Harnessing the Latest Corpus-based Approaches for Research

Seminar on Interdisciplinary and Discipline-specific Corpus Research

Date: 24 October 2017 (Tuesday)
10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Venue: Tai Ning Hall, 12/F, Block A,
The Open University of Hong Kong
30 Good Shepherd Street, Homantin, Kowloon [Map]

Speaker: Professor Michaela Mahlberg
Chair in Corpus Linguistics,
Director of the Centre for Corpus Research,
Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer for the College of Arts and Law,
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Professor Michaela Mahlberg holds the chair in corpus linguistics at the University of Birmingham, UK, where she is also the Director of the Centre for Corpus Research and the Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer for the College of Arts and Law. Professor Mahlberg is the editor of the International Journal of Corpus Linguistics (John Benjamins) and together with Professor Wolfgang Teubert she edits the book series Corpus and Discourse (Bloomsbury). One of her main areas of research is Dickens’s fiction and the socio-cultural context of the 19th century. Her publications include Corpus Stylistics and Dickens’s Fiction (Routledge, 2013), English General Nouns: a Corpus Theoretical Approach (John Benjamins, 2005) and Text, Discourse and Corpora: Theory and Analysis (Continuum, 2007, co-authored with Michael Hoey, Michael Stubbs and Wolfgang Teubert). Professor Mahlberg is currently Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project CLiC Dickens: Characterisation in the representation of speech and body language from a corpus linguistic perspective.


As more and more disciplines draw on techniques for the analysis of electronic textual data, corpus linguistic methods are becoming increasingly relevant as tools for interdisciplinarity. In this seminar, I will focus in particular on literary, historical and socio-cultural examples to illustrate the potential of corpus linguistics for research across disciplinary boundaries. These examples will also show similarities and differences between corpus linguistics and areas of research that might be referred to as ‘Digital Humanities’, ‘Distant Reading’ or ‘Culturomics’. The most effective interdisciplinary research also has the potential to drive discipline-specific innovation as the relevance of concepts and methods are tested with new data sets and research questions. I will discuss this point with reference to the concept of ‘collocation’. Collocation is one of the most fundamental concepts in corpus linguistics. It is often considered in relation to work by Firth (1957) who highlights that habitual co-occurrence patterns are crucial to the meaning of a word. Corpus software packages tend to include the retrieval of collocates among their standard functionalities. Although the concept seems to have been around for a long time, collocation still has the potential to move corpus linguistics forward by raising new questions and furthering research across disciplinary boundaries. To make this point, I will consider examples from the CLiC project. A new functionality of the CLiC app (http://clic.bham.ac.uk/ Mahlberg et al. 2016, Stockwell and Mahlberg 2015) is a KWICgrouping option (cf. O’Donnell 2008). I will demonstrate how the KWICgrouper can support the viewing of collocations in context. I will also discuss challenges of comparing collocations across corpora and propose some methodological solutions to this problem.

Firth, J.R. (1957). Papers in Linguistics 1934–51. London: Oxford University Press.

Mahlberg, M., Stockwell, P., de Joode, J., Smith, C., O’Donnell, M.B. (2016) CLiC Dickens – Novel uses of concordances for the integration of corpus stylistics and cognitive poetics, Corpora, 11(3), 433–463. http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/pdfplus/10.3366/cor.2016.0102

O’Donnell, M.B. (2008). KWICgrouper – designing a tool for corpus-driven concordance analysis, International Journal of English Studies, 8(1), 107–121.


Enquiries: Ms Christy Kong (The Open University of Hong Kong)
Tel: 2768 5796
Email: ctykong@ouhk.edu.hk
Co-organized by: The Open University of Hong Kong
Caritas Institute of Higher Education

This event was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (UGC/IIDS16/H01/16).

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