Teaching english with Google n-gramm viewer

There has been some discussion about the recently introduced google ngramm viewer. Some people like it, some linguists see it as to simplistic. However I believe its a good instrument to introduce linguistics and especially corpus analysis into the classroom. I developed together with a fellow student a unit on this in the class of Prof. Thaler. Parts of it will be published in a upcoming book of him. This is an excerpt.

Exploring grammar and cultural trends with Google Ngramm Viewer:

Please go to the following website: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com

Here you can enter two or three English or German expressions and see how their use developed in books over the years. Realistic results you will get only between 1800 – 2000.

What is it about:

This new Google service makes us able to investigate cultural trends over the last 200 years. Development in the world is often reflected in words. For example, if we Ngramm the word DDR, we see it has been mentioned from the 1950 on and peaks in the 1990. This shows insights about fields such as the science of making lexica, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and history of disease.

The decline of “whom”

You can see trends in the use of grammar as well, for example during the year the use of the genitive indicator “whom” declined.


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