In 1991 a group of students at Freiburg University were engaged in what at first sight must appear as an almost anachronistic activity: they were keying in extracts of roughly 2,000 words from British newspapers. The sampling model was the press section of the LOB corpus (see Sand/Siemund 1992). 1992 saw the beginning of a new Brown corpus. The ultimate aim was to compile parallel one-million-word corpora of the early 1990s that matched the original LOB and Brown corpora as closely as possible, and that would thus provide linguists with an empirical basis to study language change in progress. This aim is spelled out in some detail in Mair (1997:196). The parallel corpora were compiled to enable linguists to
An additional advantage of the new British and American corpora is that they provide more suitable databases for a comparison with the Indian, Australian and New Zealand corpora (samples representing language use of the late 1980s) than the original LOB and Brown.
The basic sampling principle in the compilation of Brown and LOB (see Francis/Kucera 1979, Johansson et al. 1978 and Hofland/Johansson 1982) was to randomly select not only the titles from the bibliographical sources but also the particular section of a text using a random-number table. This sampling principle was modified either out of practical considerations dictated, e.g. by the availability of material or whenever a single text did not yield the required 2,000 words. Rather than simply include the next article, the next suitable article (as far as style and subject matter were concerned) was chosen. "This modification of purely random sampling was used extensively in compiling the categories of newspaper prose" (Hofland/Johansson 1982:2). The press sections of Brown and LOB are therefore not representative samples in a strict statistical sense. This applies even more so to the sampling procedures employed in the compilation of FLOB. The main aim in compiling the press section of FLOB was to match the 1991 material as closely as possible with that used in LOB by sampling the same newspapers (see Sand/Siemund, 1992). For the other sections, the same magazines and periodicals used in LOB were sampled whenever possible. In the sampling of monographs great care was taken to select books on equivalent topics rather than to randomly select titles from bibliographical sources. The main aim was to achieve close comparability with FLOB rather than statistical representativeness. (For an overview of the original composition of the corpus, see Johansson et al. 1978).
The purpose of any coding system is to produce an ASCII text that maintains as much of the information of the original text. Instead of using the rather complicated coding system of the LOB corpus, we used a simplified version of SGML-based mark-up codes that were drawn up for the coding of the International Corpus of English (ICE) subcorpora (see Nelson 1996 for details). For example, all types of typeface change, like underlined, bold, italics, etc. were subsumed under one general typeface-change code. The mark-up codes are enclosed in angular brackets. They consist of an opening tag (e.g. <quote_>) and a closing tag (e.g. <quote/>). If a feature extends only over one word a vertical stroke is used (e.g. <quote|>). A list of all the mark-up codes used in the FLOB corpus is included in Chapter 2 of this manual.
In addition to those mark-up tags that help to represent the microstructure of the original (i.e. those indicating a typeface change or the beginning of a new paragraph), the ICE mark-up includes codes that help to interpret rather than represent the original text (i.e. the marking of non-English text or transliterations of Greek or Hebrew text).
In order to ensure that the corpus text would be as ‘readable’ as possible, the use of mark-up symbols was kept to a minimum. In particular, we tried to avoid the use of double codes. If a non-English word in the original text was set in italics it was only coded as non-English (<foreign_>word<foreign/>) and not as (<tf_><foreign_>word<foreign/><tf/>).
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