[Corpora-List] Google searches as linguistic evidence

Diana Maynard d.maynard at dcs.shef.ac.uk
Thu Dec 7 13:17:01 CET 2006

No problem, it was my fault for being too hasty also.
I agree entirely.
Another little story....

A non-English colleague asked me the other day if the correct phrase was
"a workshop" or "an workshop". I was quite surprised at the question,
especially as the colleague said he had searched for both on Google as
he was not sure which to use, and found more occurrences of the former,
but still many occurrences of the latter. He also said that to him the
pronunciation of the latter sounded better (which I found odd as I
actually found it quite difficult to pronounce, but perhaps that's a
non-native speaker thing).
I checked on Google and he was right about the occurrences.

Are there any times when it would be OK to use "an" before a word
beginning with "w"?
I'd be interested to know what the BNC or other corpora show up on that.

Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> Hi Diana

> Sorry about the brevity of my previous email.

> I didn't mean to be rude, just in a hurry as usual...


> But I was raising a genuine concern of mine. An experience last year:

> challenged in

> my daughter's school playground by 2 mothers who had heard of my

> involvement with

> writing dictionaries, I was asked to resolve their dispute: "is

> unpunctual a word, can I

> say unpunctual".


> It was not listed in any of the printed 6 or 7 native-speaker (US and

> UK) and

> learner's dictionaries I looked at. There were 15 occurrences in Bank

> of English (5 in British

> Magazines, 4 in Independent, and a few one-offs), so below the normal

> threshold for inclusion

> in Cobuild at the time.


> But I found 4320 hits on Google (43,100 today!

> - so has its usage increased, or has Google's trawl just got bigger?),

> *mostly entries in

> online dictionaries (based on each other?)*... but also 9000+ for

> impunctual, 5000 for non-punctual,

> 500 for nonpunctual, 400 for contrapunctual, 11 for apunctual, and 7

> for anti-punctual...


> When I looked closer at the hits, most of the hits for impunctual were

> from a 1913 USA dictionary,

> most of the hits for non(-)punctual were (technical use) from

> linguistics texts, and

> most hits for contrapunctual were from music texts.


> So I told the mothers that unpunctual was a valid word form

> (ie created according to valid derivational rules)

> but that it wasn't very widely used.


> PS I've just noticed a discussion on unpunctual at

> http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=105391


> Best

> Ramesh




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