University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Exploring English Corpora: Language and Literature

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION Recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in the possibilities of analyzing texts through large collections - or corpora - of machine-readable text. In a way that was never possible just a few decades ago, we can now search through millions of words of written or spoken text for any word, phrase or idiom, in order to identify new patterns of language use. This study-unit introduces students to the most well-known English language corpora and demonstrates how they can be used as a research tool in a variety of contexts including learning, teaching and writing.

Students will gain practical experience in effective corpus-based research, including:
- a key word analyses approach;
- analysis of linguistic and literary effects in texts by using the evidence of language norms and deviation in a ‘reference corpus’.

Study-unit Aims:

- to familiarise students with well-known English language corpora, such as the British National Corpus, the International Corpus of English and the Brown Corpus;
- to expose students to a range of features of the English language and English literature, for example, relative clauses, the use of specific stylistic devices, or the use of formal vs informal language (etc.) across a range of contexts and genres;
- to sensitise students to the complex nature of using appropriate English in different situations, texts and contexts (the appropriate use of register);
- to give students the opportunity to practise using corpora in research or study;
- to introduce students to the key concepts of corpus design and textual markup.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- identify the main features of individual English language corpora;
- develop a keener understanding of English language usage in different contexts;
- grasp key concepts of using appropriate registers;
- identify an author’s style through preference for specific linguistic features that allow some degree of measurability;
- develop self-awareness regarding their own choice of vocabulary, structure and cohesive devices when writing;
- understand the basic principles of corpus design and textual markup.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- develop the skills to search corpora in a methodical and constructive way;
- analyze and draw conclusions from text search results;
- annotate literary texts;
- make qualitative and quantitative comparisons between different text types;
- apply a new understanding of patterns of language usage identified across different corpora to revising their own patterns of language usage.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Biber, D., Conrad, S., Reppen R. 1998. Corpus Linguistics, Investigating Language Structure and Use, Cambridge: Cambridge UP
- Lindquist, H., 2009. Corpus Linguistics and the Description of English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP
- Aijmer, K and Altenberg, B (eds). 1991. English Corpus Linguistics

Other texts as required.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite Study-units


STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practicum

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Project Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Odette Vassallo

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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