#corpusmooc 5: looking at social issues

See the #corpusMOOC tag for all my posts on this MOOC.

Tony’s lecture/s this week summarised a CASS project looking at the possible reputational and other benefits of hosting the Olympics and Paralympics, published as the London 2012 media impact study.

The research questions illustrate the importance of this aspect – just looking at a word list may not be particularly enlightening:


For RQ1, looking at the role hosting the Paralympics may have had in making the media choose preferred over dispreferred naming strategies (see the Office for Disability Issues guidelines) when talking about disabled people, the following search terms were used:

  • preferred: person with a disability, disabled, wheelchair user, wheelchair-user, uses a wheelchair
  • dispreferred: handicapped, cripple, crippled, wheelchair bound, wheelchair-bound, confined to a wheelchair
  • politically correct: differently able and handicapable (+ dispreferred…)

Exploring frequency lists over time led to some encouraging findings. Are similar trends reflected in the English language globally? Here collocates, grouped into categories (sports, society, financial…) and semantic categories (people, age indicators, extent of disability…), were explored, finding for example that there is a tendency in American English to categorise disability to a much finer degree than in British English, and to construe perceived ability on this basis (see, for instance, functionally disabled).

The work went on to look at the differences in the representation of disabled people in British and American English, followed by a close look at the word ‘disabled’.


  1. Which of these is NOT a stage in corpus compilation as defined by Kennedy (1998: 70-85)? – corpus publication
  2. How large should a corpus be? – depends on a number of factors such as the genres we want to analyse and the frequency of the features we want to look at
  3. How large is the smallest corpus mentioned in the lecture on corpus design in week 4? – 20,000 words
  4. Which is the preferable option for storing a corpus? – storing each text as a separate file
  5. Which type of markup is compulsory for every corpus? – none
  6. What corpus data was used in the research discussed in this week’s (week 5) lecture? – both existing corpora and newspaper data gathered for the project
  7. What were the findings of the research about the effect of the Paralympics on the British newspaper discourse? – the Paralympics had a positive effect because they promoted preferred naming strategies and supressed dispreferred ones
  8. What were the findings of the research about the differences in the representation of disabled people in British and American English? – British English is more empowering than American English because it represents disabled people more in active contexts

Covers last week as well, actually quite handy to do it a week later.

Really need a quick way of getting to full layout of the course, as on Canvas. RU sure there’s enough supplementary material, it’s really demotivating scrolling through all the stuff I won’t do. Seems they are all vids with academics talking about their research – hmm, some well timed articles will do that OK. I’m reminded of #mapmooc, where you the videos were optional rather than bearing the full weight of the content.

One of the readings is a critical look at software tools in corpus linguistics by Laurence Anthony, may give that a whirl, however after reading an article yesterday on academic writing, albeit in a US context, am wondering if this is a barrier for MOOCers outside HE. It’s an unfamiliar style for many, and may even create a barrier to learning. I tend to stick academic stuff in a folder and never go back to it, whereas I will scan a blog post. There’s a need for more engaging writing, not just for the public at large but for other professions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s