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Movie Language Revisited

Evidence from Multi-Dimensional Analysis and Corpora


Pierfranca Forchini

This book explores the linguistic nature of American movie conversation, pointing out its resemblances to face-to-face conversation. The reason for such an investigation lies in the fact that movie language is traditionally considered to be non-representative of spontaneous language. The book presents a corpus-driven study of the similarities between face-to-face and movie conversation, using detailed consideration of individual lexical phrases and linguistic features as well as Biber’s Multi-Dimensional Analysis (1998). The data from an existing spoken American English corpus – the Longman Spoken American Corpus – is compared to the American Movie Corpus, a corpus of American movie conversation purposely built for the research. On the basis of evidence from these corpora, the book shows that contemporary movie conversation does not differ significantly from face-to-face conversation, and can therefore be legitimately used to study and teach natural spoken language.


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Chapter 2 The Making of: Methodology and Data 47


47 Chapter 2 The Making of: Methodology and Data 2.1 Introduction The present study advocates a data-oriented description of language through computer analyses, and investigates meaning as function in context. In corpus investigations, one of the very first decisions is to determine the unit of analysis. This unit is typically one of two kinds: either a single text, if the goal of the research is to distinguish a type of text from a group of texts, or a linguistic feature, if the research aims to describe single linguistic features in texts. In the first case, each “obser- vation” (i. e. the unit of analysis) is a text, whereas in the second, each observation is an occurrence of the structure in question (Biber, Conrad, and Reppen 1998: 269). This book uses both kinds of units of analysis: the text, or rather the texts from American face-to-face and movie con- versation, and the linguistic features characterizing them. To measure the observation and to carry out a number of quanti- tative and qualitative analyses, it is necessary to code a large sample of constructions and to consider each occurrence as a separate obser- vation (Biber, Conrad, and Reppen 1998). In order to do so, a cor- pus and a software program are required. The former contains, for in- stance, the occurrences of the linguistic feature under examination and consequent information on its frequency and pragmatic functions, while the latter helps retrieve them. The data in this book come from the Longman Spoken American...

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