Masked by annotation: Minor declarative complementizers in parsed corpora of historical English

Keywords: annotation, parsing, English historical corpora, minor declarative complementizers, indeterminacy


This article discusses some of the potential problems derived from the syntactic annotation of historical corpora, especially in connection with low-frequency phenomena. By way of illustration, we examine the parsing scheme used in the Penn Parsed Corpora of Historical English (PPCHE) for clauses introduced by so-called ‘minor declarative complementizers’, originally adverbial links which come to be occasionally used in complementizer function. We show that the functional similarities between canonical declarative complement clauses introduced by the major declarative links that and zero and those headed by minor declarative complementizers are not captured by the PPCHE parsing, where the latter constructions are not tagged as complement clauses, but rather as adverbial clauses. The examples discussed reveal that, despite the obvious advantages of parsed corpora, annotation may sometimes mask interesting linguistic facts.


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ARCHER-2 = A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers version 2. 1990–1993/2002/2007/2010/2013/2016. Originally compiled under the supervision of Douglas Biber and Edward Finegan at Northern Arizona University and University of Southern California; modified and expanded by subsequent members of a consortium of universities. Current member universities are Bamberg, Freiburg, Heidelberg, Helsinki, Lancaster, Leicester, Manchester, Michigan, Northern Arizona, Santiago de Compostela, Southern California, Trier, Uppsala, Zurich.

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How to Cite
López-Couso, M. J., & Méndez-Naya, B. (2020). Masked by annotation: Minor declarative complementizers in parsed corpora of historical English. Research in Corpus Linguistics, 8(2), 133-158.