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Applying Geographical Information Systems to researching historical corpora

Seventeenth-century prostitution

Helen Baker, Ian Gregory, Daniel Hartmann and Tony McEnery

Abstract

This chapter reports on research resulting from academics from linguistics, history and geography working together in order to cast light upon the geography of prostitution in seventeenth-century Britain. We will demonstrate the usefulness and untapped potential of combining corpus linguistics and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) as an approach to researching historical texts. Corpus linguists are beginning to pursue new methodological advances which encourage them to “think geographically” and provide opportunities to enrich their understanding of a body of texts by uncovering spatial patterns in types of discourse (Gregory & Hardie 2011: 298-299, 309). The ability to move from corpus text to a visual mapping of geographical data and then back into the corpus text provides rich opportunities for humanities scholars in general, and corpus linguists in particular.

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