Survey of English Usage
Annual Report 2020


1. News

1.1 New publications

2020 saw two books by Survey team members appear in print. The Oxford handbook of English grammar, edited by Bas Aarts, Jill Bowie and Gergana Popova, provides a wide-ranging and authoritative critical survey of current knowledge of the grammar of the English language, and competing research methodologies that may be applied to it.

Sean Wallis’s monograph Statistics in Corpus Linguistics Research focuses on a single perspective. Whereas ‘statistics’ is frequently associated with bottom-up ‘number-crunching’, he shows how a cyclic methodology in Corpus Linguistics, with the linguist in control, may be combined with statistically sound argumentation. Such a perspective places a greater burden on the linguist, however. Since the researcher must direct and interpret their studies, they must understand their data, their results and any claims they wish to draw.

1.1.1 The Oxford handbook of English grammar

Following an introduction from the editors, the contributors explore a range of core topics in English grammar, beginning with issues in grammar writing and methodology. Chapters in part II then examine the various theoretical approaches to grammar, such as cognitive, constructional, and generative approaches, followed by the chapters in part III, which comprehensively cover the different subdomains of grammar, including compounds, phrase structure, clause types, tense and aspect, and information structure. Part IV offers coverage of the relationship between grammar and other fields – lexis, phonology, meaning, and discourse – while the concluding part of the book investigates grammatical change over time, regional variation, and genre and literary variation. The handbook’s wide-ranging coverage will appeal to researchers and students of English language and linguistics from undergraduate level upwards.

The book contains 31 chapters:

Introduction, Bas Aarts, Jill Bowie, and Gergana Popova

Part I: Grammar writing and methodology

  1. Conceptualizations of grammar in the history of English grammaticology, Margaret Thomas
  2. Syntactic argumentation, Bas Aarts
  3. Grammar and the use of data, Jon Sprouse and Carson T. Schütze
  4. Grammar and corpus methodology, Sean Wallis

Part II: Approaches to English grammar

  1. Cognitive linguistic approaches, John R. Taylor
  2. Constructional approaches, Martin Hilpert
  3. Dependency and valency approaches, Thomas Herbst
  4. Generative approaches, Terje Lohndal and Liliane Haegeman
  5. Functional approaches, J. Lachlan Mackenzie
  6. Modern and traditional descriptive approaches, Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum
  7. Theoretical approaches to morphology, Andrew Spencer

Part III: Subdomains of grammar

  1. Inflection and derivation, Andrew Spencer
  2. Compounds, Laurie Bauer
  3. Word classes, Willem B. Hollmann
  4. Phrase structure, Robert D. Borsley
  5. Noun phrases, Evelien Keizer
  6. Clause structure, complements, and adjuncts, Patrick Duffley
  7. Clause types and speech act functions, Ekkehard König
  8. Tense and aspect, Ilse Depraetere and Anastasios Tsangalidis
  9. Mood and modality, Debra Ziegeler
  10. Subordination and coordination, Thomas Egan
  11. Information structure, Gunther Kaltenböck

Part IV: Grammar and other fields of enquiry

  1. Grammar and lexis, Doris Schönefeld
  2. Grammar and phonology, Sam Hellmuth and Ian Cushing
  3. Grammar and meaning, Ash Asudeh
  4. Grammar and discourse, Jill Bowie and Gergana Popova

Part V: Grammatical variation and change

  1. Change in grammar, Marianne Hundt
  2. Regional varieties of English: non-standard grammatical features, Peter Siemund
  3. Global variation in the Anglophone world, Bernd Kortmann
  4. Genre variation, Heidrun Dorgeloh and Anja Wanner
  5. Literary variation, Lesley Jeffries

More information (OUP site)

1.1.2 Statistics in Corpus Linguistics Research

Sean Wallis’s book Statistics in Corpus Linguistics Research – a new approach draws on collaborative corpus linguistics research with numerous colleagues and his independent research in statistics. The book is written for researchers and students of linguistics from undergraduate level upwards.

