decisions need to be informed by the extent to which the inclusion/exclusion of particular patterns influences their frequency of use in learner language. The study used the following corpora: BNC (written and spoken), ICLE (Granger et al., 2009) and LINDSEI (Gilquin et al., 2010). The BNC was accessed via BNCweb (Hoffmann et al., 2008), ICLE via CQPweb (Hardie, 2012), and LINDSEI via AntConc (Anthony, 2014). In each case, random concordance samples of 250 instances of the word ‘interested’ were derived, and then manually cleaned and annotated. For each corpus, the proportion of each complementation pattern was then calculated. The analysis of the complementation patterns in the BNC showed the following:  In both written and spoken sub-corpora, ‘BE interested in + Noun Phrase’ has the highest proportion (52% and 42%, respectively).  In the spoken BNC, ‘BE interested (no complementation)’ has the second highest proportion (29%).  The three patterns not treated in pedagogical grammars account for almost half of the instances in spoken English, and almost a quarter in written English.  In written English, the proportion of ‘BE interested in + –ing clause’ is almost twice the one in spoken English. ICAME 36, University of Trier, 27-31 May 2015  In spoken English, the proportions of ‘BE interested (no complementation)’, ‘BE interested in + Noun (wh-) Clause’ and ‘BE interested + to-infinitive Clause’ are almost twice the ones in written English. Comparisons between the written/spoken BNC and ICLE/LINDSEI suggest that the (absence of) treatment of particular patterns in pedagogical materials influences the proportions used by learners. Both ICLE and LINDSEI show a 50% higher proportion of ‘BE interested in + Noun Phrase’ (prominent in pedagogical grammars), and a five times lower proportion of ‘BE interested (no complementation)’ (absent from pedagogical grammars). In addition, ICLE has less than half of the proportion of ‘BE interested in + –ing Clause’, and LINDSEI has an almost four times lower proportion of ‘BE interested + to-infinitive Clause’. Furthermore, a collocation analysis of the words found in the complements of ‘BE interested in + –ing Clause’ and ‘BE interested + to-infinitive Clause’ demonstrated that the former shows no preference to particular words, whereas the latter shows very strong preferences, as the top 10 collocates account for 85% of all collocates. The findings suggest that pedagogical materials could usefully provide more comprehensive and nuanced information on the complementation patterns of ‘BE interested’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2015
EventICAME 36 - University of Trier, Germany
Duration: 27 May 201531 May 2015


ConferenceICAME 36


  • corpus linguistics
  • learner corpora
  • grammar
  • lexicogrammar
  • pedagogical materials
  • language teaching
  • ELT
  • TEFL

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