82011 - Corpus Linguistics (CL1)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

The student - knows the basic features (terms, concepts and methods) of corpus linguistics applied to the study of the structure, functions and textual organization of the English language - is able to understand, analyze and coherently produce complex written texts (but also oral speeches) belonging to various specialized text types and genres, including multimedia ones - is able to use the competences acquired through the empirical analysis of texts, to make and evaluate translation choices

Course contents

The module introduces students to the basics of corpus linguistics and allows them to practice its methods through extensive corpus-assisted discourse analysis work. The acquisition of the competences and capacities outlined in the learning outcomes is favoured by the provision of hands-on activities in which theoretical notions and methods are applied to a) mediated varieties of English (English as a lingua franca, translated English, learner English vs. native English) and b) text types that the students are interested in or familiar with (such as tweets, blogs, political speeches, press conferences, newspaper articles, fantasy literature etc.). Particular attention is given to how ‘non-obvious’ meanings are communicated and interpreted, that is, forms of meaning which may be uncovered by corpus linguistics techniques but which may not be self-evident to other forms of reading.

The module, which aims to increase the students' awareness of their own expressive means and to improve their discourse analytical skills, has two parts. Part A, taught by Silvia Bernardini with the assistance of G. Aragrande, covers the theoretical and methodological bases of corpus linguistics, applying them to mediated varieties of English and academic writing. Part B, taught by Alan Partington, deepens and extends the competences acquired in part A, applying them to corpus-aided discourse analysis of selected text types.


Main reference texts

McEnery, T. and A. Hardie 2012. Corpus linguistics. Method, theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Partington, A. 2017. "Varieties of non-obvious meaning in CL and CADS: from ‘hindsight post-dictability’ to sweet serendipity". Corpora 12:3, 339-367.

Practice-oriented suggested readings

Crawford, W. and Csomay, E. 2016. Doing corpus linguistics. Oxford and New York: Routledge.

Jones, C. and D. Waller 2015. Corpus linguistics for grammar. Oxford and New York: Routledge.

Mikhailov, M. and R. Cooper 2016. Corpus linguistics for translation and contrastive studies. Oxford and New York: Routledge


Other readings will be chosen jointly by the lecturers and the students, based on the areas of application of corpus linguistics focused upon. Students will be encouraged to actively search for relevant literature, and to share it with the class.

Teaching methods

The module is structured around a) a series of lectures covering the main theoretical and methodological aspects of corpus linguistics, and b) extensive hands-on, workshop-like lessons in which students apply the knowledge gained in the lectures by building and using their own corpora and by consulting existing ones available in the public domain.

Hands-on activities are problem-based, i.e. they revolve around authentic problem that students solve working autonomously or in small groups. Peer support and the lecturers' scaffolding create a relaxed learner-centred environment conducive to the development of relational and problem-solving skills.

Assessment methods

Success in learning is assessed through observation and interaction in class and through unassessed coursework such as oral presentations and short writing exercises, along the lines of the final exam.

The end of course exam consists in the preparation of an abstract outline of a research project (in linguistics, translation studies, language teaching, etc) involving the use of language corpora.

Abstracts should be between 800 and 1,000 words and include a list of references (not included in the word count). They should provide a clear outline of the aim of the paper, including clearly articulated research question(s), details about the research approach and method(s), and (preliminary) results.

The abstracts will be submitted by mail to the course teachers who will make a preliminary assessment to be followed by a brief interview with the candidate about the work, resulting in a final assessment grade.

The abstract is assessed jointly by S. Bernardini and A. Partington, and an equal weight is given to formal aspects (lexis and grammar, structure, register and genre) and content (understanding of theoretical notions, command of techniques for searching, analysing and reporting corpus data, capacity for original thought/argumentation).

The Corpus linguistics module is part of the Linguistics for Translation course. The overall mark for the whole course is obtained by averaging the marks obtained in the exams for the two constituent modules (Corpus Linguistics and Text Linguistics).

Teaching tools

Both lecture-like and workshop-like sessions take place in a computer lab equipped with PCs and a data projector, so as to be able to switch back and forth between the two teaching methods.

Slides are used for lectures and subsequently made available to the students via the Moodle platform, in pdf format.

During workshop sessions, students have individual hands-on access to software for constructing and analysing corpora (e.g., Intertext editor, AntConc, NoSketch Engine).

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Silvia Bernardini

See the website of Alan Scott Partington