In brief, it:

  • outlines and develops the ‘Survey Methodology’ in Corpus Linguistics;
  • promotes a perspective of linguistics research driven by theoretical frameworks and analysis, not merely what the data allows us to see;
  • explains statistical inference from first principles;
  • argues for a focus on confidence intervals rather than ‘p values’ to understand your data, what you are testing, and what your results might mean;
  • presents a series of novel statistical methods motivated by Corpus Linguistics analysis problems;
  • shows how to reinstate logical reasoning into statistical claims.

Central to the book’s perspective is an insistence that the linguistic researcher is responsible for the research process. Critical of ‘black box’ algorithms that reduce many a researcher to a trusting reporter, the author argues that linguists are obliged to critically engage with their corpus data. They must know their data is sound and complete, and use a meaningful baseline for comparison. They must consider the limitations of their study, for example by evaluating whether the chosen corpus and queries are sufficient for their research aims, and consider if their assessment could be empirically tested by repeat studies. They must play devil’s advocate to their hypotheses, attempting to evaluate competing explanations rather than simply quoting the one they prefer. Throughout, researchers are compelled to engage in both linguistic and statistical argument.

The core of the book introduces statistical reasoning from first principles through the medium of data visualisation with Wilson score (inverted Normal) confidence intervals on proportions. The idea is to help the researcher understand their data and claims that might be made on it. This method allows the author to show how novel statistical tests and confidence intervals on other properties may be derived. This approach to teaching statistical inference has been successfully employed for several years on our MA in English Linguistics and has been applied to numerous research questions.

The book contains the following chapters:

Part 1. Motivations

  1. What might corpora tell us about language?

Part 2. Designing effective experiments with corpora

  1. The idea of corpus experiments
  2. That vexed problem of choice
  3. Choice versus meaning
  4. Balanced samples and imagined populations

Part 3. Confidence intervals and significance tests

  1. Introducing inferential statistics
  2. Plotting with confidence
  3. From intervals to tests
  4. Comparing frequencies within the same distribution
  5. Reciprocating the Wilson interval
  6. Competition between choices over time
  7. The replication crisis and the New Statistics
  8. Choosing the right test

Part 4. From effect sizes to meta-tests

  1. The size of an effect
  2. Meta-tests for comparing tables of results

Part 5. Statistical solutions for corpus samples

  1. Coping with imperfect data
  2. Adjusting intervals for random-text samples

Part 6. Concluding remarks

  1. Plotting the Wilson distribution
  2. In conclusion

The Survey website is also hosting a web page of resources for the book, including general calculators, example data and calculations, and suggestions of further reading.

More information (Routledge site)

1.2 Englicious

The Englicious project is continually being enhanced with new functionality and resources. If you haven’t yet heard of Englicious, here’s some information about the site:

What is Englicious?

  • an entirely free online library of original English language teaching resources, especially grammar.
  • closely tailored to the linguistic content of 2014 National Curriculum for England
  • relevant for students and teachers at Key Stages 1-5.
  • includes grammar, punctuation and spelling test practice material.
  • uses examples from natural language corpora.

EngliciousEnglicious will help students:

  • learn about English grammar in a fun way, using interactive online resources, including exercises, projects and games, all of which can be projected onto an interactive whiteboard
  • develop their literacy skills, with a focus on spelling, punctuation and writing
  • stimulate their enjoyment of (using) language, both in spoken and written form
  • enhance their confidence
  • improve their test scores, especially the Year 2 and Year 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling tests in UK schools

Englicious offers teachers:

  • year-by-year overview of the new programmes of study and attainment targets in the 2014 UK National Curriculum
  • hundreds of fully prepared lesson plans, including everything from bite-sized starters to larger projects, for use in the classroom
  • assessments for evaluating student attainment and progress
  • a complete and rigorous overview of English grammar
  • the entire 2014 National Curriculum Glossary, enhanced with new terminology enabling teachers to use terminology consistently throughout the Key Stages
  • professional development materials for teachers to brush up on their own knowledge

The Englicious project now has over 10,000 registered users.

In 2020, we moved our Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses for school teachers online (see below).

Follow Englicious on Twitter
Englicious on Facebook
Englicious Youtube channel

1.3 Podcasts

Our selection of short grammar podcasts aimed at school teachers can be listened to on SoundCloud, divided into Basic and Advanced explainers.

