Corpus linguistics can be defined most simply as: that set of studies into the form and/or function of language which incorporate the use of computerised corpora in their analyses.
It is a form of text linguistics and as such is evidence-driven. It shares with other types of text linguistics the purpose and rationale of describing the interactions between writers/speakers and readers/hearers as evidenced in the linguistic trace, that is, the texts, that these interactions leave behind, but also the overarching endeavour of describing how the language system or some part of it is organised and of explaining why it functions as it does. It differs from most other forms of text linguistics in incorporating statistical analyses of large numbers of text at some stage in the research, generally using dedicated software.
The Bologna group of corpus linguists has a particular interest in Corpus-assisted Discourse Studies (CADS) in which such statistical analyses are married to the more traditional kind of analyses employed in discourse studies; there is typically a “shunting” (Halliday) between statistical analyses and close textual reading. Among the aims of the CADS approach is the uncovering, in the discourse type under study, of what we might call non-obvious meaning, that is, meaning which might not be readily available to naked-eye perusal and simple introspection and, since meaning also resides in the interaction between text and reader, to generate fresh insights into reader-text interaction.
Together with researchers at the Universities of Siena and Sussex, the Bologna group has also devised a new form of CADS, denominated Modern-Diachronic Corpus-assisted Discourse Studies (MD-CADS) where large corpora of a parallel structure and content from different moments of contemporary time are employed in order to track changes in modern language usage but also social, cultural and political changes over modern times, as reflected in language.
The group has produced works in the fields, among others, of lexical grammar, evaluation studies, irony, metaphor, spoken interaction and politeness and translation / comparative studies. Since its members are generally affiliated with the School of Political Science, it has tended to concentrate on political and media (newspaper) discourse types, but it has also carried out several linguistic-stylistic studies of other forms of texts.
* SiBol is a portmanteau of the Universities of Siena and Bologna. Linguists at these two universities were the founders of the group.