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Shakespearean dictionaries: A corpus-based approach to the word ‘horrid’

Watch Jonathan Culpeper elaborate on what a corpus-based Shakespeare dictionary is like, taking the word "horrid" as his main illustration.

How can we extract patterns of language use that reveal word-meanings? And what patterns exactly are we talking about?

In some ways, corpus-based techniques probing word-meanings are like word association games, except that we are not guessing about the word associations but providing empirical evidence for them.

This video uses the word “horrid” to illustrate those techniques. We look at a “concordance”, a list of instances of a word extracted from a corpus so that you can see their immediate linguistic contexts presented line by line. This simple technique reveals the associations of a word. In this way, we show how the word “horrid” has particular associations today that it did not in Shakespeare’s time. We contrast our observations with what it says about “horrid” in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), where we also find Shakespeare listed. Our corpus-based technique reveals more subtleties In the interpretation of “horrid” in Shakespeare than we find suggested in the OED.

If you have any questions about this technique so far, put them in the comments, otherwise move on to the next example in the following video.

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Shakespeare's Language: Revealing Meanings and Exploring Myths

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