EngliciousUCL · Grammar Explainers (basic) EngliciousUCL · Grammar Explainers (advanced)

1.4 English Grammar Day 2020

Due to the pandemic this event was cancelled in 2020.

For a brief video impression of an earlier English Grammar Day, click here. We hope to be back in 2022.

Grammar Day 2016 video (Youtube)

You may wish to bookmark the British Library Events page.

2. Research

For a full overview of research publications, presentations, etc. by members of the Survey, see Section 4.

2.1 Nuffield Grammar Project

The Nuffield Foundation
The Helen Hamlyn Centre, IOE

With Professors Dominic Wyse and Bas Aarts as Principal Investigators, researchers at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and at UCL’s Survey of English Usage were awarded a grant by the Nuffield Foundation to examine whether teachers using the Survey’s Englicious website ( to teach six- and seven-year-olds about grammar can help pupils’ writing.

Team members on the project began visiting schools early in 2020, but due to the pandemic unfortunately the project needed to be paused. The Nuffield Foundation kindly offered additional funding for us to restart the project after Easter 2021. It will now run until December 2021.

More information


ICECUP IIIAs friends of the Survey will know, ICECUP is our research platform designed for carrying out research with parsed corpora.

Our parsed corpora of speech and writing, ICE-GB and DCPSE (as featured in Sean Wallis’s latest book) are available for purchase, with ICECUP and built in help files. Prices start at £25 for student personal licenses. Institutional site licences, which grant institutions the right to use the corpus perpetually, start at £425 plus VAT. For more information see below.

If you have never used ICECUP before and would like to try it out, you can download a sample corpus and get all the software and help files for free.

ICE-GB Release 2 ordering and pricing
DCPSE ordering and pricing

Two 10,000 word sample corpora (plus software) are available for free download from the links below.

ICE-GB sample corpus
DCPSE sample corpus

Compatibility: The ICECUP software requires Windows to run, and has been designed to work efficiently on computers from Windows 3.1 to 10. (It will also run on a Mac using Windows and an emulator such as Parallels. Check if your university has a license - it may be running ICECUP on its institutional Windows server.)

More information

2.4 Blogs

The Survey has three blogs:

Bas Aarts’ Grammarianism blog.
Sean Wallis’ corp.ling.stats blog.
And the Survey blog.

Sean’s corp.ling.stats blog was redesigned this year to coincide with the publication of his book. This year saw the publication of 12 new posts on statistics (and one book announcement) – the greatest number since the blog began in 2012, reflecting an intensive period of research while under lockdown.

2.5 Survey seminars

Survey seminars are held twice in each teaching term and are open to everyone. They are announced on the Survey’s Events website.

In February, Gunther Kaltenböck (University of Graz), gave a talk on ‘A dualistic approach to grammar and its application to formulaic sequences’. Unfortunately the second Spring Term seminar was cancelled due to Covid-19.

In the Autumn Term, Philip Durkin (OED) spoke on ‘An expanding or a fragmenting lexicon? Some possible approaches to loanwords, lexical change, and multilingual practices in the history of English’, and Graeme Trousdale (University of Edinburgh) presented a paper on ‘The development of nonetheless and nevertheless as discourse markers in English: a diachronic construction grammar analysis’.

3. Teaching

3.1 Summer School in English Corpus Linguistics

Summer School

Our 2020 Summer School was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are planning to run the Summer School again in 2021, in an online format from 1 - 2 July.

Provisional timetable

Day 1


Corpus Linguistics Methodology

Bas Aarts
11:00-11:15 Break

Corpus Exploration using ICECUP

Bas Aarts and Sean Wallis

Day 2


Simple Statistics for Corpus Linguistics

Sean Wallis
11:00-11:15 Break

Practical session with ICE-GB and DCPSE

Bas Aarts and Sean Wallis

More information

3.2 Continuous Professional Development

The Survey has offers Professional Development courses to teachers in primary and secondary schools who need to teach the requirements for grammar, punctuation and spelling in the National Curriculum for England.

