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Section C: Exploration: Analyzing discourse

C1: Additional Activity

C2: Additional Activities

C3: Suggested analysis of Cheryn-ann Chew's blog

C4: Additional Activities

C5. Suggested analysis of conversation in Unit C5

C6: Additional Activities

C7: Additional Activities

C8: Affordances and Constraints

C9: Video

C10: List of Publically Available Corpora

C1: Additional Activity

In the activities in Unit C1 you practiced using some basic ideas about discourse to analyze texts. First you looked at a text based on the three different perspectives on discourse I outlined in Unit B1:

  • Discourse as language above the level of the sentence
  • Discourse as language in use
  • Discourse as social practice

Then you looked at another text and analyzed it based on the features of language that I described in Unit A1:

  • Language is ambiguous.
  • Language is always ‘in the world’.
  • The way we use language is inseparable from who we are and the different social groups to which we belong.
  • Language is never used all by itself.

In the activity below you will be asked to compare two different texts about the same topic.

Korean Dramas

Different kinds of texts use language in different ways and construct different kinds of social relationships among the people involved in creating and reading those texts. Look at the two texts below. One is the Wikipedia entry on Korean Dramas. The second is a Facebook wall conversation entitled: ‘What is your favorite K-drama?
First read the texts carefully and try to answer the questions below.

  • What are the purposes of these two texts? (What are the producers of these texts doing?) How are the different purposes reflected in the ways the texts are organized and kinds of language used?
  • Both of these texts are cooperatively authored – in other words, different people worked together to create them. How does the cooperative nature of the texts affect how they are written? Are there differences in the two texts in terms of how people cooperate?
  • How are the people who produced these texts trying to show what kind of people they are and what kind of social groups they belong to?

Now take a look at a text that you were involved in producing (such as a blog post, a Facebook wall conversation, an email or an IM chat). Answer the following questions:

  • What were you trying to do with this text?
  • How did you use this text to show your relationships with other people?
  • What kind of social identity were you trying to project through this text?

Try to point to specific features of the language to explain your answers.

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C2: Additional Activities

1. Identify the cohesive devices in the following texts
a. Reference
b. Conjunction
c. Substitution
d. Repetition

Despite having sold millions of records and becoming a household name through her (1) own will and creativity, the fact is, Lady Gaga is still a relatively "new" celebrity, so (2) I was somewhat skeptical about how informative (or necessary) a full-on biography could be at this point in her career. But intrigued as I am by her and her music, I picked it (3) up with an open mind in hopes of learning more about the woman (4) herself, getting behind the mystique she so carefully veils herself in publicly. Heavy with quotes and page after page of gorgeous color photographs, this is a great reference tool for fans. However (5), in the end I don't feel like I necessarily learned anything new or came any closer to understanding the "meaning of Gaga (6)," so to speak.
(from http://www.ebooknetworking.com/books_detail-1590204239.html )

2. Look at the text below and identify the cohesive devices in the text.

Are there examples of reference?
Are there examples of repetition?
Are there examples of substitution?
Are there examples of ellipses?
Are there examples of conjunctions and other linking words?
Are there examples of lexical cohesion?

What are the most common kinds of cohesive devices found in the text? How do they affect the way the text 'sticks together' and the 'feeling' that you get from the text? Do they make the text seem more 'logical', 'interesting', 'exciting' or 'convincing'?

Who is Faye Wong?

