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Module QXL-3377:
Using Corpora: Theory&Practice

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Christopher Shank

Overall aims and purpose

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the theoretical and practical issues of using corpora in linguistic studies and explore how the corpus-based approach and other methodologies can be combined in linguistic studies. Students will be become familiar with major corpus resources, tools, and develop their own abilities to read, understand, interpret, develop and carry out corpus-based language studies. Student will be exposed to and expected to be able to present and discuss corpus-based approaches in fields such as language variation and change, polysemy, sociolinguistic variation, language education. In addition, special focus and attention will be given to working with corpus-based approaches to metaphor and figurative language research and translation studies.

Course content

This module introduces students to the theoretical and practical issues of using corpora in linguistic studies and helps them to develop the background, knowledge and skills needed in order to develop and utilize a corpus based approach in their own research projects. The goals of this module are two-fold. First the students will be introduced and become familiar with the technical aspects of course based approaches and research. Then, attention will be directed to looking at how corpora and corpuses based approaches are used in a range of linguistic and language oriented studies. The lectures will provide students with the “big picture”, i.e. different research domains will be explored, central topics are summarized, important studies discussed and open questions outlined. In the tutorials, students discuss key studies in detail and reflect on methodologies, results and implications.

The following topics will be covered:

  1. Introducing corpus linguistics, corpus design, types of corpora and corpus annotation
  2. Corpus analysis: concordance, wordlist, keyword analysis
  3. Integrating stats and making statistic claims
  4. Corpora in grammatical studies
  5. Corpora in diachronic studies
  6. Metaphor and Corpus Linguistics
  7. Corpora in critical discourse analysis
  8. Corpora in language variation research
  9. Corpora and translation studies / research
  10. Corpora in sociolinguistic studies / research
  11. Corpora in language education - focus on TEFL.

Assessment Criteria


D: The answer must address the question. The answer must show a basic knowledge and understanding of the relevant key areas and principles of research methodologies and questions as applied in corpus-based approaches. The student must show evidence of being able to apply the principles to the analysis of language and linguistic examples and/or data. The answer must show evidence of some background study.


The answer must be focussed and structured.
The answer must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding of the relevant areas of research methodologies and questions as applied in corpus-based approaches.
The linguistic examples used in the answer may be based upon examples from the literature but must also include original examples.
The answer must show evidence of background study with at least some from primary sources.


The answer must be highly focused and well-structured.
The answer must show comprehensive knowledge and detailed understanding.
The answer must show some original interpretation, new links between topics and/or a new approach to a problem.
The answer must show evidence of extensive background study using primary sources.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will know how to evaluate corpus based studies in linguistics and related disciplines that examine language use, reference, categorization, comprehension, cognition and synchronic and diachronic change and or patterns.

  2. Students will understand the basic principles underlying the scientific method in general and empirical data driven approach in particular.

  3. Students will understand what types of research and research questions are commonly used in corpus based approaches to examining language use, reference, categorization patterns etc.

  4. Students will be able to use major corpus resources and concordance tools such as MonoConc and AntConc.

  5. Students will know what the central questions in corpus linguistics research are.

  6. Students will be able to present and discuss key facts, concepts, ideas and approaches relating to the use of corpora and corpus based approaches in the study of language.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
REPORT Working with tagged and untagged corpora

Assignment #1 Take home CORPUS based data analysis. This is a take home analysis / assignment. The objective is to give the students some practice working with freely available online corpora, using search syntax, and answering some basic questions about search term frequencies and the effects of different variables. The report generated will be informal and largely a reporting of findings.

Written assignment, including essay CDA and corpus linguistics

Case study summary and critical review (Critical Discourse Analysis & Corpus Linguistics). The objective of this assignment is to examine, summarize and critically assess / evaluate a case study presented in either Jonathan Charteris-Black. 2004 Chapters 5-11 or from Chris Hart (articles to be provided). The instructions, format and a template will be provided .

Written assignment, including essay Final research paper

The final paper, which can be either data driven or a literature review, will be worth 60% of the final mark. All of the requirements etc. will be discussed in depth throughout the semester. Details on this project will be discussed during lecture and covered again in the final lecture.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Fortnightly 1 hour seminar (5 over the 11 weeks)

Private study

In their own time, students will be expected to do further reading, go through materials covered in class and do further research on the topics, and prepare assignments.


Weekly 2 hour lecture (for 11 weeks)


Students are encouraged to see the lecturer on a one-to-one basis during published office hours (or by appointment) to discuss issues with the module content, seek clarification on topics and discussions, and discuss feedback on assessments and class exercises.

Private study

Directed Reading - students are given required reading each week (of about 2 hours) on the topic of that week's lecture.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies to an advanced standard.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse and interpret data accurately and to draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Problem solving - students will be able to evidence sophisticated problem-solving skills in formulating problems (factual, empirical, theoretical) in precise terms, identifying key issues, and developing the confidence to address challenging problems using a variety of different approaches
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate to an advanced standard a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Personal organisation - students will develop the ability to undertake self-directed study and learning with appropriate time-management
  • Learning to learn - students will learn to reflect upon, modify and improve their learning strategies
  • Information technology - students will develop the ability to use computing and IT skills in order to find, store, interpret and present information, to produce a range of electronic documents and to use software confidently
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Working effectively with others - students will develop the ability to work well with others as part of a group or a team
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Knowledge of the nature of language origins, change and use - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge phenomena and findings relating to the nature of language origins, the way language changes, and factors involved in and affecting language use.
  • Knowledge of linguistic theory and application - students will demonstrate a detailed knowledge of terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the study of human language and linguistics.
  • Understanding of the nature and organisation of language - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of observations and findings relating to various aspects of linguistic phenomena and organization.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: