A page from the history of linguistics

In the next couple of months, I will be conducting research on diachronic changes in English usage at the University of Freiburg by looking into the “Brown family” of corpora.

The Brown Corpus of Standard American English was the first of the  computer readable, general, million-word corpora compiled by Francis and Kučera at Brown University in the 1960s. Its creation inspired a number of mirroring “family” of corpora, including its British English counterpart, the Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen (LOB) corpus. In today’s terms the one million-word corpora are considered to be rather small in size, however, back in the early days of corpus linguistics, the Brown corpus, which was stored on 100,000 punched cards, represented an emancipatory step in studying naturally-occurring language.

To my great and pleasant surprise, my new office is the home to the original texts which make up the two newer editions to the Brown family, the Freiburg-Brown (Frown) and the Freiburg-LOB (FLOB) corpora dating from 1991. I am looking forward to looking into them, through automatic searches instead of page turning, of course.

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