Born in Beijing, she is the daughter of a busy engineer and a classical singer who sings cultural folk songs. She spent most of her early life in day care and living with an aunt. In her teen years she became interested in singing and won many awards in school for her fine voice. At around the age of eighteen, she was supposed to go to Fuching University in Fujian but her father asked her to come to Hong Kong instead.
Not knowing Cantonese, the main language of Hong Kong, she was terribly bored there. She took up a short term modeling course and suffered some ridicule from her peers who regarded her as a backward mainland girl with no taste. Through the arrangement of her parents, she took vocal courses with a voice trainer named Dai Shi Cong. After about a year of training, Dai Shi Cong recommended her to Chan Siu Poh (then manager in Cinepoly Records) who was impressed with Fei's vocal talents.
Because of her fine voice she was quickly signed to a contract, and talent managers began shaping her into one of the Hong Kong music scene’s leading pop stars. One has to wonder what a young talented girl felt about the music industry of Hong Kong coming as she did from Beijing. Apparently she felt alienated by the inauthenticity of the show business scene. She was a pretty face singing what she was told to sing. Despite her own dissatisfaction, she experienced some success in the business playing the role of a teen idol singing love songs that were not all that interesting to anyone over the age of fifteen.
A significant change in her development seemed to occur during a short stay in New York where she went to study singing and dance. During this time she was able to escape from what she described as the caged and self-doubting feelings she had felt in Hong Kong. In the freedom of New York she began to gain self-confidence, and relished the independence that came with it. She described her New York experience as giving her the chance to express her real self, and to renew her spirit.
This rebirth was reflected in music she released some time after returning to China. Many of the songs were in Mandarin which is her native language instead of Cantonese. She also composed a number of her own songs for the first time. Songs from recordings like ‘Impatience’ and Sky’ are remarkably fresh and different from her previous work, and they have gained her international recognition. Her most recent release, ‘Faye Wong,’ put out by her new international recording company is also quite strong, and it bodes well for future releases where I would expect to see the uniqueness of her talent flower and develop as she matures.

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C3: Suggested analysis of Cheryn-ann Chew's blog

Cheryn-ann Chew's blog

Reproduced with kind permission of the blog owner, Cheryn-ann Chew.

As in filter-type blogs, diary-type blog entries begin with a title and the date and time the entry was written. Sometimes, as in this entry, they do not contain the author’s name since all of the entries in the blog are by the same author. The move structure of diary-type blogs tends to be more open and unpredictable than in filter-type blogs, since the purpose is for the author to reflect on an experience, thought or memory, and this reflection may take the form of a narrative, an analysis or even an argument. In the example above, the blogger begins by introducing the topic she is going to be writing about, then goes on to give some evaluative comment on this topic, and then goes on to offer some elaboration or details about the topic. Diary-type blogs also sometimes include embedded media, usually in the form of digital photographs.

As with filter-type blog entries, the communicative purpose of these entries, to share personal experiences, thoughts and impressions, helps to define the discourse community. Although anyone can read such blogs, they are primarily intended for the author’s friends and serve the function of developing and strengthening personal relationships. It is in fact, the often intensely personal nature of the material in such blogs expressed in a public forum that makes this genre particularly unique.

This focus on creating solidarity within a particular discourse community then, is something that both filter-type and diary-type blogs share. Often this is facilitated through processes like commenting and linking to blogs and blog entries posted by other members of the community. These practices of commenting and linking also serve to uphold the norms of the community and police its membership, communicating things like approval, acceptance and shared values. Although links or references to other texts are not as central a part of diary-type blogs as they are of filter-type blogs, they do occur. In the example above for example, the author refers to pictures posted on her Facebook page.

Additional Activities

1. Choose a discourse community that you belong to and fill out the following chart with information about the shared goals of the community, the different kinds of texts that members of the community produce and consume and the communicative purpose/s of these different kinds of texts. Discuss your answers with your classmates.

Discourse community


Communicative purpose/s








Shared goals:









Talk about the relationship between being able to produce or understand these texts and being considered a full or competent member of the community and how members of the community learn how to produce and understand these texts.

2. The genre of the business card

A business card has a certain communicative purpose – to allow someone to easily contact a particular person or business from whom goods or services are desired.

