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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds So, can you describe to us a typical day as a corpus Lexicographer? Okay, well one of the great things about being a freelance lexicographer is that I am able to do a wide variety of works, I don’t really have a typical day. But if I’m working on a dictionary project then, typically, I get sent a batch of words to compile or to edit and usually there’s a time limit on that, a certain number of hours and the first thing that I do is look at the corpus to decide what the different meanings are and what grammatical patterns and collocations go with those meanings and then I select examples to illustrate those meanings and sometimes I have to cut the examples back or change something to make them fit with the text that I am doing.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 seconds So, when you’re looking in a corpus, the size that Corpora are these days, you really cant look at all the evidence but the corpus software is very helpful in showing you the relevant information. So, it shows you the grammatical patterns and the collocations ordered according to frequency. So, you can very quickly decide what’s important to show about that word and what isn’t. So, say you were looking at the verb search and you see the pattern search out which is a phrase or verb, you can then go further into the data and find out what kind of things people typically search out and what you find is people search out opportunities.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 seconds They search out answers, solutions, the truth, meaning and that kind of thing. So, you can dig down into the corpus to find the information you want and then you decide how much of it to put in the entry. What do you find most fascinating and most frustrating about using Corpora in lexicography? The best thing about Corpora is that they show you how language is used and not how people think its used. So, if you’re looking at a piece of language that you’ve come across or something that you’ve heard somewhere you can use the corpus to determine whether its actually used or whether its maybe just a small group of people using it.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds So, you might have heard people using the expression excited for something, so they say I’m excited for the wedding or I’m excited for the holiday and this is a new preposition coming after excited and you think its only a restricted group of people using it but if you look in the corpus you find that excited about is the most frequent and then excited for is the next most frequent and so that’s definitely something that’s being used broadly by large numbers of people and so you would put it in the entry and that’s what we did when we were revising that entry for MacMillan dictionary and put in excited for something.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 seconds Frustrations, sometimes when you’re looking particularly at adjectives that are formed from past particles of verbs, so things like astonished or appalled you find that the corpus has tagged it as a verb and not as an adjective and you know there’s an adjective astonished or appalled or whatever but when you search for it, the corpuses there’s no result, there’s no evidence for this or it gives you very little evidence for it but you’re kind of alert to that and so you look at the verb and you dig into the data about the verb and then you find what you’re looking for that way.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds But basically, the software these days is really good and really fast and it gives you the information you want instantly.

Corpora in lexicography

Watch the interview with lexicographer, Liz Potter as she discusses how corpora are used by lexicographers today.

As you watch the video, focus on the areas that she discusses around how she used corpora in lexicography and shares her insights behind what was exciting and challenging about using the process.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding English Dictionaries

Coventry University