ENGL 324-001

English Corpus Linguistics [NEW COURSE!]
Laurel Brinton
Term 1
MWF, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
“What is Happening in the English Language Today?”



Do you say:

I didn’t think it was so funny or I didn’t think it was that funny or I didn’t think it was very funny or I didn’t think it was really funny?
He is more friendly than I remembered or He is friendlier than I remembered?
That was a funner party than I thought it would be?
must finish my paper tonight or have to finish my paper tonight?
If I was a bit taller or If I were a bit taller?
Everyone should take their seats or Everyone should take his or her seat?
have already opened the can or already opened the can?
The bike wheel sunk into the mud or The bike wheel sank into the mud?
You can’t lay around all day or You can’t lie around all day?

While some of these represent structures that have been treated by prescriptive grammars as “usage mistakes”, others have escaped their notice. All likely represent “changes in progress” in contemporary English. In this course we will study grammatical changes ongoing in English as it is spoken and written in the twenty-first century. Apart from very obvious changes, such as the use of be like or be all by younger speakers as a “quotative” (And he was like, “I’m out of here”), there are many less obvious changes, as shown above.

In order to study such changes, you will be introduced to the methodology of corpus linguistics, including the framing of appropriate research questions, search methods for collecting data using electronic data, and the analysis and presentation of empirical data. You will become familiar with using a number of different online corpora, newspaper collections, quotation databases, and text collections. A set of graded exercises will be used to acquire these necessary skills.

For your final project, you will choose a structure, and using corpus linguistic methods to collect data, seek to understand how it is changing in present-day English.

Required textbook:

Hans Lindquist and Magnus Levin, Corpus Linguistics and the Description of English, 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.