Dialect and accent studies

Corpora have an important role to play in dialect studies. Not only do they allow comparison between language varieties, they also make it easier for linguists to provide a comprehensive description of the individual varieties themselves. There are two types of corpora that are used in dialect studies: diachronic and synchronic. Diachronic corpora allow language change to be studied over time, while synchronic corpora allow linguistics to analyze different varieties of language at the same point in time.

Diachronic corpora

Recently, historical linguists have compiled diachronic corpora such as the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts, the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots and the Corpus of Early English Correspondence, and devised tools to analyze them. Their aim is to examine language variation and change over a considerable length of time over a range of texts from different genres. If a corpus is large enough, then the results can be statistically significant, and can help identify the type, direction and rate of changes.

Synchronic corpora

Other linguists have focused on compiling synchronic corpora, which allow them to analyse different varieties of a language at the same point in time. For example, The International Corpus of English (ICE) has been compiled by 15 research teams all over the world, under the overall guidance of University College London. These different research teams have prepared, or are preparing, electronic corpora of their own national or regional variety of English. This project has the advantage that each regional team is constructing its own corpus in similar way to all the others (i.e. style of grammatical annotation). This means that comparative analysis will be relatively easy to do.

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