‘Location, location, location’: Introducing corpus linguistics in a novel and interesting way

“Lancaster University is one of the places where corpus linguistics was born. Let’s travel back in time to the year 1970, six years after Lancaster University was founded…” This is a quote from the beginning of the first lecture of a new online Masters programme in Corpus linguistics, which invites the students to embark on a journey of discovery, exploring key concepts, analytical techniques and important thinkers in the world of corpus linguistics.

When preparing the programme we were faced with a seemingly simple question: how to introduce corpus linguistics in an interesting way? In the programme, we wanted to share not only the knowledge and expertise in the field of corpus linguistics but also something of the unique character of Lancaster University, which is so closely connected with the history of the discipline as well as the most recent innovations in the field.

To achieve this aim, we decided to use different memorable locations around Lancaster to record lectures, in which we highlight different aspects of corpus linguistics and its applications. For example, we travelled to Morecambe, a seaside town near Lancaster, to record a lecture entitled ‘A drop in the ocean’, which uses the metaphor of the sea and all the water in it to explain how we can use corpora to sample the vast amounts of language that is produced every day. In another lecture, the Lancaster house of John Austin was chosen as the perfect backdrop for a lecture on corpora and pragmatics. The ruins of the Roman Bath House from the 4th century AD, located in the vicinity of the Lancaster Castle, created the opportunity to explain key grammatical categories, which date back to the ancient times and which are, with some modification, still used today.

And there are other stories related to specific significant sites around Lancaster that are used in the course. This approach allows us to share with the students in our new online programme  the energy of the place, Lancaster’s genius loci, if you like, making the study of corpus linguistics more memorable and enjoyable than a simple classroom recording or a PowerPoint lecture.

To find out more information about our programme, please visit the programme’s webpage: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/linguistics/masters-level/corpus-linguistics-distance-ma/  Using this link, you can also access a free taster sessions and explore lectures and practical exercises from the programme.

In front of the Bailrigg House, Lancaster University

Morecambe near Lancaster

In front of John Austin’s house

Roman Bath House, Lancaster

Dalton Square, Lancaster