Skip to main content

Corpus Linguistics Online Talks Winter Spring 2024

We have a fantastic programme of Online Talks  planned for winter-spring 2024, spanning education, taboo language, language change, language in older age, and fake news - with the researchers engaging with and advancing the potential of corpus linguistics in myriad ways. Download the flyer here.

All talks are online and open to all interested parties. To join, please use the following Zoom link -  you will be held in the waiting room until the talk begins:

  • THURSDAY 1st FEB 4-5pm Victorina Gonzalez-Diaz, University of Liverpool "Looking to the past to inform the present: Variation and change in schoolchildren's writing across time (1979-2021)"
  • THURS 15th Feb 4-5pm Robbie Love, Aston University “Corpus-pragmatic perspectives on the contemporary weakening of fuck
  • THURS 29th Feb 4-5pm Heike Pichler, Newcastle University "Researching later-life language use: challenges and opportunities"
  • FRI 15th March 1-2pm Nele Poldvere, University of Oslo "Corpus approaches to stance and evaluation in fake news"

Abstracts for the individual talks are provided below

If you have any questions about the series, please contact:




Victorina Gonzalez-Diaz, University of Liverpool "Looking to the past to inform the present: Variation and change in schoolchildren's writing across time (1979-2021)"

This talk will introduce the WoT (Writing over Time) project, a corpus-based historical investigation of children’s school writing across time and curricular contexts (before and after the implementation of the National Curriculum and, therefore, before and after the introduction of a statutory requirement to teach English language explicitly in schools; cf. Clark 2001). The talk will focus on the results of two (collaborative) case-studies on the primary school data (year 6); the first on complex NP usage and the second on lexical sophistication. Both areas have received attention in previous research on children’s writing development (see, among others, Elliott et al. 2016; Constantinou et al. 2019; Durrant and Brenchley 2019; Durrant et. al 2021), education policy documents (DfE 2013; STA 2018) and general socio-educational sources (Quigley 2018, 2022).

Our results for both case studies indicate a picture of relative diachronic stability in children’s writing performance: There are very limited significant differences in complex NP usage across student cohorts and, as regards lexical sophistication, the data consistently show a higher presence of more diverse and ‘register-appropriate’ (academic) vocabulary in the 2021 writing samples. At a wider level, these findings question the recent “resurgence in England’s education policy” of “deficit-based language ideologies in schools” (Cushing 2022:1) and highlight the need for further attention to diachronic explorations of school writing development and their socio-educational implications.


Robbie Love, Aston University “Corpus-pragmatic perspectives on the contemporary weakening of fuck

This study, co-authored with the late Anna-Brita Stenström (University of Bergen), examines the pragmatic functions of fuck among British English teenagers in casual conversation in two youth language corpora from the 1990s and 2010s. It applies a corpus-pragmatics approach to explore how the ongoing weakening of the taboo strength of fuck in the perception of young speakers is realised in usage data. The major functions observed involve a predominance of idiomatic, emphatic and emotionally expressive functions. Conversely, usage associated with potentially abusive functions, including literal reference to sexual intercourse, is infrequent. Our observations are interpreted in the context of delexicalization and related long-term diachronic processes, whereby contemporary usage of fuck among teenagers is characterised in terms of semi-delexicalized, pragmatically strengthened usage with weakened taboo status. The study also evaluates the interpretation of idiomatic usage from a functional perspective, and contributes to methodological considerations of the use of spoken corpora for pragmatic research.


Heike Pichler, Newcastle University, UK: Researching later-life language use: challenges and opportunities

Despite repeated calls for action (e.g. Coupland et al. 1991; Bowie 2011), the language of older adults has rarely been the central focus of variationist research and our understanding of later-life language use is limited as a result (Pichler et al. 2018). In addressing this gap, variationist sociolinguists are confronted with two interrelated challenges: how do we identify, measure and operationalise those social predictors of language variation that may be especially relevant in later life? And how do we interpret any links between these social predictors and older adults’ variable language use?

In this paper, I propose that key to overcoming these challenges is a commitment to multi-disciplinarity and qualitative data analysis. Social gerontologists have identified a wide range of social predictors that diversify older adults and impact their non-linguistic behaviours; crucially, they have also developed quantifiable questionnaires for measuring and operationalising these predictors. Discourse variationists, on the other hand, have provided evidence that patterns of variation in discourse are shaped by discourse variables’ interactional functions. I will illustrate the insights that can be gained from a multi-disciplinary and qualitative research design with an analysis of older adults’ use of discourse marker you know, as in (1)-(3).

(1) You know, in them days, if you didn’t go to church, you got wrong.

(2) They were two, you know, erm spinster sisters.

(3) I take pride in my appearance, you know.

The analysis is based on some 2500 tokens of discourse marker you know extracted from sociolinguistic interviews collected in 2019-20 from 47 adults aged 70+ in Tyneside, north-east England. Administration of quantifiable questionnaires from social gerontology reveals that study participants are highly diverse in terms of their social network size and diversity. Quantitative data analyses show that older Tyneside adults’ use of you know is systematically affected by their social diversity: across sentence positions, older adults with large and diverse social networks use you know more than twice as frequently as older adults with small and non-diverse networks. Qualitative data analyses suggest that socially connected older adults’ higher frequency of use of you know reflects their heightened sensitivity to the interpersonal dimensions of social interaction, specifically the establishment of common ground between participants (see Schiffrin 1987).

The results of these analyses demonstrate the opportunities afforded by the proposed approach to analysing later-life language use. Applying insights and tools from social gerontology, coupled with detailed analysis of the interactional function of discourse items, has the potential to enhance current understanding of later-life language use and to yield a more age-comprehensive picture of the social mechanisms of language variation.


Nele Poldvere, University of Oslo "Corpus approaches to stance and evaluation in fake news"

In this talk, I report on two corpus studies on the language of fake news—on stance and evaluation in English—from the Fakespeak project, University of Oslo. Fakespeak is concerned with revealing the grammatical and stylistic features of the language of fake news with a view to adding those features to automatic fake news detection systems for better performance. Importantly, we aim to go beyond simply describing what the language of fake news is like, and what features are more common in fake news compared to genuine news: we also want to know the reasons for the observed differences, as facilitated by linguistic theory. Therefore, in the two studies we draw on two well-known theories from linguistics to study stance and evaluation in fake news, namely, Appraisal Theory (Martin & White, 2005) and Biber's (2006) framework of grammatical stance. In the latter, I also briefly touch upon our work on extending the framework to Russian and Norwegian, the two other languages of Fakespeak. The corpora for the studies are of different kinds, ranging from small, but highly controlled corpora of disinformation and deception, to large multilingual corpora containing both mis- and disinformation.