Prof. Dr. Walt Detmar Meurers
On the use of electronic corpora for theoretical linguistics
Case studies from the syntax of German


Walt Detmar Meurers


Lingua. 115 (11). 2005.


Theoretical linguistics requires example sentences both as empirical basis for the construction of theories and as counterexamples to previous generalizations. In addition to obtaining such examples by introspection, electronic corpora can be used to search for examples which are relevant for a particular theoretical issue. This second option is only rarely used in generative linguistics, possibly since it is not fully appreciated that such a use of corpora is in principle independent of the fundamental methodological issues separating empiricists and rationalists.


This paper illustrates with examples from the syntax of German how searching in corpora can help find theoretically relevant examples. Such examples are particularly interesting in that they exhibit a wide variation of potentially relevant parameters. The case studies highlight how linguistic terminology used to single out the relevant phenomenon can be reconstructed in terms of the empiprical properties which are accessible directly or through annotations in the corpus.



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Bibtex entry:

  author =  {Walt Detmar Meurers},
  title =   {On the use of electronic corpora for theoretical linguistics.
  Case studies from the syntax of German},
  journal = {Lingua},
  volume =  115,
  number =  11,
  pages =   {1619--1639},
  year =    2005,
  url =     {}