How huge is the HUGE database?

The past weeks we have been looking into the ‘hugeness’ of the HUGE database. We want to show how many usage guides were in the database by year, what kind of usage problems there are and how many of each category.

Currently the HUGE database covers 240 years of usage advise with 78 usage guides from 1770 until 2010. To give an overview of the distribution of usage guides in the database I made a table of the first editions by year.


As can be seen in the chart it looks as if the 1980s and 1990s are over-represented with fourteen and fifteen first editions of usage guides respectively. However, the number of publications do increase in these two decennia. Of course usage guides were published in the years 1790-1820 and 1880-1900 but these were newer editions of previously published guides.

Most usage guides published in the beginning of the 1980s deal with British English but in the late 1980s more American usage guides were published. The boom in usage guides could be a counter movement against the closure of state funded grammar schools during the 1960s and ‘70s. It seems that this trend in commercially published guides started in the UK and later thrived in the US as well. In the 1990s a more even distribution in guides can be seen in both the UK and the US with eight and seven first published guides.

problemsThe usage problems in the database are tagged with various  linguistic levels: syntax, morphology, etymology, spelling, lexis, semantics and punctuation. The complete usage problem list can be found in the manual. The usage problem list consists mainly of grammatical problems in the English language so it is not surprising to see that most usage problems in the HUGE database are concerned with problems relating to syntax and morphology. The second most prominent linguistic level is semantics. This relates often to problems between a choice of words. As the main focus is on the grammatical problems, the usage problems in the database are least concerned with spelling and punctuation.

Usage problems were furthermore tagged on more specific problem definitions. The word cloud below gives an overview of these definitions. The more prominent a certain problem tag, the bigger the word. According to the data the problem definitions number, concord, agreement, redundancy and comparative are in the top five tags.


If you are interested in using the database for your research you can request access here.

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