Introduction to AntConc

Overview

Teaching: 5 min
Exercises: 0 min
Questions
  • What is AntConc? What is corpus linguistics? How can they be combined to analyse catalogue data?

Objectives
  • Explain what the AntConc software does

What is AntConc?

AntConc is a freeware software programme for working with language corpora using a graphical user interface. Within AntConc are a number of ‘tools’ that support linguistic analysis by enabling the user to - for example - search corpora, to generate lists of words in corpora, and to browse ‘concordances’ of word use in corpora.

What is corpus lingustics?

Corpus linguistics is the study of language through corpora, usually large collections of machine readable text. In order to study large collections, corpus linguistics - and those adopting their methods - use software tools to query their chosen corpora using computational processes. The outputs of that processing are typically a combination of counts of words (or lemma), statistical inferences about word use, comparisons with standard language corpora, and subsets of text. These outputs are then analysed by people, from which new queries are formed, and new processing and analysis is made. Corpus lingustics is therefore an iterative study of text, where a phenomenon suggested by one output is tested and refined by the next.

How can AntConc and corpus linguistics be combined to analyse catalogue data?

These training materials have been developed because the project team believe that corpus lingustic techniques can be usefully applied to analyse catalogue data, specifically what we call “curatorial voice”: the authorial voice of institutions produced by curatorial labour.

Having investigated this in our previous research, our current work seeks to investigate the broader applicability of our methods to the practice of cataloguers and those who maintain collection catalogues. For example, in a recent paper (Salway & Baker, 2020) we speculate that:

Given a set of guidelines for producing curatorial descriptions, corpus techniques could be used to check the extent to which guidelines are being followed at a macro-level, e.g. by identifying what aspects of objects tend to be referred to or not, and by gauging the overall extent of description versus interpretation/evaluation. Further, such analysis could form a basis for plans to edit and enhance a catalogue by providing areas to focus on and estimates of the person time required. It could also be that a corpus-based characterization of the language used in an exemplary catalogue could be used to develop or refine guidelines by identifying that catalogue’s distinctive linguistic features.

Our first round of ad hoc training in July 2020 has been designed as a forum in which to test, refine and develop these ideas, the output of which will be significant revisions to these training materials.

Key Points

  • AntConc is a tool for working with language corpora