How Does the Written English We Use Change Over Time?

A Level Language Students! Take part in a Unique Research Project, led by Lancaster University!

The following text is available for downloading and sharing here.

Each day, we write billions of words right across the world in a whole range of different languages. Whether we are writing an essay, sending a tweet, or even leaving someone a note to remind them to buy some milk, written language is one of the ways in which we communicate with each other on a daily basis. 

Researchers at the Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science, Lancaster University are currently in the process of compiling a 100-million-word dataset of written language known as the Written British National Corpus 2014. This large dataset will allow corpus linguists – people who use specialised computer software to analyse language – to study our linguistic habits over time and look at the range of ways we use language across different situations.

As you might have guessed, collecting 100-million words is a big task, and we are reaching out directly to you, readers of emagazine, to help!

What’s your language like when you write emails, WhatsApp messages, Facebook postings, blogs, essays?

As part of the project, we are collecting e-language – in other words, language that we use in emails, Facebook or WhatsApp messages. This type of language is really difficult to get hold of, as it relies on people volunteering to work with us and submit their language. This is why we are reaching out to readers of emagazine to get involved in the process and become a part of a such a big project.

We are also collecting essays submitted to us by school pupils. Perhaps you wrote an essay for a science class, or you just finished a piece of coursework for history: we are keen to include it in our dataset. Regardless of the subject (and regardless of the quality!), we are interested in including it.

In a future issue of emagazine, we will carry out an analysis of the e-language and the essays that you submit to us! We will look at the most common themes, dig into the most frequently used words, and investigate what makes these types of language stand out against other genres. We will draw upon examples that you submit to us.

If you would like to contribute your essays or e-language, and allow us to carry out this analysis, simply visit our website for instructions on how to contribute.

Otherwise, if you have any questions or want to get in touch directly, email us.