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Topics in English Linguistics: Language in Use and Corpus Linguistics


Admission requirements

A background in linguistics


One of the most exciting developments in the exploration of language over the past 50 years has been the accumulation of systematically compiled language data, or corpora. These, usually large, collections of authentic written and spoken language have been illuminating in virtually all branches of linguistics. In this course, we will explore how corpora and tools related to it pair together with studying language in use.
Corpus-based methods allow us to uncover meanings construed in texts that defy analysis by hand and eye alone, that is, the meanings that we do not expect texts to convey. Through a series of hands-on activities, we will employ corpus techniques in order to critically analyse newspaper articles and political texts and to uncover biased ways in which social groups and events are represented linguistically. We will thus examine, for instance, lexical choice (freedom fighter vs. terrorist), metaphors (Refugees flood streets), and the choice between active or passive voice (Police attack protestors vs. Protestors attacked). We will look into sociolinguistic differences in language use based on age, gender, social class and the native language of speakers. And we will also explore how the way we use language develops over time and how it varies depending on the medium and the genre in which the communication takes place. Though there is an overwhelming number of existing corpus resources for the English language, students interested in exploring and analysing data from other languages and cultural contexts will be more than welcome to do so.

Course objectives

After completing the course, the students will

  • be able to apply their knowledge on corpus resources (in English and other languages), tools and methods;

  • understand the major theoretical frameworks relating to corpus-based analysis of discourse;

  • be equipped with the skills necessary to analyse and interpret discourse independently through the use of corpora and build their own small specialised corpora;

  • be able to use several computer programs (such as AntConc, Wordsmith and GraphColl) specialised in corpus analysis and the visualisation of linguistic data, as well as interfaces of corpora such as the Corpus of Historical American English and the British National Corpus;

  • think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of the corpus methodology and decide when and how to use it in tandem with other methodologies.


The timetable is available on the “MA Linguistics website”:

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Attending seminars: 26 hours
Weekly assignments and reading compulsory literature: 110 hours
Presentation preparation: 40 hours
Preparation for research project and writing the final paper: 104 hours

Assessment method

Weekly assignments (40%)
Final paper (50%)
Presentation (10%)

The final grade consists of weighted average of the above components


This course will be supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

Baker, Paul (2006). Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. London and New York: Continuum.
An additional list of sources will be made available at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Student administration Van Eyckhof