Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Do You Need to Use Corpora?

Corpora … It is a strange word that sounds a little bit scary for me because (I don’t know why) it associates with Umbrella Corporation from “Residence Evil”. Well, it doesn’t matter really. What’s important here is that corpora can help you a great deal with academic writing. How? Let’s see.

A corpus (pl. corpora) is a large electronic collection of texts which can specialize in a specific language (Corpus of Contemporary American English), certain dialect (Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech), separate industry (Corpus of American Soap Operas), etc. So what? How can it exactly help you?

Let’s imagine that you are writing an essay for an American student and you are not sure whether you should use the word “offense” or “offence”. So, you go to the Corpus of Contemporary American English and here is what you see:

You need to:
  • Press enter;

  • Type the word “offense” into the search bar;

You will see that the word “offense” has 13634 occurrences and if you want to see it in the context, you just need to click this word.

  • Type the word “offence” into the search bar;

You see that it has only 289 occurrences and it gives you the evidence that “offense” is more common in American English. To compare the results you may also examine the same words in the British National Corpus.

Overall, corpora can be used to check which prepositions are used with this or that word or how some certain phrase is applied in the context. This way or another, corpora are irreplaceable tools in academic writing once you learn their value.