Using a corpus

Before you use a new word in English you should check it out! Take a look at how this word is used by British people before you use it yourself. How do you do this? You look the word up in a corpus. A corpus is a collection of language. Researchers collect a lot of language from newspapers, books, TV, radio etc and put it all into a computer. It is then possible to type a word into the computer and find all the examples of that word. This is a great way to find out if that word is really what you want. Follow today’s link to the British National Corpus which is a collection of 100 million words from spoken and written British English. In the second paragraph of the home page you will see a box where it says ‘search the corpus’. This is where you type in your new word and then press enter. You will see 50 randomly selected uses of your word. Read the sentences carefully – you should see the word being used in a variety of different ways. Looking up words like this in a corpus will really help you understand how words are used. The link to the British National Corpus is here.

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