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Corpus Approaches to the Language of Literature

Organized and run by Martin Wynne, Oxford Text Archive, Oxford University. (17 -18 May 2006)

(pdf) (html) Programme
(pdf) (html) Report
(html) AHDS workshop page

The workshop aimed to disseminate advanced methods in linguistic analysis using linguistic corpora to researchers in literary studies.

The workshop built on networks and discussions at a workshop on Corpus Approaches to Literature held at the Corpus Linguistics 2005 conference in Birmingham and recent Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA) conferences. These discussions resulted in a clear feeling that while there was a recognition of the potential usefulness of corpora, there are practical barriers to progress. It was decided that it would be useful to run an event which would (a) disseminate examples of exemplary work in the field, and (b) introduce in a practical way literary scholars to the techniques and methods of corpus linguistics.

The workshop aimed to exploit the potential for more widespread use of corpora to study literature. Work in stylistics relies on the evidence of the language of literature. Corpus linguistics is also an empirical approach to linguistic description, relying on the evidence of language usage as collected and analysed in corpora. As linguists and stylisticians have become more aware of the possibilities offered by corpus resources and techniques, then increasingly it is pointed out that the coming together of these fields could be fruitful. But there is as yet little actual research in the area. The workshop was an opportunity to disseminate and discuss examples of successful research which has shed new light on literary texts through the techniques of corpus linguistics. Furthermore, it pointed to ways forward in demonstrating the resources and techniques necessary for such work in the future. Participants were armed with arguments, language resources, tools and methods to take back to their departments to train colleagues and to use in their research and teaching.

Discussion at the workshop aimed to address the following topics:

  • the study of literary effects (or 'deviations') in texts by using the evidence of language norms in a reference corpus, including the use of collocations, colligations and semantic prosody
  • creativity in language, as identified or analysed with reference to corpus evidence
  • corpus annotation and analysis as a means of conducting a thorough and exhaustive analysis of linguistic features in literary texts
  • theoretical and practical problems with the use of corpora in literary study
  • resources and techniques for the study of literature using corpora.

The techniques explored will also be of use in teaching literature and linguistics. The workshop has the potential to link and 'join up' various initiatives and services supporting academic work in the UK, via the involvement of AHDS, Methods Network and HEA and will also have strengthened links between communities in linguistics, literature, stylistics and humanities computing.

Corpus Approaches to the Language of Literature was a two-day workshop held in Oxford on 17 -18 May 2006. The workshop was aimed at researchers and teachers in stylistics and literary studies who are interested in acquiring more knowledge about linguistic corpora, and expertise in methods of analysis using them, or who want to share their experiences of work with corpora

AHDS Methods Taxonomy Terms

This item has been catalogued using a discipline and methods taxonomy. Learn more here.


  • English Literature and Languages


  • Communication and collaboration - Textual resource sharing
  • Data Analysis - Collating
  • Data Analysis - Collocating
  • Data Analysis - Concording/Indexing
  • Data Analysis - Content analysis
  • Data Analysis - Data mining
  • Data Analysis - Searching/querying
  • Data Analysis - Stylometrics
  • Data Capture - Text recognition
  • Data Capture - Usage of existing digital data
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Textual resource sharing
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Lemmatisation
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - conceptual
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - document structure
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - linguistic structure
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - nominal
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - presentational
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - referential