Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The student knows the basic features (terms, concepts, methods and techniques) of corpus-assisted discourse studies; s/he is able to understand, analyze and evaluate complex written texts and oral speeches belonging to various specialized text types and genres; s/he is able to use the competences acquired through the corpus-assisted empirical analysis of discourse, to make and evaluate translation, revision and drafting 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 blogs, political speeches, press conferences, newspaper articles, 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, covers the theoretical and methodological bases of corpus linguistics, applying them to a range of varieties of English, including mediated ones (translated English, non-native English). Part B, taught by Alan Partington, deepens and extends the competences acquired in part A, applying them to corpus-assisted discourse analysis of selected text types.

Lastly, academic writing competences are specifically focused upon in a 20-hour seminar ("lettorato"), devoted to them.


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 the lecturers. A maximum of 15 points out of 30 is assigned on the basis of formal/linguistic aspects: written and oral academic English language skills (lexis and grammar, structure, register and genre). The remaining 15 points are assigned on the basis of content (competences and skills related to the subject matter of the module): understanding of theoretical notions, command of techniques for searching, analysing and reporting corpus data, capacity for original thought and argumentation.

Formal/linguistic aspects (language skills)

  • 15 points: excellent language skills
  • 10-12 points: good/very good language skills
  • 9 points: sufficient language skills
  • 0-8 points: inadequate/seriously deficient language skills

Content-related aspects (competences and skills related to the subject matter of the module)

  • 15 points: excellent subject-related competences and capacities
  • 10-12 points: good/very good subject-related competences and capacities
  • 9 points: sufficient subject-related competences and capacities
  • 0-8 points: inadequate/seriously deficient subject-related competences and capacities

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/IOL 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).

As concerns the teaching methods of this course unit, all students must attend the online Modules 1, 2 on Health and Safety.

Office hours

See the website of Silvia Bernardini

See the website of Alan Scott Partington