Anglo-Czech Fund study stay (visiting PhD researcher)
University of Birmingham, UK
Final report

My Anglo-Czech Fund funded research stay at UoB took place between 6 May and 27 July 2019. The primary aim of the study stay was designing and compiling a study aid for advanced Czech students of English. To this end, I collected data from the Bank of English corpus (3-grams and 4-grams from a  subcorpus of newspaper texts). The data was employed as the source for an overview of cohesive expressions, which were subsequently analysed in their contexts and their most frequent collocations were identified, with regard to their textual functions and semantic prosodies. Based on this analysis, I sketched some frequent constructions which serve as textual linkers. The work on this study resource was consulted throughout my stay with my local academic advisor Dr Nicholas Groom, who provided useful comments and feedback.

At first, I experienced a problem as much of the corpus comprises tabloid newspapers, which tend to be repetitive in their choice of topics. This was reflected in the most frequent n-grams being content words and phrases, specifically related to sports. These n-grams were not very useful for my intended study resource. However, by restructuring my subcorpus and limiting it only to broadsheet newspapers, I obtained a much more diverse list of expressions, comprising linkers, which I intended to analyse in the first place.

I also worked on another project, collecting data from a corpus of European Parliament documents and proceedings, conducting an analogous analysis of n-grams. This enabled me to compile an overview of multi-word expressions frequent in this type of discourse. This data (presented at the CL 2019 Cardiff conference) will be used to create a similar study resource oriented towards English for specific purposes (e.g. students aiming to work as translators or interpreters in the area of public administration or politics, or more broadly for teaching stylistics with focus on administrative texts).

Apart from preparing the study resource, I used the opportunity to visit the University of Birmingham library on a regular basis, where I was able to gain access to books and electronic information sources. During the remaining time, I also prepared two conference papers, presented at international conferences (ICAME 40 conference, 1-5 June 2019, Neuchatel, Switzerland; International Corpus Linguistics 2019, 22-27 July, Cardiff, UK).

As part of my stay, I attended two summer schools on statistics and its use in linguistic research (Birmingham Statistics for Linguists Summer School 2019, UoB, 17-21 June; Lancaster Summer Schools in Corpus Linguistics: Statistics and data visualisation for corpus linguistics, Lancaster University, 23-28 July).

The stay has been invaluable in terms of networking with other corpus linguists, both PhD students and more senior researchers. I attended 3 sessions of PG Tips (local PhD students‘ meetings, where they present their work in progress,) and presented my research there. Through the local CARE administrator Michelle Devereux, I met other visiting researchers and was able to discuss my work with them.

Overall, my study stay proved extremely productive and enriching, enabling me to focus on my PhD and receive feedback from linguists from different backgrounds. I am very grateful for this opportunity and would definitely recommend it to other young researchers.

In Prague, 20 August 2019
Denisa Šebestová