Corpus Stylistics at CL2017

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As promised in our recent post on the conference season, we participated in the CL2017 conference at the University of Birmingham (one of our home institutions!) last week. The conferences in the CL series bring together researchers from all areas of corpus linguistics and provide an opportunity to see how corpus methods are applied in so many different types of research. (Check the Twitter hashtag #cl2017bham to see what sort of work was presented at this year’s conference.)

In relation to the CLiC project, any session relevant to corpus stylistics was of particular interest to us. This year, an entire pre-conference workshop was dedicated to this area, organised by Beatrix Busse and Anna Čermáková: “Styling: Big and Small Data in Corpus Stylistics”. Interestingly, it was not all about literature. For example, two talks from the DINEQ project focused on discourses of economic inequality in newspaper corpora: Michael Toolan presented a study of British budgeting speeches over the last 40 years and Eva Maria Gomez-Jimenez discussed the representation of maternity leave in the British press, also with a focus on economic inequality. Susan Reichelt gave a talk on the stylistic concept of characterisation, applied to several TV series – and approached it from a sociolinguistic/variationist background. An interesting talk on translation from minority to majority languages was given by Imogen Cohen who illustrated cases of creative language in Dutch novels being “normalised” in their English translations. She used an amusing shoe analogy to illustrate her points:

In our CLiC talk we discussed (of course) 19th century fiction and Dickens in particular; but we also suggested that fictional speech in general is worthy of analysis in its own right. We showed results from an ongoing project in which we compare fictional speech with actual spoken language. The organisers suggested to publish the output from the “Styling” workshop, so do look out for that.

At the main CL2017 conference, one of the keynote speakers, Dan McIntyre, gave a talk on “Just what is corpus stylistics?” Much like what we saw at the “Styling” pre-conference workshop, McIntyre emphasised in his talk that stylistics is not refined to the study of literary genres. Apart from discussing the characteristics of corpus stylistics and its relation to both corpus linguistics and stylistics, Dan McIntyre introduced ‘Worldbuilder’. This new tool allows users to annotate corpora with categories from Text World Theory, a stylistic framework. For more information on Worldbuilder, you can read the Wang et al. 2016 paper (by McIntyre and colleagues).

Even if you couldn’t attend the conference, you can, thankfully, still watch Dan McIntyre’s full keynote lecture on Youtube:

If you’re interested in corpus linguistics in general, also make sure to check the videos of the five other keynote talks by Susan Hunston, Andrew Hardie, Mike Scott, Christian Mair and Susan Conrad!

Some stylistics talks appeared throughout the main conference programme. For example, Lorenzo Mastropierro presented on “Using Key Words as Nodes of Cohesive Networks” in original and translated fiction; you can read the related open access article (co-authored with Michaela Mahlberg).

We gave two CLiC-related talks, one together with Jesse Egbert from Northern Arizona University and another with Anthony Hennessey and Christopher Tench at the University of Nottingham. Like the presentation at the Styling workshop, both talks dealt with fictional speech, but this time took different approaches: multidimensional analysis (see this companion resource to a chapter by Douglas Biber and Bethany Gray for an introduction) and co-occurrence comparisons (using our CorporaCoCo R package).

We’ll leave you with two snapshots of members from the CLiC Dickens Team presenting at the conference until we post the next update from the conference season. (Photo credit: Williams Fallows from ; you can access the full CL2017 photoset on Flickr)

Michaela Mahlberg at CL2017
Viola Wiegand at CL2017

 

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