We are pleased to announce that Alan Partington of the Università di Bologna has accepted the invitation of the Institute of the Czech National Corpus (Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague) and will be presenting two lectures on Corpus-assisted Discourse Studies, on Tuesday May 3rd at 1 PM at the ICNC, and on Wednesday May 4th at 2:10 PM at the Faculty of Arts.
Due to limited space, please use this page to register for both lectures at your earliest convenience. For details about the lectures (venue, abstracts) see below. For more information about the speaker see this short bio.
NB: The visit was originally planned for December 2015 but postponed for personal reasons.
Corpus-assisted Discourse Studies (CADS): Good Practices and Potential Pitfalls
Tuesday, May 3rd 2016, 1 PM | Institute of the Czech National Corpus (room 5), Panská 7
I want to start by outlining some of the relatively well-known methodological and epistemological achievements of Corpus Linguistics. I’d like then to show how these both feed into but differentiate from the requirements and practices of corpus-assisted discourse studies, defined as the employment of corpus techniques to shed light on aspects of language used for communicative purposes or, put another way, to analyse how speakers (attempt to) influence the beliefs and behaviour of other people (Partington, Duguid & Taylor 2013).
CADS does not refer to a particular school or approach, but is an umbrella term of convenience. Indeed, the types of research it refers to are eclectic and pragmatic in the techniques they adopt given that they are goal-driven, that is, the aims of the research dictate the methodology. However, although a broad church, it does possess its own characteristics, methods, resources, practices and is subject to its own particular temptations and pitfalls.
By means of various case studies, I want to illustrate the added values of CADS to discourse study. It can supply an overview of large numbers of texts, and by shunting between statistical analyses, close reading and analysis types half-way between the two, CADS is able to look at language at different levels of abstraction. After all, ‘you cannot understand the world just by looking at it’ (Stubbs 1996: 92), and abstract representations of it need to be built and then tested. Indeed, far from being unable to take context into account (the most common accusation levelled at Corpus Linguistics), CADS contextualises, decontextualises and recontextualises language performance in a variety of ways according to research aims. It also highlights how statistical information, sometimes dismissed as ‘merely’ quantitative, is actually inherently also qualitative in nature. Corpus techniques greatly facilitate comparison among datasets and therefore among discourse types. They can, moreover, ensure analytical transparency and replicability (and para-replicability). And because parts of the analysis are conducted by the machine, they enable the human analyst to step outside the hermeneutic circle, to place some distance between the interpreter and the interpretation. Finally, they enable the researcher to test the validity of their observations, for instance, by searching for counterexamples (‘positive cherry-picking’).
Having said all this, the discourse analytical process is always guided by the analyst, and there are many parts of the process which a machine simply cannot tackle. This is why we prefer the term ‘corpus-assisted’ to alternatives such as ‘corpus-driven’ or ‘corpus-based’.
The aim is to show how CADS sits within the wider framework of scientific research methodology, what we might mean by scientific objectivity in discourse analysis and what counts as good (in the senses of both ‘useful’ and ‘honest’) practices and what practices are best avoided.
“Why are you English all so anti-European?” A corpus-assisted discourse study (CADS) of “stay or leave?” arguments on the eve of the UK Referendum on withdrawal from the EU
Wednesday, May 4th 2016, 2:10 PM | Faculty of Arts (room 104, 1st floor), nám. J. Palacha 2
On June 23rd 2016, the British people will vote on whether to remain in or to withdraw from the European Union. The announcement to hold the referendum was announced by PM David Cameron in January 2013.
In this talk I want to compare and contrast the reactions to the referendum proposal in two English newspapers, the left-leaning Guardian and the right-leaning Daily Mail. In the first stage, two corpora were compiled, each containing all the articles in the two newspapers whose headline or leading paragraph contained the items eu OR european union OR brussels OR frankfurt for the years 2013, named respectively DM13_eu and GN13_eu. These were downloaded from the Lexis Nexis database. Another similar pair of focused corpora were compiled from 2005, named DM05_eu and GN05_eu in order to conduct a diachronic comparison to examine whether the newspapers’ stances have altered over this time period as a result of changing circumstances, especially the Eurozone crisis. In a second updating stage, two more corpora were compiled of articles from the two newspapers which contain the terms eu OR europe AND referendum in the first three months of 2016, named respectively DM16_eu and GN16_eu. These corpora were compared and contrasted with each other using the WordSmith key-item tool which produced lists of words and short phrases (or ‘clusters’) which were more frequent in one data-set than another. This affords a window into the relative particular preoccupations of each paper at these particular times.
Observations from the research include that British EU-scepticism - and EU-enthusiasm - come in various shades and varieties. Anxieties over the EU have changed over time (especially if we reference Teubert’s 2001 seminal work on EU-sceptic discourses in 2000). The data show clearly that it is not simply a right versus left issue, and to divide viewpoints into just two camps - a pro-EU and anti-EU one - is hugely simplistic. But the problem with Referendums is that they demand a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response, and shades of opinion cannot be envisaged.
The principal endeavour of Corpus-assisted discourse study (CADS) is the investigation, and often comparison, of features of particular discourse types, integrating into the analysis techniques and tools developed within corpus linguistics, shunting between statistical quantitative overviews of data and traditional close reading, often of segments of data identified as potentially significant by the overview. The aim of the CADS approach is the uncovering, in the discourse type under study, of ‘non-obvious’ meanings and patterns of meanings, that is, meanings which might not be readily available to naked-eye perusal (Partington, Duguid and Taylor 2013).