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Module QXL-4477:
Using Corpora: Theory&Practice

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

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 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.

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 (A. Deignan)
7. Corpus Approaches to Critical Metaphor Analysis (J. Charteris-Black)
8. Corpora in critical discourse analysis (C. Hart)
9. Corpora language variation research
10. Corpora in sociolinguistic studies
11. Corpora in language education - focus on TEFL.

Assessment Criteria


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 answer must show evidence of some background study of primary sources going beyond material discussed in lectures.
The answer must be relevant to the research topic chosen.


Data and/or review of literature must be collected, organized, and analysed with care and an appreciation must be shown of some of the problems involved with collecting data and/or preparing a review of literature.
The answer must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding. The answer must show evidence of background of primary sources.
Assertions must be supported by reference to a theory and/or empirical research. The answer must show evidence of analytical thinking.
The answer must have a coherent structure that is adhered to in the most part; relationships between successive parts must be generally easy to follow.


Data and/or review of literature must be evaluated critically in a logical manner. The answer must have an originality of exposition and understanding; the author’s own thinking should be readily apparent.
The answer must show clear evidence of extensive reading of primary sources.
The answer must show a clear line structure in which each successive stage is explicitly linked and the reader is explicitly told why these parts are relevant to the study.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to confidently use major corpus resources and concordance tools such as MonoConc and AntConc in research.

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

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

  4. Students will know and demonstrate an understanding of the major theoretical frameworks in corpus linguistics and formulate research questions that are amenable to corpus research.

  5. Students will understand the principles underlying the scientific method in general and empirical data driven approach in particular and how to apply them.

  6. 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 and why.

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

Assessment Methods

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

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


Weekly 2 hour lecture for 11 weeks.


Fortnightly one hour seminar.

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.


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.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • 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.
  • 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

  • Research skills - students will be able to undertake advanced independent research, involving formulating a research question, identifying and deploying appropriate linguistic methodology (theoretical or empirical), data collection techniques (experimental or field-based), as well as the selection and application of appropriate theoretical frameworks in order to adequately analyse and interpret data.
  • 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.
  • Oral presentation skills & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in oral form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies, to an advanced level.
  • 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.
  • Independent investigation - students will develop the ability to plan, design and execute a highly original and significant piece of research or inquiry, either independently or as a member of a team in order to discover a specific solution to an outstanding issue or question through searching out and synthesising written, visual and oral information. Students will also develop skills of independent investigation, including interacting with peers and participants/informants.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and society, culture, and/or embodied experience - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language, society culture and/or embodied experience.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and mind/brain - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language and mind/brain.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: