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Building on the work in Chapters 2 and 3 we now consider how we can take a broadly scientific approach, in Popper’s terms, to the study of language when we have demonstrated that linguistics does not fit easily within his framework. A key step in that process occurs in this chapter when we reconsider linguistics as a social science, though we also give consideration to its role in the digital humanities. Our conception of linguistics as a principally social science shows how we can take linguistics and deal with it in a way broadly in line with the framework specified in Chapters 2 and 3 while also dealing with those elements of it which do not easily fit a natural science framework.
We conclude briefly by reflecting on the overall journey undertaken in the book. Importantly, we conclude with a reminder that what we have presented is one, well worked through model of what it means to use a corpus. We invite the reader who disagrees with this model to take the opportunity to go away, in the spirit in which we began our work in Chapter 1, and argue for different choices to be made and a different coherent model to be proposed.
How easy is it to repeat a previous corpus-based study? Repetition is a basic demand of scientific investigations. Hence our focus in this chapter is on an attempt to repeat some studies by Geoffrey Leech of modal verbs and word frequencies. In failing to repeat a number of observations we note the difficulty of repeating studies in corpus linguistics, in spite of the field having proposed that the ability to do this is one of its distinct strengths.
Having considered repetition in the previous chapter, we now look at replication in this chapter. Beginning with a discussion of replication, we move on to attempt to replicate some features of Leech’s study of modal verb decline, building on similar work by Paul Baker and focusing on the results produced in support of claims of modal decline from the early twenty-first century. Our study undertakes a form of replication rare in corpus linguistics, but common in the sciences – a study based on new datasets using the same sampling frame as the original dataset. Our replications then force us through a process of hypothesis reformulation, corroboration, falsification and, at times, rejection in line with the scientific approach to corpus data outlined in Chapters 1 to 5 of the book.
While the idea of the scientific method has wide currency, in this chapter we point to the difficulties inherent in deciding exactly what that method is. We note some of the key features of the scientific method while also identifying some of the key choices we have made in writing this book.
This chapter completes our critical exploration of Popper’s key work, the Logic of Scientific Discovery and how it applies to corpus linguistics. In this chapter we address the question of how easily linguistics may be viewed as a science, in Popper’s terms. We also consider important critiques of Popper’s work and use those to both clarify and, where necessary, adapt the framework.
We begin by demonstrating the importance of the ideas of Karl Popper to corpus linguistics. On that basis we begin an exploration of his ideas in order to understand both his account of the scientific method and how this method may illuminate aspects of the corpus-based approach to the study of language.
This chapter addresses the nature of the data we use in corpus linguistics and what we believe corpus data represents. In doing so, we draw not only on Popper’s framework, but also on uses of that framework by other linguists in the Prague School, Systemic Functional Linguistics and Axiomatic Functionalism. We consider a range of issues including performance errors, repairs and learner language.
How might evidence of language use – writing and speech – be used as a way of studying language? Corpus linguistics is the study of linguistic data from a particular language or set of languages. It is a fast-moving approach to studying language, and there is still a degree of divergence in how research questions are approached using corpus data. This book uses a framework, based on the work of Karl Popper, to explore a number of fundamental issues in corpus linguistics. It critically evaluates how these issues are tackled, and proposes a set of best practices for future research. It spells out why using corpus data is valuable, what we can learn from using it, and how we may most effectively progress our understanding of language by using such data. It is essential reading for researchers and students of language in general, and of applied linguistics and English language in particular.