In linguistics, a corpus (plural corpora) or text corpus is a large and structured set of texts (now usually electronically stored and processed). They are used to do statistical analysis and hypothesis testing, checking occurrences or validating linguistic rules on a specific universe.
A corpus may contain texts in a single language (monolingual corpus) or text data in multiple languages (multilingual corpus). Multilingual corpora that have been specially formatted for side-by-side comparison are called aligned parallel corpora.
In order to make the corpora more useful for doing linguistic research, they are often subjected to a process known as annotation. An example of annotating a corpus is part-of-speech tagging, or POS-tagging, in which information about each word's part of speech (verb, noun, adjective, etc.) is added to the corpus in the form of tags. Another example is indicating the lemma (base) form of each word. When the language of the corpus is not a working language of the researchers who use it, interlinear glossing is used to make the annotation bilingual.
Some corpora have further structured levels of analysis applied. In particular, a number of smaller corpora may be fully parsed. Such corpora are usually called Treebanks or Parsed Corpora. The difficulty of ensuring that the entire corpus is completely and consistently annotated means that these corpora are usually smaller, containing around 1 to 3 million words. Other levels of linguistic structured analysis are possible, including annotations for morphology, semantics and pragmatics.
Corpora are the main knowledge base in corpus linguistics. The analysis and processing of various types of corpora are also the subject of much work in computational linguistics, speech recognition and machine translation, where they are often used to create hidden Markov models for part of speech tagging and other purposes. Corpora and frequency lists derived from them are useful for language teaching.
Text corpora are also used in the study of historical documents, for example in attempts to decipher ancient scripts, or in Biblical scholarship. Some archaeological corpora can be of such short duration that they provide a snapshot in time. One of the shortest corpora in time, may be the 15-30 year Amarna letters texts-(1350 BC). The corpus of an ancient city, (for example the "Kültepe Texts" of Turkey), may go through a series of corpora, determined by their find site dates.
Some notable text corpora
Full article ▸