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Discourse linguistics meets corpus linguistics: theoretical and methodological issues in the troubled relationship

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Chapter Summary

Discourse linguistics and corpus linguistics have an uneasy relationship because of their inherent ontological and epistemological differences. Yet it is a steady relationship going back well into corpus-linguistic history, and one that both fields are highly motivated to maintain despite its many hazards and challenges. Singling out five complementary dimensions of discourse, understood here in a broad sense, this paper shows that not all of them will be equally accessible to users of corpus methods. Two fundamental aspects of discourse are identified as particularly challenging to corpus-linguistic enquiry, i.e. the distinction between product- and process-oriented approaches; and the status of the primary notion of context. The latter raises the issue of authenticity, suggesting a need to rethink what we mean by the notion. The important methodological distinction between a corpus-based and a corpus-driven approach to discourse serves to highlight key issues in the joint history of discourse linguistics and corpus linguistics. The paper is rounded off with a discussion of the benefits to be gained by a combination of discourse linguistic and corpus linguistic approaches and methods: each party can complement the other in constructive ways; to uncover new aspects of discourse that may suggest a reconsideration of our present understanding, and disclose our tacit assumptions about it.



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