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.

 

Please use this to investigate the following words:

  1. “end up”
  2. Compare: grilling, frying and roasting, how did the use of these words develop?
  3. Look at the development of the two past tense forms of “learn” in the use of American English
  4. Choose your own 3 different words and check out their development.

 

Now, let’s see how the use of some grammatical forms developed over the past 200 years in British English and in American English:

Check out the following word combinations:

  • sped/speeded/sped up
  • found/finded
  • dwelt/dwelled
  • burned/burnt
  • waked/woke
  • sneaked/snuck
  1. Which of these verbs went from regular (-ed) to irregular (-t) ending?
  2. Which country is the biggest exporter of regular English verbs?
  3. Which of these verbs will become a regular verb soonest?

 

For more Information about the above mentioned matter, read the New York Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/17/books/17words.html?_r=1&hp

 

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