The Oxford Text Archive and the British National Corpus: an annual report (2014)

Originally posted at blogs.it.ox.ac.uk on September 22, 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.

The Oxford Text Archive continues to deliver open access to language resources to the academic community, via the website at http://ota.ox.ac.uk/. This year there were 5278 downloads of datasets from the OTA. An exciting development in this period was the arrival of the British National Corpus (BNC) in the OTA collection. This major reference work for the English language is now available from the OTA website, and was downloaded 397 times by researchers from around the world after it went online in January 2014. Two subsets of the corpus, BNC Baby and the BNC Sampler, are also available. Thousands of texts created as part of the Eighteenth Century Collections Online Text Creation Partnership (ECCO-TCP) are available via the OTA in high-quality XML format, and many thousands more will be available in 2015 from the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP).

Two new services, introduced as the result of a collaboration with the Oxford e-Research Centre, offer new ways for users to access and use the literary and linguistic texts in the OTA. Users can download certain texts (including the BNC) without waiting for manual authorization of their requests by using their institutional single sign-on, thanks to Shibboleth federated access and identity management. At the moment, only users who are members of an institution which is part of the UK Access Management Federation can use this facility, but we are working to open it to cross-border access to more users throughout Europe via the CLARIN and EduGain federations. More than 300 instant downloads have been made already using this facility.

The second new service is BNCweb, a sophisticated online interface to the BNC, which allows researchers, teachers and language learners across the University to submit queries to identify and analyse distributions and patterns of usage in this large dataset of English speech and writing. In the coming year, we will start to implement an enhanced service offering access to more datasets via a common interface.

The OTA obtained certification as a CLARIN Centre in 2014, which confirms and strengthens its role as a key hub in the European research infrastructure. As a result of the collaboration with CLARIN, OTA resources can now be found via the Virtual Language Observatory, an online research portal, which offers access to electronic language resources held in repositories worldwide.

The development of these services, and the expertise in these areas, has enabled staff from IT Services to offer specialized teaching and support in digital methods to members of the University, including teaching on Masters course in English Language, induction sessions for new postgraduate students, and a course open to all in the IT Learning Programme on corpus linguistics.

Changes to the distribution of the British National Corpus

Originally posted at blogs.it.ox.ac.uk 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:

http://www.ota.ox.ac.uk/desc/2554 [now http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12024/2554 – updated October 2020]

BNC Baby, a 4-million word sample of the BNC is also available:

http://www.ota.ox.ac.uk/desc/2553 [now http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12024/2553 – 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 http://www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk/docs/licence.html. 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:

http://www.oxforduniversitystores.co.uk/browse/category.asp?compid=1&modid=1&catid=1049

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 http://xaira.sourceforge.net/ 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 http://www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk/. 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 https://www.clarin.eu/ 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.