Contemporary Corpus Linguistics

Baker, P. (ed) (2009) Contemporary Corpus Linguistics. London: Continuum.

Read an excerpt

Book description

This title acts as a one-volume resource, providing an introduction to every aspect of corpus linguistics as it is being used at the moment.Corpus linguistics uses large electronic databases of language to examine hypotheses about language use. These can be tested scientifically with computerised analytical tools, without the researcher's preconceptions influencing their conclusions. For this reason, corpus linguistics is a popular and expanding area of study. "Contemporary Corpus Linguistics" presents a comprehensive survey of the ways in which corpus linguistics is being used by researchers. Written by internationally renowned linguists, this volume of seventeen introductory chapters aims to provide a snapshot of the field.The contributors present accessible, yet detailed, analyses of recent methods and theory in corpus linguistics, ways of analysing corpora, and recent applications in translation, stylistics, discourse analysis and language teaching. The book represents the best of current practice in corpus linguistics, and as a one volume reference will be invaluable to students and researchers looking for an overview of the field.

Contents outline

Excerpt - Chapter One. Introduction

The chapters in this book cover new research by corpus linguists, computational linguists and linguists who use corpora. While all three groups are growing in number, I suspect that the boundaries between them are becoming more blurred than they used to be, and also that it is the last group which is experiencing the most signi$ cant increase. As an illustration, in 1995, my university had a large Linguistics and English Language department which encompassed a broad range of fields and research methodologies. There were two corpus linguistics lecturers, but not a great deal of overlap between their work and the other research going on in the department. Now, in the same department, the situation has changed remarkably, with corpora and corpus techniques being used by the majority of the academics to various degrees. Additionally, I regularly receive requests for information and help from researchers in other departments who have heard about corpus-based analysis and think it would be helpful to them. This is in contrast to the response I received ten years ago when I gave a workshop on corpus linguistics to a very resistant group of social scientists. ‘Words are beautiful things, like flowers’, complained one participant. ‘We should not put them inside computers!’

Perhaps the enthusiasm for corpus linguistics at my university is more an example of what is possible, rather than what is typical, yet a look at any online book store reveals numerous examples of published work that is not just about corpus linguistics but the corpus approach as it relates to some other aspect of linguistics (phonetics, language teaching, language acquisition, translation studies, discourse analysis, stylistics, metaphor, functional linguistics, world Englishes etc.).

One aim of this book is to address some of the more recent ways that corpus-based approaches have started to be incorporated in a range of linguistic research. A second aim is to address some of the current trends and themes that are influencing the manner in which corpus research is developing, as well as noting some of the concerns that people working closely with corpora are currently facing. Each chapter in this book follows (to a greater or lesser extent), the format of reviewing key and current work in a particular field of linguistics (e.g. stylistics, language teaching, critical discourse analysis), or aspect of corpus linguistics (e.g. software design, corpus design, annotation schemes) and then providing a recent example or case study of the author’s own research in that area. Many of the chapters have multiple foci; for example, David Oakey considers corpus design as well as the analysis of fixed collocational patterns, while Randi Reppen’s chapter looks at both the American National Corpus and language teaching. Because of this, it is difficult to divide the chapters in this book into neat subsections such as ‘corpus building’ ‘corpus software’ and ‘corpus applications’, although I have tried to order them in a way where it is possible to note relationships or similarities between those that are closer together. In the remainder of this introduction, I provide a short summary of each chapter, and end with a brief discussion of some of the themes which emerge across the book as a whole.

Paul Baker, Lancaster University