Interview with Susan Hunston

Susan Hunston is Professor of English Language at the University of Birmingham, UK. She has been involved in Corpus Linguistics for many years and has written extensively on corpora, discourse, and the lexis-grammar interface. She is probably best known as the author of Corpora in Applied Linguistics (2002, Cambridge University Press). Susan is currently co-editor, with Carol Chapelle, of the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series.

Cambridge Extra asked her about the new Elements in Corpus Linguistics series and the benefits of this new publishing format. Interview by Rebecca Taylor.

Please could you tell us about the new series, Elements in Corpus Linguistics, and its aims?

The Elements in Corpus Linguistics series covers all aspects of Corpus Linguistics, from applied research to technical and statistical aspects. Each Element is between 20,000 and 30,000 words long, making it shorter than most books and longer than a journal article. The publication is digital-first and each Element can be supported by links to other resources, such as videos, programs or databases. The aim is two-fold: to disseminate the latest in cutting-edge research in Corpus Linguistics (the ‘Advanced’ Elements) and to give a platform to original views on foundation topics such as corpus design, investigation methods, or teaching applications of Corpus Linguistics (the ‘Foundation’ Elements).

There are no prescribed topics for Elements, but I have found it useful to think in terms of a number of ‘strands’:

  • A ‘technical strand’ with Elements about software, corpus design, use of statistical measurements and concepts.
  • A ‘linguistics strand’ that can explore the intersection between Corpus Linguistics and linguistic theories.
  • An ‘applications strand’ showing the use of Corpus Linguistics in everything from lexicography to language testing.
  • An ‘interdisciplinary strand’ explaining the benefits of corpus research to researchers from other disciplines, and extending the boundaries of these interdisciplinary interactions.

Who is the intended audience for the Elements?

The Elements in Corpus Linguistics will publish the best in new research, so it will be popular among researchers keeping up with their field. It will also publish informative guides to more traditional topics, which will be invaluable for students.

What are the main benefits of this new publishing concept over the traditional book/journal article formats?

The Element format is very much suited to disseminating research in Corpus Linguistics. Many corpus research projects are reported in three or four journal articles, but each article is too short to bring all the evidence together and make a really strong argument. On the other hand, the traditional monograph format has the opposite problem: it is too lengthy and publication can be slow. The 20-30 thousand words in an Element is ideally pitched to do justice to a substantial and original piece of research.

A similar argument can be made about Foundation Elements that provide an original take on a familiar topic. Such topics often form the basis of handbook chapters, but the chapter may need to be short and the content directed by the volume editors. The Element format accommodates a personal, even quirky, take on some traditional areas of Corpus Linguistics.

For both kinds of Element, the ‘digital first’ principle means that supporting data can be made available to readers.

If people are interested in potentially writing an Element, what should they do?

Please contact me ([email protected]) in the first instance. I can help you think about the kind of Element you want to write and I have a template that will assist in writing the proposal.

Discover more about the Elements in Corpus Linguistics series on Cambridge Core.

Image credit: University of Birmingham

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