I’m a Professor of Corpus Linguistics at the University of Birmingham and a Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. I’m the editor of the International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, the Vice President of the Dickens Society, and the host of the Life and Language podcast.
What is corpus linguistics?
Corpus linguistics is the data science of language studies. It is the study of patterns in the language. In corpus linguistics, we believe that language is best described on the basis of evidence from real language use – ideally loads of evidence! A collection of such data is what we call a ‘corpus’. Methods for the analysis of corpora aim to describe and identify patterns of language use.
Taking a close look at the evidence of language us enables us to answer a range of questions. I have worked on data from 21st century news discourses to 19th century children’s literature.
To find answers to the exciting questions about life and language, I combine corpus linguistic methods with research in a range of other areas, such as Victorian Literature, Discourse Analysis or Environmental Sciences.
I deal with crucial foundations of digital text analysis in two of my books. In English General Nouns, I set out theoretical tenets of corpus linguistics and developed the concept of ‘local textual functions’ to describe how words and phrases behave in texts.
In Corpus Stylistics and Dickens’s Fiction, I looked at textual fundamentals of fictional worlds specifically. Building blocks of fictional worlds include patterns to describe people and places, as well as the speech of fictional characters and the body language that these characters display. Dickens was a fantastic writer to begin such a study of local textual functions in fiction. He simply is the master of using repeated patterns while at the same time writing with “inimitable” skill.
What I find most fascinating is the relationship between fiction and the real-world, how we use language to do things, and how the stories we tell help us make sense of the world.
Have look at my publications to find out more.
How did I get here?
I have a first degree (Staatsexamen) in English and Mathematics from the University of Bonn (2000). In 1996/97 I had a wonderful time studying English, Mathematics and History at the University of Exeter. In 2004, I obtained my PhD from Saarland University (Germany). Before I took up my position at the University of Birmingham in 2015, I was Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Nottingham. Previously, I held positions at the University of Liverpool, Liverpool Hope University College and the University of Bari in Italy.