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21st European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference and Workshop

Choices in analyzing choice: Methods and techniques for register analysis

Elke Teich
TU Darmstadt, Germany

Choice is a central concept in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), acting as the fundamental metaphor for what we do as language users. Apart from its use for representing options or terms in the linguistic system, choice is used to denote the process of choosing as well as the result of that process. As systemic linguists we make a choice which of these choices we want to investigate: in language description, we engage in choice-as-option (e.g., we model the lexico-grammatical system of a given language); in text analysis, we engage in choice-as-result (e.g., we analyze instances of a given register); in applications of SFL to ‘real-world’ problems, we engage in choice-as-process (e.g., language pedagogy, automatic text generation or translation).

The focus of my talk is on the methodological and technical choices we have for studying the results of choice, i.e., text analysis. Using the example of register analysis, I explore the methodological and technical possibilities of investigating difference/similarity in linguistic choices across registers as well as the interdependence and variability of linguistic choices within a register. On the basis of a number of corpus-based studies carried out in the last few years on the meta-register of scientific writing (Bartsch et al., 2005; Teich, 2009; Teich and Fankhauser, to appear; Holtz and Teich, in preparation), I will discuss a range of analysis techniques from descriptive statistics, information retrieval and data mining. The goal of the talk is to raise awareness about some standard computational techniques for automatic text processing as well as data analysis that are deployable in the service of register analysis and about the opportunities for methodological advancement that the use of such techniques creates for doing empirical linguistic research.

References

[Bartsch et al., 2005] Sabine Bartsch, Richard Eckart, Monica Holtz and Elke Teich, Corpus-based register profiling of texts form mechanical engineering. In Proceedings of Corpus Linguistics, Birmingham, July 2005.

[Holtz and Teich, in preparation] Monica Holtz and Elke Teich, Scientific registers in contact: A methodology and some findings. To appear in International Journal of Corpus Linguistics.
[Teich and Fankhauser, to appear] Elke Teich and Peter Fankhauser. Exploring a corpus of scientific texts using data mining. In: Gries S., M.Davies and S. Wulff (eds), Selected Papers from the American Conference on Corpus Linguistics (AACL) Provo, Utah, 2008, Rodopi, Amsterdam.
[Teich, 2009] Elke Teich. Linguistic Computing. In MAK Halliday and J. Webster, editors. Companion to Systemic Functional Linguistics. Continuum, London.

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