Literary dialogues as models of conversation in English Language Teaching


  • Christian Jones University of Liverpool
  • David Oakey University of Liverpool


spoken language, conversation, fictional dialogues, models of conversation, corpus linguistics


This study explores dialogues from a corpus of 19th century fiction as a possible model of conversation for use in English as a second or foreign language classrooms. We employ corpus linguistics methods to investigate the extent to which such dialogues contain lexical chunks and conversation strategies. This is then compared to usage in unscripted 21st century conversations, as found in a large spoken corpus. Findings show that there are a number of similarities to modern day spoken language in the chunks used in the 19th century data but also some key differences in how some common chunks function. It is also clear that many conversation strategies are significantly underused in the fictional dialogues. Overall, the study shows that dialogues from fiction have some potential as a model of conversation and could be used to supplement materials offering very contrived dialogues.