chapter  16
8 Pages

Corpus-based studies

Corpus linguistics studies language use by means of collections of texts selected according to specific criteria and ad hoc tools designed for textual analysis. As pointed out by Bennett (2010: 2), corpus linguistics attempts to identify patterns associated with specific lexico-grammatical features and to understand how said patterns vary within language varieties and registers. McEnery and Wilson (2001) make a distinction between early and modern

corpus linguistics, the former going back to the late 1800s/early 1900s and the latter dating to the 1960s or, generally speaking, the second half of the twentieth century. Harris (1993: 27), with reference to early corpus linguistics, defines the approach used by the structuralist theorists of the time as one that began “with a large collection of recorded utterances from some language, a corpus. The corpus was subjected to a clear, stepwise, bottom-up strategy of analysis.” In this context, corpora were used to study (1) language acquisition (Preyer 1889; Stern 1924); (2) spelling conventions (Käding 1897); (3) language pedagogy (Fries and Traver 1940; Bongers 1947); (4) comparative linguistics (Eaton 1940); and (5) syntax and semantics (Lorge 1949; Fries 1952). Modern corpus linguistics, on the other hand, began in the 1960s mainly as a result of advancements in technology and the advent of “first generation” machine-readable corpora. That being said, the definition of corpus linguistics is still vague, as Taylor

(2008) points out in her article “What Is Corpus Linguistics? What the Data Says.” The problem is that scholars are split on whether to consider corpus linguistics a discipline or a methodology. Tognini-Bonelli (2001: 1), for example, argues that it has become an independent discipline because it “goes well beyond this purely methodological role,” whereas McEnery, Xiao, and Tono (2006) maintain that it is a methodology. Indeed, they point out that, unlike phonetics, semantics, or pragmatics, which are all branches of linguistics describing a particular aspect of language use, corpus linguistics “is not restricted to a particular aspect of language. Rather, it can be employed to explore almost any area of linguistic research” (2006: 7). It is the possibility of using corpus linguistics to investigate disparate aspects and uses of a language that makes it a methodology. Viewed in these terms, it is not difficult to imagine how corpus-linguistics soon found its place in Translation and Interpreting Studies.