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Upcoming Webinar: ‘Introducing key feature analysis—A simple yet powerful new corpus method’

‘Introducing key feature analysis—A simple yet powerful new corpus method’


Prof. Jesse Egbert, Northern Arizona University




Friday 26th March, 15.00, on MS Teams 


Abstract: To date, the concept of keyness in corpus linguistics (CL) has most often been applied to lexical items (i.e. keyword analysis). In this presentation, I introduce key feature analysis, a new method that aims to identify (lexico-)grammatical features that are key to a target corpus when compared with a reference corpus. Key feature analysis was first used to explore register patterns in online language (see Biber & Egbert, 2018), and it has been used more recently to detect stylistic features that are distinctive to Donald Trump’s speech (see Egbert & Biber, 2020). I will introduce the methods and results of key feature analysis using examples from the domains of online registers and U.S. presidential debates. A secondary aim of this talk is to highlight the value of minimally sufficient quantitative methods in CL. I will attempt to show that while the field of CL is moving toward more sophisticated quantitative methods (see Larsson, Egbert & Biber, in press), the techniques that produce the most informative and interpretable results are often those that are methodologically simple (see Egbert, Larsson & Biber, 2020).



Biber, D. & Egbert, J. (2018). Register Variation Online. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Egbert, J. & Biber, D. (2020). It’s just words, folks. It’s just words”: Donald Trump’s distinctive linguistic style. In M. Eitelmann and U. Schneider (Eds.), Linguistic enquiries into Donald Trump’s language. London: Bloomsbury.

Egbert, J., Larsson, T. & Biber, D. (2020). Doing linguistics with a corpus: Methodological considerations for the everyday user. Cambridge Elements in Corpus Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Larsson, T., Egbert, J. & Biber, D. (in press). On the status of statistical reporting versus linguistic description in corpus linguistics: A ten-year perspective. Corpora.


Bio: Jesse Egbert is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Northern Arizona University, where he received a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics in 2014. Jesse specializes in register variation, particularly in academic, online, and legal registers. His research also explores issues related to quantitative linguistic research, including corpus design and representativeness, methodological triangulation, and the application of advanced statistical techniques to language data. He is General Editor of the international peer reviewed journal Register Studies, and Technical Strand Editor for the Cambridge Elements in Corpus Linguistics series. He has co-authored/edited five books: Triangulating Methodological Approaches in Corpus Linguistic Research (Routledge, 2016), Register Variation Online (Cambridge, 2018), Using Corpus Methods to Triangulate Linguistic Analysis (Routledge, 2019), Doing Linguistics with a Corpus: Methodological Considerations for the Everyday User (Cambridge, 2020), and Designing and Evaluating Language Corpora: A Practical Framework for Corpus Representativeness (Cambridge, forthcoming). He has published more than 60 papers in journals such as: Language Variation and Change, Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, Journal of English Linguistics, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Journal of Applied Statistics, and International Journal of Corpus Linguistics.

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