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Featured Abstract: “Analyzing linguistic variation: From corpus query towards feature discovery”
Elke Teich, Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken, Germany
In the study of linguistic variation (dialect, sociolect, register), we can distinguish two types of analytical situations: the feature-centric and the variable-centric. In a feature-centric perspective, we start from a given feature (or set of features) and want to derive the variables (e.g., place, social group, user group) associated with the given feature/features. This is a typical situation in dialect studies, where we are interested in the geographical distribution of a particular phonetic realization (e.g., +/- rhoticity and British dialect areas). In a variable-centric perspective, we start from a given variable (e.g., a register) and want to determine the features that are typically associated with that variable. In the feature-centric perspective, we obtain the necessary information (typically a frequency distribution of a feature) employing a corpus query approach, by means of which we extract the instances of a given feature from an appropriate set of language data. In a variable- centric perspective, we are faced with the problem that we may not know a priori what the relevant features are; instead, we have to find ways of discovering linguistic features potentially suitable for analysis.
In my presentation, I will illustrate these two perspectives with examples from the study of register variation in the scientific domain, looking at selected lexico-grammatical features and the variables of discourse field (scientific discipline) and time (diachronic evolution of registers) (cf. Teich & Fankhauser, 2010; Degaetano et al., 2011; Degaetano & Teich, 2011).