by Tony McEnery and Andrew Hardie; published by Cambridge University Press, 2012

Part 4: English Corpus Linguistics

The development of corpus linguistics was very strongly influenced by work on the English language from the 1960s onwards. In fact, prior to the early 1990s, corpus linguistics was largely the preserve of people working in the tradition of English corpus linguistics. After this point, however, it became more and more a part of mainstream linguistics. It is this tradition of English Corpus Linguistics (abbreviated to ECL here) that we will review in this section.

Although the focus of study was English, not all the scholars involved were based in Anglophone countries. Many researchers came from countries where English was an important second language, for example Hong Kong and India. Many others worked in Europe, with Belgium, Germany, Holland, Norway and Sweden making important contributions.


In the early days, work in ECL was typically concentrated in a small number of particular research centres. Many of these centres were in regular contact with each other through an organisation called ICAME (the International Computer Archive of Modern English), founded in the 1970s. As Leech and Johansson’s (2009) account of the formation and early years of ICAME relates, the organisation allowed a network of scholars to cooperate in the development of ECL as a field.

Today, ICAME produces a journal and organises an annual conference (see the 2012 event) where researchers in ECL meet and exchange ideas. A sequence of books were produced in loose association with the conferences, in a series entitled Language and Computers. This book series, started in 1988, provides a useful guide for those interested in the development of the field of ECL and, by implication, of corpus linguistics in general.

ICAME also collected and distributed English corpora: this aided the rapid development of ECL because these English corpora were among the first to be placed in an archive allowing relatively easy access to the resources by researchers other than their creators.

A review of work associated with ICAME and ECL more broadly could be organised in a number of ways. Here, we’ve chosen to consider in turn the contributions of a number of research centres around the world. The review is, of necessity, far from complete it would be impossible to review every centre and to consider every contribution. However, the following institutions had a major and sustained role in the development of ECL:

Centres outside Europe also made important contributions; for example, in the USA, Northern Arizona University and the University of Pennsylvania played important roles from the 1980s onwards.


This page was last modified on Monday 16 April 2012 at 12:21 pm.

Tony McEnery Andrew Hardie

Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, United Kingdom