Changing English Across the 20th Century: a corpus-based study

The main aim of the research is to carry out an investigation of areas of change in grammatical usage in 20th Century British English, focussing on the verb phrase. The study will be based on a package of four corpora sampled at regular intervals: 1991 – 1961 – 1931 – 1901. Two sub-goals are to: a) Compile a new corpus of British English called Lancaster1901 focussing on the beginning of the twentieth century. b) Enhance the encoding and annotation of Lancaster1901 and the three existing corpora (Lancaster1931, LOB and FLOB), and release the enhancements to the academic community. The proposed research contributes in two important ways to the study of the history of English during one of its most rapid phases of development. It provides a package of corpora across the whole twentieth century; and it allows us to deepen the analysis by systematically taking into account the contribution of semantic factors in the distributional behaviour of grammatical categories. Together these developments will help us to provide a comprehensive picture of changing grammatical usage in British English in the twentieth century.

Sponsored by The Leverhulme Trust (Grant number F/00 185/J), this project runs from August 2005 - July 2007.

Principal Investigator: Paul Rayson (Computing, Lancaster University)
Co-investigators: Geoffrey Leech (Linguistics, Lancaster University), Martin Wynne (Oxford University Computing Services)
Researcher: Nick Smith

More information:
Lancaster University Press Release: August 2005.
Computing Department projects database entry.

Project publications

  1. Leech, G., Smith, N. and Rayson, P. (2011) English style on the move: variation and change in stylistic norms in the twentieth century. In M. Kyto (ed) 'English Corpus Linguistics: Crossing Paths'. Rodopi, Amsterdam.
  2. Broccias, C. and N. Smith (2010). Same time, across time: Simultaneity clauses from Late Modern to Present-Day English. English Language and Linguistics 14.3: 347-371.
  3. Celle, A. and N. Smith (2010). Beyond aspect: Will be -ing and shall be -ing. English Language and Linguistics 14.2: 239-269.
  4. Leech, G., Hundt, M., Mair, C. and Smith, N. (2009) Change in Contemporary English. Cambridge University Press.
  5. Hoffmann, S., S. Evert, N. Smith, D. Lee and Y. Berglund-Prytz. (2008). Corpus Linguistics with BNCweb - A Practical Guide. Frankfurt: Peter Lang [shortlisted for the BAAL Book Prize 2009].
  6. Smith, N., P. Rayson and S. Hoffmann (2008). Corpus tools and methods, today and tomorrow: Incorporating linguists' manual annotations. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 23:2, 163-180.
  7. Broccias, C. and Smith, N. (2007) Temporal as- and while-clauses: change and continuity in their aspectual associations and restrictions from Late Modern English. 3rd Late Modern English Conference, Leiden, the Netherlands. 30 August - 1 September 2007.
  8. Busse, B. and Smith, N. (2007) Obligative hedged performatives in 19th-c. and 20th-c. British English texts. 10th International Pragmatics Conference, Göteborg, 8-13 July 2007.
  9. Leech, G. (2007) The changing of linguistic change: insights from standard corpora over a period of 60 years. Invited talk at 28th International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English conference (ICAME 28), May 23-27 2007, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.
  10. Rayson, P., Archer, D., Baron, A. and Smith, N. (2006). Tagging historical corpora - the problem of spelling variation. In proceedings of Digital Historical Corpora, Dagstuhl-Seminar 06491, International Conference and Research Center for Computer Science, Schloss Dagstuhl, Wadern, Germany, December 3rd-8th 2006.
  11. Smith, N. (2006). WILL + be -ing: a quirky progressive? Panel contribution to the seminar "What Future for the Future Tense in English?". European Society for the Study of English (ESSE-8) conference: University of London. 30 August 2006.
  12. Smith, N., Leech, G. and Rayson, P. (2006) The expression of obligation and necessity in British English across the twentieth century: developments in matching corpora. To be presented at 14th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (14 ICEHL), Bergamo, Italy, 21-25 August 2006.
  13. Rayson, P. and Smith, N. (2006) The key domain method for the study of language varieties. The Third Inter-Varietal Applied Corpus Studies (IVACS) group International Conference on "LANGUAGE AT THE INTERFACE". University of Nottingham, UK, 23-24 June 2006. PDF version
  14. Smith, N., Leech, G. and Rayson, P. (2006) Exploring grammatical change across the twentieth century: A backward step permits further advance. 27th conference of the International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English (ICAME) University of Helsinki, Finland, 24-28 May, 2006.
  15. Joan Beal, Karen Corrigan, Paul Rayson and Nicholas Smith (2006) Writing the Vernacular: Transcribing and Tagging the Newcastle Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (NECTE). Pre-conference workshop on corpus annotation, ICAME-27, University of Helsinki, Finland, 24 May 2006.
  16. Leech, G. and Smith, N. (2006) Recent grammatical change in written English 1961-1992: some preliminary findings of a comparison of American with British English. In Renouf, A. and Kehoe, A (eds.) The Changing Face of Corpus Linguistics. Rodopi, Amsterdam and New York. Language and Computers - Studies in Practical Linguistics 55.
  17. Smith, N., Rayson, P., Leech, G., and Wynne, M. (2005). Changing English across the twentieth century: enhancements to an existing family of corpora. Poster presented at the Digital Resources for the Humanities conference (DRH 2005), Lancaster University, UK.
  18. Leech, G. and Smith, N. (2005). Extending the possibilities of corpus-based research on English in the twentieth century: A prequel to LOB and FLOB. ICAME Journal 29, pp. 83-98. PDF version