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Corpus linguistics 25+ years on

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Chapter Summary

In the history of English language research on computerised corpora, the year 1977 marks an important event with the birth of ICAME – the International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English – which set off international co-operation on a large scale. The use of computer corpora, from being a fringe activity, has become a mainstream methodology. Yet there was corpus life also before ICAME. I have sometimes been asked why, in the unsupportive linguistic environment of the 1960s, I chose to become ‘a corpus linguist’ – there might have been moments when being so named felt like discovering your name on the passenger list for the Titanic. This contribution is very much a personal memoir of those early days when the first corpora were being compiled, when computers were rare, expensive, unreliable and inaccessible to ordinary folk – huge machines located inside glass doors and operated by engineers dressed in white coats, and when CD only stood for Corps Diplomatique.



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