Representativeness in corpus design

Douglas Biber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

576 Scopus citations


The present paper addresses a number of issues related to achieving 'representativeness' in linguistic corpus design, including: discussion of what it means to 'represent' a language, definition of the target population, stratified versus proportional sampling of a language, sampling within texts, and issues relating to the required sample size (number of texts) of a corpus. The paper distinguishes among various ways that linguistic features can be distributed within and across texts; it analyses the distributions of several particular features, and it discusses the implications of these distributions for corpus design.The paper argues that theoretical research should be prior in corpus design, to identify the situational parameters that distinguish among texts in a speech community, and to identify the types of linguistic features that will be analysed in the corpus. These theoretical considerations should be complemented by empirical investigations of linguistic variation in a pilot corpus of texts, as a basis for specific sampling decisions. The actual construction of a corpus would then proceed in cycles: the original design based on theoretical and pilot-study analyses, followed by collection of texts, followed by further empirical investigations of linguistic variation and revision of the design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-257
Number of pages15
JournalLiterary and Linguistic Computing
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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