The Changing Face of Corpus Linguistics

The Changing Face of Corpus Linguistics

The Changing Face of Corpus Linguistics

The Changing Face of Corpus Linguistics


This volume is witness to a spirited and fruitful period in the evolution of corpus linguistics. In twenty-two articles written by established corpus linguists, members of the ICAME (International Computer Archive of Modern and Mediaeval English) association, this new volume brings the reader up to date with the cycle of activities which make up this field of study as it is today, dealing with corpus creation, language varieties, diachronic corpus study from the past to present, present-day synchronic corpus study, the web as corpus, and corpus linguistics and grammatical theory. It thus serves as a valuable guide to the state of the art for linguistic researchers, teachers and language learners of all persuasions. After over twenty years of evolution, corpus linguistics has matured, incorporating nowadays not just small, medium and large primary corpus building but also specialised and multi-dimensional secondary corpus building; not just corpus analysis, but also corpus evaluation; not just an initial application of theory, but self-reflection and a new concern with theory in the light of experience. The volume also highlights the growing emphasis on language as a changing phenomenon, both in terms of established historical study and the newer short-range diachronic study of 20th century and current English; and the growing area of overlap between these two. Another section of the volume illustrates the recent changes in the definition of 'corpus' which have come about due to the emergence of new technologies and in particular of the availability of texts on the world wide web. The volume culminates in the contributions by a group of corpus grammarians to a timely and novel discussion panel on the relationship between corpus linguistics and grammatical theory.


Stefan Dollinger

University of Vienna

This paper introduces the Corpus of Early Ontario English (CONTE) , which is the first electronic corpus of a variety of early Canadian English. After a brief presentation of research into historical Canadian English in general and early Ontarian English in particular, the definition of Ontarian English texts is discussed in detail. The selection of authors and texts, which is paramount for corpora compilation, is focussed on. For each of the corpus’ three genres – diaries, letters and newspaper texts – an example is provided and some problems of transcription of Late Modern English handwriting are addressed. The provisional design of the corpus is provided in an appendix.

1. The ‘other’ North American variety: Canadian English

It is common knowledge that Canada is an officially bilingual country and that Canadians speak English and French (and many more languages, which we won’t consider here). However, while French Canadians usually think of themselves as speakers of Canadian French, the language of the majority of Canadians is usually considered by themselves to be just plain ‘English’. If asked what kind of English they speak, possibly a few Anglophones would give ‘Canadian English’ as an answer, but most would be somewhat puzzled by the question.

It is clear that the situation south of the US-Canadian border is very different for both historical and social reasons. Staunch patriots like Noah Webster and H. L. Mencken managed to ensure that America is perceived as a country with its ‘own’ variety of English. Canadians, however, have taken a different approach. In Canadian English, the lack of an undisputed standard has so far, at least in comparison to other countries, not been a big issue. There are a number of reasons for this state of affairs, such as a supposed Canadian aversion towards prescribed linguistic standards in Canada as proposed by Chambers (1986: 3), or a certain unwillingness on the part of Canadian educational institutions to address the issue of language standards in earlier times. While the former scenario is an expression of a highly salient cultural feature, the latter may be the result of a lack of language awareness among Canadian English speakers.

As a result of these variable standards, Canadian English (CanE) is a treasure trove for sociolinguistic studies. Until now, however, these studies have been more or less entirely limited to the synchronic study of language. The Corpus of Early Ontario English, as the first electronic corpus of a variety of earlier Canadian English, aims to add a diachronic dimension to the study of Ontario English and thus to complement the historical picture of Canadian . . .

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