Changes to the distribution of the British National Corpus

Originally posted at on January 13, 2014 by Martin Wynne. IT Services at the University of Oxford has decided to delete a large number of historical blogs, and this is one of a number of posts related to the Oxford Text Archive which are being re-published here, after being laboriously retrieved from the archive provided by the Wayback Machine.

In January 2014 there will be some changes in the way that the British National Corpus (BNC) is distributed.

It is now possible to download the British National Corpus at no cost from the Oxford Text Archive at the following URL: [now – updated October 2020]

BNC Baby, a 4-million word sample of the BNC is also available: [now – updated October 2020]

Click on the ‘apply for approval’ link to request a copy. The BNC continues to be subject to the same user licence conditions, which can be viewed at If you have already paid for permission to use the BNC, you should consider that this continues to be valid in perpetuity.

There is an even simpler download option if you have a login ID from a UK or eduGAIN Shibboleth identity provider (usually, this applies to all members of UK universities, and many European institutions). You can follow the links at the locations above to download the corpus directly without applying for approval. We hope that this facility will soon be extended to users from other countries who participate in the CLARIN Federation.

It will remain possible to order the BNC on disks from the University of Oxford until the end of March 2014, with the current administrative charges still applying, from the following URL:

As part of this process, I have to announce that the University of Oxford can no longer offer any support for the XAIRA software, which has for many years been made available with the corpus. We have tried to offer support on a ‘best efforts’ basis in recent years, but we do not have the resources or expertise to help with the installation or use of XAIRA on the latest hardware and software. Users of XAIRA are encouraged to visit and check out the forums and mailing lists which you will find there. The future of XAIRA depends on a committed user community, so please get involved if you have questions or can contribute expertise.

There are excellent services offering instant online access to the BNC, such as those listed at I am convinced that there is still further potential for the integration and use of the corpus in online services and web applications. There are plans to integrate access to the BNC with the emerging CLARIN infrastructure, enabling a range of applications and web services to be used in conjunction with this and many other corpora. See for more details.

If you know of other ways of using the BNC, or have any more ideas about its future, I would welcome a discussion on this email list, or email me.

Author: Martin Wynne

Martin Wynne is a digital research specialist, corpus linguist and repository manager in the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford.

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