I’ve been reading up on corpus linguistics and was thinking about a conversation I had with some students about the infrequent use of the expression “good afternoon” in every day speech. Would it be possible to use an online corpus such as the COCA or BNC to shed some light on the frequency and register of this greeting?

If it is possible and someone is familiar with one of those databases could they provide some steps on how to begin that search?

1 Answer 1


Do you think that either of those works truly represent SPOKEN usage? (I don't - but of course can't really prove it.)

For this in particular, where a conversation between people passing in the street may consist entirely of "Morning > Morning" is unlikely to be recorded, but may be the only conversation a person has in an entire day...

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    You mght be better off wandering around with a counter in your pocket.
    – Peter
    Feb 16, 2021 at 8:55
  • From checking the COCA website, they mention that their genres include "spoken" and "TV/Movie Subtitles". Spoken seems to be derived from (unscripted) non-fiction news programmes (so might include 'Good morning' above average), but TV/Movies genre says — 'Subtitles from OpenSubtitles.org, and later the TV and Movies corpora. Studies have shown that the language from these shows and movies is even more colloquial / core than the data in actual "spoken corpora".' I'd have thought subtitles on sitcoms etc. would represent spoken English reasonably well Feb 16, 2021 at 9:14
  • Similarly, the BNC, has a 'Spoken (Demographic)' component — "A total of 124 volunteers were recruited by the British Market Research Bureau. The volunteers came from four social groupings (AB, C1, C2, and DE). There were male and female volunteers from a wide range of ages, and they lived at 38 different locations across the UK... Recruits used a personal stereo to record all their conversations unobtrusively over two or three days, and logged details of each conversation in a special notebook." Feb 16, 2021 at 9:19

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