Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Searching for words: The British National Corpus

Here is another tool to help you see how English words are really used. Go to the British National Corpus at Brigham Young University's special Web site. It is more technical than the Virtual Language Center, but it is very good at displaying occurrences of words and their collocates, that is, the words that frequently occur near a word. It also searches a much larger body of text.

It's also very flexible. Here's an example: the word "house". Type it into the window at the top-left-hand corner.

You might want to distinguish between the various "parts of speech" of "house". Can it only be a noun, as in somewhere you live, or can it also be an adjective or a verb?

Ensure that you set the POS (part of speech) option to "YES".

Click "Search" - the button in the bottom-left-hand corner of the window.
You'll then see a list of occurrences of "house", categorised by part of speech:

HOUSE (NN1) means "house" as a singular common noun.

HOUSE (VV1) means "house" as the infinitive form of a verb.
Here's an explanation of those POS (parts-of-speech) codes.

Click on the word "house" to see examples found in the corpus.

But look carefully at all the examples shown when you choose HOUSE (VV1)! Not all of them are verbs. Which examples are not verbs, and if they are not verbs, what are they?

You might like to see the example in its expanded context. Just click on the reference nuimber immediately to the left of the example:

And here's what you see:

Try out this web site - and let us all know in a comment. In the next posting, I'll give you some suggestions on what to search for, based on grammar and vocabulary in recent lessons.
Kind regards,

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