Representativeness in Corpus Design

  • Douglas Biber
Part of the Linguistica Computazionale book series (LICO, volume 9)


The present paper addresses a number of issues related to achieving ‘representativeness’ in linguistic corpus design, including: discussion of what it means to `represent’ a language, definition of the target population, stratified versus proportional sampling of a language, sampling within texts, and issues relating to the required sample size (number of texts) of a corpus. The paper distinguishes among various ways that linguistic features can be distributed within and across texts; it analyzes the distributions of several particular features, and it discusses the implications of these distributions for corpus design.

The paper argues that theoretical research should be prior in corpus design, to identify the situational parameters that distinguish among texts in a speech community, and to identify the types of linguistic features that will be analyzed in the corpus. These theoretical considerations should be complemented by empirical investigations of linguistic variation in a pilot corpus of texts, as a basis for specific sampling decisions. The actual construction of a corpus would then proceed in cycles: the original design based on theoretical and pilot-study analyses, followed by collection of texts, followed by further empirical investigations of linguistic variation and revision of the design.


Relative Clause Require Sample Size Tolerable Error Word Type Text Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas Biber
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishNorthern Arizona UniversityUSA

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