Sociolinguistics and Corpus Linguistics

By Paul Baker | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Corpora and interpersonal
communication

INTRODUCTION

Written (rather than spoken) corpora are still usually the ‘default’ resource for many corpus linguists. As I discussed in Chapter 2, spoken corpora are expensive and time consuming to build, and increasingly strict issues of ethics and permissions/copyright have further complicated the process. Despite these hurdles, there is growing interest in creating and using spoken corpora, even if such corpora are perhaps unlikely to reach billions of words in size for a long time. Spoken corpora bring a number of new challenges which researchers must overcome, and one aim of this chapter is to describe some of these issues and the ways that corpus linguists have tried to resolve them. The focus of this chapter, however, is on the corpus analysis of interpersonal communication in spoken corpora. While Chapter 2 covered sociolinguistic variation (focusing on demographic factors such as age, sex, region and social class), this chapter is concerned with tackling a different set of research questions, including what is unique about speech (in comparison to writing), how people manage their own speech and react to the speech of others, what the linguistic realisations of different aspects of conversation are, and what patterns exist around spoken phenomena like pauses, turn-t aking, conflict and politeness. These questions are therefore more typical of interactional sociolinguistics and other qualitative approaches to the analysis of spoken interaction, such as conversation analysis and pragmatics, rather than variationist sociolinguistics (although there is a great deal of overlap between these areas). For example, some corpus studies in this chapter have looked at conversational phenomena such as conflict (e.g. Hasund and Stenstrom 1997) or discourse markers (Tagliamonte 2005) but have used a corpus containing speech for a particular demographic group such as teenagers or Canadians. Even when there is no comparative group, it is clear that we should not consider any findings from such studies to be generalisable to a wider population of, say, all English speakers. Even studies of general spoken corpora such as the British National Corpus (BNC) are still representative only of British English at the point in time when they were collected. In this sense, then, all spoken corpus research is localised to a specific population – although without carrying out comparisons with other populations we cannot know which linguistic

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Sociolinguistics and Corpus Linguistics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Tables viii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Corpora and Sociolinguistic Variation 31
  • Chapter 3 - Diachronic Variation 57
  • Chapter 4 - Synchronic Variation 81
  • Chapter 5 - Corpora and Interpersonal Communication 102
  • Chapter 6 - Uncovering Discourses 121
  • Chapter 7 - Conclusion 146
  • References 157
  • Appendix 169
  • Notes 179
  • Index 183
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