The Spoken BNC2014 early access projects: Part 3

In January, we announced the recipients of the Spoken BNC2014 Early Access Data Grants. Over the next several months, they will use exclusive access to the first five million words of Spoken BNC2014 data to carry out a total of thirteen research projects.

In this series of blogs, we are excited to share more information about these projects, in the words of their authors.

In Part 3 of our series, read about the work of Karin Aijmer, Kazuki Hata et al. and Laura Paterson.


Karin Aijmer

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Investigating intensifiers in the Spoken BNC2014

Intensifiers undergo rapid changes. Old ones may go out of fashion and be replaced by new ones even in a short diachronic perspective. They should therefore be studied in up-to-date spoken material. This project will describe ‘new’ intensifiers (or new developments of intensifiers) such as so (cool), fucking, damn, dead, enough and the contexts in which they are used. What do they for example collocate with? Who are the typical users?

The aim of the article using data from the Spoken BNC2014 early access subset is to study recent or on-going changes in the area of intensification. Intensifiers are interesting to study because they have a tendency to lose ground and may be replaced by other intensifiers even in a short diachronic perspective. Intensifiers have earlier been studied on the basis of the spoken part of the British National Corpus, and access to the EAS will make it possible to compare the frequencies of intensifiers across time. On the basis of the corpus data it will also be possible to give information about the speakers (e.g. whether they are teenagers or adults, gender and social class of the speakers).


Kazuki Hata, Yun Pan and Steve Walsh

Newcastle University, UK

Talking the talk, walking the walk: interactional competence in and out

Our project aims to characterise interactional competence through a comparison of casual conversation and institutional talk, two distinct genres. The proposed study will build on an ongoing project using the NUCASE corpus (Newcastle University Corpus of Academic Spoken English), led by the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University. From our analysis of the NUCASE data, we have identified specific features of interactional competence which operate in different academic contexts. Interactional competence, across a range of academic disciplines, can be characterised by identifying the key linguistic and interactional features, which promote engagement and maximise ‘learning’ and ‘learning opportunities’.

The proposed study would extend findings from the NUCASE study by comparing two corpora, and by highlighting the ways in which interactional competence operates in both formal and informal settings. We see the Spoken BNC2014 early access subset as an ideal source to accomplish our research aim, due to its geographical and functional features, offering a unique opportunity to study speakers’ interactional competence in different settings, with a particular focus on the ‘organising features’ of spoken interactions. We anticipate that the proposed study would bring into question some of the recent claims from functional/interactional linguistic studies, regarding the textual and interpersonal functions of several tokens, and provide a better understanding of the context-shaped/renewing nature of discourse across interactional contexts.


Laura Paterson

Lancaster University, UK

‘You can just give those documents to myself’: Untriggered reflexive pronouns in 21st century spoken British English

Reflexive pronouns (myself, herself, etc.) must share reference with another grammatical unit in order to fulfil their syntactic criteria: in the sentence ‘The cat washes herself’, the noun phrase the cat and the reflexive pronoun herself represent the same entity and share a syntactic bond. However, despite syntactic constraints, reflexive pronouns occur without coreferent NPs in some varieties of English. In ‘You can just give those documents to myself’, the pronoun you and the reflexive pronoun myself cannot be coreferent and have different real-world referents. Reflexives occurring without coreferent noun phrases are classed as ‘untriggered’ and have traditionally been deemed ungrammatical. However, untriggered reflexives can be understood.

Using the Spoken BNC2014 early access subset, I will investigate the use of untriggered reflexives in 21st century spoken British English, asking:

  1. Do untriggered reflexives occur in particular syntactic positions?
  1. Does the use of untriggered reflexives correlate with use of a particular grammatical person?
  1. Does the use of untriggered reflexives correlate with particular demographic groups?
  1. How does the use of untriggered reflexives compare with the use of reflexives in 21st century spoken British English?

Check back soon for Part 4!

+ posts