  • What are the moves associated with this genre?
  • How do these moves contribute to the overall communicative purpose?
  • Do you expect these moves to be presented in a particular order or layout?
  • What other expectations do you have about business cards (e.g. size, material)
  • What kinds of discourse communities use business cards?
  • What kinds of discourse communities would you not expect to use business cards?

Please look at the following card: http://allgraphicdesign.com/graphicsblog/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/businesscards-divorce.jpg

The card below is the business card of a divorce lawyer. It breaks the ‘rules’ we normally associate with this genre because it gives the contact information twice. This breaking of the rules, however, seems to perfectly suit the wider communicative purpose, since two people who may not wish to have contact with each other (the divorcing couple) need to have access to the information.

Look at the other creative business cards on the website below and discuss how the creators of these cards creatively break the ‘rules’ of the genre and how, by breaking the rules, they are more able to reach their overall communicative purpose.

Creative Business Cards

Useful links

Bridging the Gap: a genre analysis of weblogs, Susan Herring


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C4: Additional Activities

1. Global Warming

In his book Analyzing Public Discourse: Discourse in the making of public policy (Routledge, 2008),Ron Scollon presents two versions of a text about global warming produced by scientists during the Bush administration. The first version is the original text written by scientists. The second is the text after government officials had edited it.

Analyse the two texts, paying special attention to modality and the inclusion and exclusion of information. What is the difference in the impressions they give about the danger of global warming. Why do you think the Bush adminstration officials changed the text the way they did?

Global Warming Text 1(Scientist’s Version)
Warming will also cause reductions in mountain glaciers and advance the timing of the melt of mountain snow packs in polar regions.  In turn runoff rates will change and flood potential will be altered in ways that are currently not well understood.  There will be significant shifts in the seasonality of runoff that will have serious impacts on native populations that rely on fishing and hunting for their livelihood.  These changes will be further complicated by shifts in precipitation regimes and possible intensification and increased frequency of extreme hydrologic events. (Scollon, 2008:138)

Global Warming Text 2 (Government’s version)
Warming would also cause reductions in mountain glaciers and advance the timing of the melt of mountain snow packs in polar regions.  In turn runoff rates would change and flood potential would be altered in ways that are currently not well understood.
Warming could also lead to changes in the water cycle in polar regions.  (Scollon 2008:139)

2. Warning Labels

In Unit B4 I showed how different warning labels on cigarette packages present the danger of ciagarette smoking differently.

Go to Google images and search for cigarette warning labels or click the link below.

Cigarrette warning labels


Analyse the warning labels you find there in terms of

  1. Processes, participants and transitivity (‘Who’s doing what’)
  2. Modality (degree of certainty or obligation)
  3. Social languages
  4. Reading positions (implied reader/implied writer)
  5. Other elements (e.g. pictures, type)

Which labels do you think are the most/least effective in getting people to stop smoking? Why?

Sites with additional information on cigarette warning labels



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C5. Suggested analysis of conversation in Unit C5

Tyner: How’s David?
Hyde: Do what?
Tyner: How’s David?
Hyde: You mean my son?
Tyner: Yep.
Hyde: Don, don’t threaten my son. Do a lot of things but don’t ever threaten my son.
Tyner: I didn’t threaten anybody, I just said, ‘How’s David?’
(from Shuy 1993:109)

There are a number of reasons why Hyde might think this is a threat, especially given that he believed Tyner had threatened him in the past. The most important reason has to do with the cooperative principle: Tyner’s sudden reference to Hyde’s son seems to come totally out of the blue during a conversation about their business disagreement. From the point of view of Hyde, Tyner is flouting the Maxim of Relevance with his question, and therefore creating implicature. In order to reconcile this violation of the Maxim of Relevance, Hyde infers that the question is in some way relevant to their disagreement, that is, a threat. This is not an unreasonable inference. Many threats are delivered in a similar indirect fashion in order to give the threatener plausible deniability (‘I didn’t threaten anybody, I just said ‘How’s David?’) and protect them from the kind of legal action Hyde is taking against Tyner.

Shuy (1993) however, gives another interpretation, the one he used in court in order to support Tyner’s defense. Rather than focusing on the Cooperative Principle, Shuy’s defense of Tyner emphasizes principles from conversation analysis, especially those regarding the closing of conversations. As I said in the web materials for Unit B5, when people close conversations, they often use ‘pre-closing’ moves in which they signal that they want to close the conversation and give the other speaker the chance to raise another topic. This is sometimes done with a general or polite question that moves the conversation away from the topic that was being discussed. Shuy argues that Tyner’s question is just this sort of pre-closing move.

This interpretation is further supported with reference to additional background information about the relationship between Tyner and Hyde’s son. It turns out that Tyner knew Hyde’s son, and had taken David to horse races and other events. Given this information, Tyner’s question seems less ‘out of the blue’ and more reasonable.

This conversation, Shuy points out, occurred at the end of a long conversation in which Hyde repeatedly accused Tyner of threatening him and Tyner repeatedly denying it. Shuy describes it like this:

Tyner had had enough. He had denied the other accusations but by now he was tired of doing so and he terminates the topic, and the conversation, with his words, "Okay, you done fucked up, baby." After a pause, Tyner then begins his conversational pre-close, changing Hyde's topic completely and, asking about David. Had Hyde taken this as a real request about David, he might have responded "Fine, thanks" and they would have closed the conversation off with their goodbyes. When Tyner hears that Hyde took this as a threat, he denies it and apparently leaves. His voice fades, indicating that he was moving away from the microphone worn by Hyde and no goodbyes can be heard. (Shuy 1993:110)

In the end, Tyner was acquitted of all charges.

Additional Activities

1. Conversational Maxims and Implicature

Look at the following utterances and decide which Maxim is being flouted and what kind of special meaning (implicature) is created.

The Maxim of Quantity
Be only as informative as required for current conversational purposes.
The Maxim of Quality
Say only what you believe to be true and adequately supported.
The Maxim of Relation
Be relevant.
The Maxim of Manner
Be clear: be brief and orderly and avoid obscurity and ambiguity.


situation/ Participants

Maxims flouted


My phone never stops ringing.




I love you when you forget to call and tell me you’ll be late.




A; What’s on TV?
B: (Checking the TV listing) Nothing.




A: How’s your hamburger?
B: A hamburger’s a hamburger.




A; Has your boss gone crazy?
B: Let’s get a cup of coffee.




A: If (Monica Lewinsky) told someone that she had an affair with you beginning in November 1995, would that be a lie?
B: It’s certainly not the truth. It would not be the truth.




A; What did you do on that morning?
B: I woke up in bed. I was in bed. I was wearing pajamas. After lying still for a few moments, I threw back the duvet, got out of bed, walked to the door of the bedroom, opened the door, switched on the hallway light, walked across the hallway, opened the bathroom door, went into the bathroom, put the basin plug into the plughole, turned on the hot tap, ran some hot water into the washbasin, looked in the mirror…




A: What’s the time?
B: Three-thirty (it’s actually twenty-nine after three)




2. Felicity conditions

List the felicity conditions for:

  • A marriage proposal
  • A bet
  • A request
  • An order

3. Preferred responses

 Look at each of the conversational moves below and decide what you think the preferred response would be in different situations. What kinds of meaning would be implied if the preferred response were not given (i.e. heard as 'officially absent').


Preferred Response/Situation A (Specify)

Meaning if preferred response is absent or different

Preferred Response/Situation B (Specify)

Meaning if preferred response is absent or different

 'Thank you'





 'I love you'





 'Hello, my name is Rodney'










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C6: Additional Activities

1. Situations

In Units A6 and B6 I discussed the two face strategies of involvement and independence and how people decide which strategy to use based on power, distance and the importance of the topic being discussed (which we can refer to as weight of imposition). Try to imagine the situations below and rate them along the dimensions of power (P), distance (D), and W (weight of imposition). Write down what kinds of face strategies you might use in these situations. 





Possible strategies

You think your lectures in discourse analysis are boring and you want to tell you teacher so he can improve his lecturing style





You suddenly realize you have lost your wallet and have no money to take the ferry back to Lamma Island. You need to borrow HK$15 from a stranger.





Your best friend has been gaining weight recently and you think he needs to go on a diet.





Your boyfriend wants to have sex with you but you don't want to.





2. The Girls Get Grounded

Video Watch the video clip ‘The Girls Get Grounded’ and list the contextualization cues (gestures, facial expression, intonation, voice quality) which signal the frames of ‘scolding’, ‘joking’ and ‘showing remorse’ and ‘gloating’:

Watch the You tube clip at:
(see higher quality longer version at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2OrtZKJMt0)


Contextualization Cues







Showing Remorse/Apologizing



(Parents – after girls have left)



1. Why do the girls try to move the conversation into the ‘joking frame’?
2. How do you know the mother is being sarcastic when she says ‘We have this really crazy idea that you listen to us when we talk…’?
3. What are the frames and contextualization cues of the final scene between the parents and the family friend? How does this also involve competing frames (e.g. serious and joking)?

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C7: Additional Activities

1. Krumping

Ethnographers of communication spend a lot of time hanging around with the people they are studying and observing them in order to gather enough information to describe and analyze culturally specific speech events accurately. It is difficult to do a proper analysis without putting in this kind of time and effort.

Documentary films and other media however, can sometimes give us a partial window into the competencies people need to participate in speech events.

Watch the clip from the documentary Rize about urban dance culture and try to fill in the chart below with as much information as you can about ‘krumping’. Do your best to describe the kinds of cultural knowledge and communicative competencies you think might be necessary to participate in the kind of speech event depicted in the film. 

Video Watch the YouTube clip at:

You might also want to do some internet research on krumping. Here are some useful links:

Urban Dictionary: Krumping

Krumping: dancing videos and lessons


Setting and Scene
What is the appropriate time and place for krumping? Are there places or times of the day when you think this activity would be inappropriate?


What kinds of people participate in the speech event of krumping? Are there people who are restricted from participation? What kinds of roles do participants take (e.g. performer, audience) and what kinds of behaviours, rights and responsibilities are associated with these roles? What kind of relationships do people in different roles have with one another?


What is the purpose of krumping? What are the outcomes people expect from participating in this speech event?


Act sequence
Can you discern any pattern in the way the speech event unfolds? Is there any predictable order to the actions people take? What do you think would happen if actions were performed out of order?


What is the tone, manner, mood and spirit of the speech event? Would outsiders be able to accurately interpret the key?


What forms and styles of speech, clothing and physical movement do people use in this speech event? What other kinds of media (e.g. music) are important to this speech event?


What are the social rules governing the ways people interpret other peoples’ actions in the context of this speech event? How do people know when others are being serious or playful, hostile or friendly?


How would you characterize the ‘genre’ of krumping? What is the move structure and overall communicative purpose? Can you think of comparable genres? Describe them.


After you have filled out the chart, think about the relationships among the different components (e.g. does one component depend on or determine another?).

2. Your turn
Do a similar analysis for another speech event you are able to learn about through YouTube.

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C8: Affordances and Constraints

1. Affordances and constraints

Consider the three different Facebook tools listed below.

  • Status updates
  • Chat
  • Relationship status

Discuss the following questions.

  • What kinds of actions do they make it easier to do?
  • What kinds of actions so they make it harder to do?
  • What actions are these people performing?
  • What kinds of identities are they enacting through these actions?

2. Work in small groups. Each group should consider one of the following social practices.

1. Eating in the student canteen
2. Taking an examination
3. Taking the bus

Answer the following questions:

  • What are the key actions involved in this practice?
  • Which of these actions involve discourse? What kind of discourse is it?
  • How does this discourse make certain actions easier and other actions more difficult?
  • Are different pieces of discourse available to different people?
  • At what stage in this practice does the chain of action become impossible to reverse?
  • How do the different actions involved in this practice help people to claim certain identities for themselves and impute certain identities on other people?

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C9: Video

Watch the video used in the example in Unit C9 at:

Additional activities

1. Writing centre Interaction I

In Unit C9 a close analysis of a very short sample of interaction was given. It is also possible to analyze such interactions from a broader perspective by taking note of how many times (or how long) participants deploy particular modes.

Watch the longer video from which the example in the book was taken and fill in the chart below, making a hash mark every time the person engages in the behaviour mentioned.

Video Watch the YouTube video at:


Tutor (woman)

Client (man)




Other gestures






Looking at other person



Compare the behaviour of the tutor and the client. What does this tell you about their relationship? What does it tell you about the way they conceive of the higher-level actions they are engaged in?

2. Writing centre Interaction 2

Look at the multimodal transcription of another interaction in the writing centre.













Discuss the following questions.

1. How does the client (the person on the right) use gestures to express himself? How are his gestures related to and timed with the words he says?
2. How does the tutor (the person on the left) use gesture and gaze to show that he is listening?
3. How do the participants coordinate and 'mirror' each other's actions?

3. Writing centre Interaction 3

Watch the short video of another part of the interaction transcribed above. How would you make a multimodal transcription of this interaction? Which actions would you highlight?

Video Watch the YouTube video at:

4. Facebook photos

Choose some photos you or your friends have uploaded to Facebook and analyze them based on the functions discussed in the book.


a. The ideational function

  • Is it a conceptual (analytical) or narrative picture?
  • Who are the participants?
  • What actions are portrayed?
  • What is the setting?

b. Interpersonal function

  • What is the relationship between the characters and the viewer (expressed through gaze, distance)?
  • What it the ‘reality status’ of the image (does it seem ‘true’ and ‘real’)? What gives you this impression?
  • What does the author of the image want you to do?

c. Textual function

  • How are the different elements of the image jointed together?
  • What is the relationship between the left side of the image and the right side?
  • What is the relationship between the top of the image and the bottom of the image?

What does this analysis tell you about the message you or your friends were trying to convey when they uploaded the picture? Is it a more a message about an event (this is what happened) or a relationship (this is how these people feel about each other) or both?

5. Analyzing video

Watch the following video and talk about how the speaker portrays different kinds of characters. Write down three characters he imitates and list the elements of posture, gesture, gaze and facial expression he uses to imitate them.

Video Watch the YouTube video at:

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C10: List of Publically Available Corpora

American National Corpus

British National Corpus

A collection of English corpora

Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA)

International Corpus of English (ICE)


Web as Corpus English web corpus

Additional activity

1. Changing discourses in Time magazine

One good way to understand ‘Discourses’ is to examine how certain words are used in the media and how the frequency of these words changes over time. The Time magazine corpus (http://corpus.byu.edu/time/) is a good tool to use to do this.
Choose a word that you think represents an important issue, debate or phenomenon. For example:

  • Environment
  • Hunger
  • Immigration
  • Gay
  • Globalization
  • Race
  • Women

One good source for ideas for words to search for is:

Burgett, B. and Hendler, G. (2007) Keywords for American Cultural Studies, New York: New York University Press.

Analyze the way the usage of the word you have chosen has changed over the nine decades represented in the corpus using the tools you learned about in Units B10, including word frequency, concordances and collocation analysis. Can you identify one or more ‘Discourse’ that this word seems to be part of? 

Search syntax
You can make your search broader or more specific by using the query syntax of the corpus. For example:

  • You can use * as a ‘wildcard for any other letters (e.g. s*ng will return sing, sang, song, sung)
  • You can enclose your word in brackets [  ] to find all different forms of the word (e.g. [sing] will return sing, singing, sang)
  • You can use [=word] to find synonyms of the search term
  • You can search for multiple words by separating them with | (e.g. gay|lesbian|homosexual)

Word frequency

You can find out how frequently your word was used in the pages of Time magazine in different decades by simply typing the word into the WORD(S) field and clicking SEARCH. Note: to show different decades, the SHOW box in the sections field should be ticked and –IGNORE—should be chosen from the drop down menu.
This corpus interface will allow you to visualize frequency results in the form of a bar chart by choosing the radio button. Below, for example, is the chart generated by searching for the word ‘gay’ (figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1: Davies, Mark. (2007-) Time magazine corpus: 100 million words, 1920s-2000s. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/time/

The numbers above the bars tell the absolute frequency along with the frequency per million words, which is actually a better measure of frequency since the total number of words published in Time has changed quite a lot over the years. As you can see from the chart above, the frequency with which the word ‘gay’ appeared increased dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s.


As you know from my discussion in A10 and B10 of the book, simple word frequency counts however are just a starting point for discourse analysis. They are not entirely reliable measures since they can only tell us how frequently a word occurred rather than how it was used. Many words in the English language have multiple meanings, and the meanings of words sometimes change over time.

This is certainly the case with the word ‘gay’. The way this term was used in the 1990s and 2000s to refer to homosexuals was not the way it was used in the 1920s and 1930s. This can be investigated through looking at a concordance of the word.

Concordances can be generated in this corpus in a number of ways. One way is by simply clicking on the bar in the frequency chart corresponding to the decade you wish to generate a concordance for. Another way is to click the radio button KWIC under display and choose the decade you want from the drop down menu.

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows a section of the concordance of ‘gay’ form the 1920s, and Figure 3 shows a concordance of  ‘gay’ from the 1990s. It is easy to see from these concordances that the word gay meant two entirely different things in these two decades.

Figure 2: Davies, Mark. (2007-) Time magazine corpus: 100 million words, 1920s-2000s. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/time/

Figure 3

Figure 3: Davies, Mark. (2007-) Time magazine corpus: 100 million words, 1920s-2000s. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/time/

Searching with the KWIC button chosen under display will result in a concordance that can be sorted alphabetically based on words on the right or left of the search term. In addition, words belonging to different parts of speech (e.g. verbs, nouns, adjectives) are coded with different colours. Figure 4 shows a section of the concordance of ‘gay’ for all nine decades of the Time magazine corpus.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Davies, Mark. (2007-) Time magazine corpus: 100 million words, 1920s-2000s. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/time/

As I mentioned in Unit B10 concordances are the first step to exploring the different collocates of a particular word or phrase which make up the textual environment in which this word or phrase is used. For more detailed information about collocation, a collocation analysis can be performed.


Clicking on COLLOCATES on the left side of the screen will open the collocation analysis window. Next to the search field are two drop down menus for setting the range of the search (X spaces to the left or right).

Under SORTING AND LIMITS there is also the option to sort collocates by RELEVANCE, which is often more useful than sorting them by FREQUENCY. RELEVANCE sorting uses an algorithm called the ‘mutual information score’, which measures how ‘tightly’ linked two words are.

When the search field is left blank, a list of the highest relevance collocates is generated. Figure 5 shows a section of a collocation analysis for the word ‘gay’ in which the frequency of collocations in different decades is shown. Many of these highly relevant collocates are not surprising, like ‘marriage’, ‘rights’ and ‘activists’. Some might be surprised to see the word ‘Enola’. The Enola Gay was the name of the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. Since the word Enola probably does not appear anywhere in the corpus without the word ‘gay’, these two words are tightly linked and Enola is rated to be a high relevance collocate.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Davies, Mark. (2007-) Time magazine corpus: 100 million words, 1920s-2000s. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/time/

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