Due to Covid-19 we are not visiting schools. But we are currently offering five online half-day training courses for teachers, all at a low cost:

  • English Grammar for Teachers: a subject knowledge course covering the fundamentals of National Curriculum English grammar, relevant for KS1-5 teachers.
  • Teaching English Grammar in Context: a course for KS3-5 teachers, where we explore methods, tools and approaches for teaching grammar in relation to literary and other texts.
  • Teaching Non-Standard English Grammar: a course aimed at KS3-5 on how to encourage students to explore the grammar of so-called ‘Non-Standard’ English, including regional dialect, slang, loan words and informal language.
  • Primary to Secondary English Grammar for Teachers: a course specifically aimed at KS3 teachers, focusing on how to bridge the gap with primary school grammar, and support reading and writing of non-fiction in English and other subjects.
  • Critical Thinking and Academic Writing for Teachers: a course aimed at secondary teachers preparing students for the academic writing and critical thinking skills they would need at university level study.

More information, and how to book

The Survey also offers bespoke courses for teachers in schools (INSET courses). For more information, please email the Survey.

3.3 MA in English Linguistics

Most Survey colleagues teach on the MA program in English Linguistics (with pathways in ‘English Corpus Linguistics’ and ‘English in Use’) which attracts students from all over the world.

Our graduates have gone on to PhD scholarships in the UK and abroad, as well as careers in teaching, publishing, and public relations.

Prospectus and more information

4. Publications, conference presentations, talks, dissertations and other studies using Survey material

Please let us know if you would like us to include your publications based on SEU material. We would appreciate it if you send us offprints of any such publications.

Aarts, B., J. Bowie and G. Popova (2020) (eds.) The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Aarts, B. (2020) Syntactic argumentation. 2020. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova (eds.) The Oxford handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 21-39.

Aarts, B. (2020) English grammar in schools: the UK experience, Presentation (online) at the University of Oslo, Norway.

Ballier, N., T. Gaillat, and E. Pacquetet (2020) Prototype de feedback visuel des productions écrites d’apprenants francophones de l’anglais sous Moodle. Environnements Informatiques pour l’Apprentissage Humain (EIAH’19), University of Paris Sorbonne.

Bowie, J. and G. Popova (2020) Grammar and discourse. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova (eds.) The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 554-578.

Crystal, D. (2020) Let’s Talk: How English Conversation Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dwyer, K. (2020). Even demons cooperate: evidence of linguistic priming in the narratives of spirit possessees. In: C. Blyth and N. Thompson (eds.). Multidisciplinary perspectives on spirit possession. London: Routledge. 135-161.

Dwyer, K. (2020). Critical discourse analysis: a methodology for exploring bioethics in the biomedical and medical sciences. Anglistica AION. 231-251.

Gärtner, M. and K. Jung (2020) To boldly query what no one has annotated before? The frontiers of corpus querying. Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics. DOI: 10.18653/v1/2020.acl-main.562

Gries, S. Th (2020) Corpus linguistics: quantitative methods. In: C. A. Chapelle (ed.), The concise encyclopedia of applied linguistics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 340-344. [Update of 2012 publication on collostructions.]

Hundt, M. (2020) Change in grammar. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 581-603.

Jeffries, L. (20202) Literary variation. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 673-691.

Kaltenböck, G. (2020) Information structure. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 375-395.

König. E. (2020) Clause types and speech act functions. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 375-395.

Popova, G. and J. Bowie (2020) Grammar and discourse. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 554-578.

Stefanowitsch, A. (2020) Corpus linguistics: A guide to the methodology (Textbooks in Language Sciences 7). Berlin: Language Science Press.

Stratton, J. (2020) A diachronic analysis of the adjective intensifier well from Early Modern English to Present Day English. Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue Canadienne De Linguistique, 1-30.

Wallis, S.A. (2020) Grammar and corpus methodology. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 59- 83.

Wallis, S.A. (2021, published 2020) Statistics in corpus linguistics research: a new approach, New York and Abingdon: Routledge.

Wallis, S.A. (2020) Statistics in corpus linguistics research. Invited talk (online) at the Eastern Visayas State University, Tacloban City, Philippines.

Ziegeler, D. (2020) Mood and modality. In: B. Aarts, J. Bowie and G. Popova. The handbook of English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 418-438.

Bas Aarts

January 2021

This page last modified 28 January, 2021 by Survey Web Administrator.