Since its inception the issue of absence has preoccupied both the practitioners of corpus linguistics and its detractors. To the latter it is self-evident, a truism, that a corpus can yield no information about phenomena it does not contain, a criticism which we hope to demonstrate is based on a failure to grasp the complexity of the notion of absences and an ignorance of the flexibility of corpus techniques. However the former, the exponents of CL, have also worried greatly about the significance of not finding something, say, a particular set of lexical items or a certain syntactic structure in their corpus. Is this (non) discovery telling me something about the discourse type(s) under study or about what is usually termed the ‘representativity’ of the corpus (i.e. how typical of the discourse type is the subset of it contained in the corpus)? And the CL literature is replete with warnings ‘not confuse corpus data with language itself’ (McEnery & Hardie 2012: 26), to which we would add that observations arising from corpus data can only be generalised with the utmost care. Following Kant, we must not confuse the tangible, the phenomenal (corpus) with the intangible noumenal (language). In this chapter we will discuss, on the basis of a number of case studies, what can reasonably be inferred about discourses from corpus analysis, particularly with regards to absences. Along with Scott, we maintain ‘much can be inferred from what is absent’ (2004), and following Taylor (2012) we will argue that corpus tools provide an ‘armory’ for locating and verifying absence. In particular, the comparison and contrast among different corpora can firstly reveal absences, both those being searched for and others accidentally stumbled upon, and then allow the analyst to track the appearance and disappearance of linguistic elements or discoursal notions once they have come in some way to the analyst’s attention. Finally, since most things are absent from most places most of the time we need to decide the parameters of relevant or salient or meaningful absence/s, those which are worth either looking for if somehow suspected or instead, if stumbled upon, are worthy of further investigation. One indication could be unexpectedness or non-obviousness, that is, discovering absence when a presence is expected. This however raises the question of expected by whom and why, especially since researchers have their own unique past primings (Hoey 2005) which influence expectations in the present. And then, when an absence is discovered, how does one decide whether the absence is intentional or otherwise, especially given, as already stated, that absence is the norm? Far too often, particularly in the field of critical discourse analysis, it is taken for granted that a silence or absent message or voice must have been deliberately suppressed with little evidence of intentionality. Finally, once an absence is adjudged relevant and worthy of investigation, do we attempt to explain it? If so, what kinds of explanations are valid and interesting? Which are trivial and which non-trivial, that is, are themselves non-obvious and unexpected?

Duguid, A.M., & Partington, A. (2018). You don’t know what you’re missing. Or do you? Using corpus linguistics to investigate absence/s.. In A. Marchi, & C. Taylor (a cura di), Corpus approaches to discourse: a critical review (pp. 38-59). Routledge.

You don’t know what you’re missing. Or do you? Using corpus linguistics to investigate absence/s.

DUGUID, ALISON MARGARET;
2018

Abstract

Since its inception the issue of absence has preoccupied both the practitioners of corpus linguistics and its detractors. To the latter it is self-evident, a truism, that a corpus can yield no information about phenomena it does not contain, a criticism which we hope to demonstrate is based on a failure to grasp the complexity of the notion of absences and an ignorance of the flexibility of corpus techniques. However the former, the exponents of CL, have also worried greatly about the significance of not finding something, say, a particular set of lexical items or a certain syntactic structure in their corpus. Is this (non) discovery telling me something about the discourse type(s) under study or about what is usually termed the ‘representativity’ of the corpus (i.e. how typical of the discourse type is the subset of it contained in the corpus)? And the CL literature is replete with warnings ‘not confuse corpus data with language itself’ (McEnery & Hardie 2012: 26), to which we would add that observations arising from corpus data can only be generalised with the utmost care. Following Kant, we must not confuse the tangible, the phenomenal (corpus) with the intangible noumenal (language). In this chapter we will discuss, on the basis of a number of case studies, what can reasonably be inferred about discourses from corpus analysis, particularly with regards to absences. Along with Scott, we maintain ‘much can be inferred from what is absent’ (2004), and following Taylor (2012) we will argue that corpus tools provide an ‘armory’ for locating and verifying absence. In particular, the comparison and contrast among different corpora can firstly reveal absences, both those being searched for and others accidentally stumbled upon, and then allow the analyst to track the appearance and disappearance of linguistic elements or discoursal notions once they have come in some way to the analyst’s attention. Finally, since most things are absent from most places most of the time we need to decide the parameters of relevant or salient or meaningful absence/s, those which are worth either looking for if somehow suspected or instead, if stumbled upon, are worthy of further investigation. One indication could be unexpectedness or non-obviousness, that is, discovering absence when a presence is expected. This however raises the question of expected by whom and why, especially since researchers have their own unique past primings (Hoey 2005) which influence expectations in the present. And then, when an absence is discovered, how does one decide whether the absence is intentional or otherwise, especially given, as already stated, that absence is the norm? Far too often, particularly in the field of critical discourse analysis, it is taken for granted that a silence or absent message or voice must have been deliberately suppressed with little evidence of intentionality. Finally, once an absence is adjudged relevant and worthy of investigation, do we attempt to explain it? If so, what kinds of explanations are valid and interesting? Which are trivial and which non-trivial, that is, are themselves non-obvious and unexpected?
978-1-138-89578-2
Duguid, A.M., & Partington, A. (2018). You don’t know what you’re missing. Or do you? Using corpus linguistics to investigate absence/s.. In A. Marchi, & C. Taylor (a cura di), Corpus approaches to discourse: a critical review (pp. 38-59). Routledge.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11365/1007195