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Where did we Go Wrong? A Retrospective Look at the British National Corpus

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Chapter Summary

The British National Corpus (BNC) has been a major influence on the construction of language corpora during the last decade, if only as a significant reference point. This corpus may be seen as the culmination of a research tradition going back to the one-million word Brown corpus of 1964, but its constitution and its industrial-scale production techniques look forward to a new world in which language-focussed engineering and software development are at the heart of the information society instead of lurking on its academic fringes.This paper attempts to review the design and management issues and decisions taken during the construction of the BNC and to suggest what lessons have been learned over the last five years about how such corpus building exercises can most usefully be extended into the new century.I will also describe the new World Edition of the BNC and its associated SARA retrieval package, which has been enhanced in response to user feedback to facilitate creation of a searchable version of any large-scale XML-marked-up corpus.



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