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The GerManC project: A representative historical corpus of German 1650-1800

The GerManC project is being carried out within the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures in the University of Manchester.

Its initial stage, the GerManC pilot, was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council from 1 March 2006 to 31 March 2007 (grant no. RES-000-22-1609), with Professor Martin Durrell as Principal Investigator, Dr Paul Bennett as Co-Investigator, and Dr Astrid Ensslin as Research Associate. Dr Ensslin left at the end of the pilot project to take up a post as Lecturer in New Media at Bangor University.

Following a positive evaluation of the pilot, the full project was approved for support by the ESRC jointly with the AHRC in early 2008 (grant no. RES-062-23-1118). It is scheduled to take three years, and work on it started in September 2008 with  Dr Silke Scheible and Dr Richard J. Whitt joining Professor Martin Durrell and Dr Paul Bennett as Research Associates.

The project goes back to an initiative by Anita Auer , who completed a doctorate in Manchester on Language Standardisation and Prescription in the Eighteenth Century: The Subjunctive in English and (Austrian) German in 2005 and is now a member of the English Department at the University of Utrecht. Dr Auer's work on her PhD exposed the lack of corpus-based data for German during this period compared to English, and while working on her thesis she suggested undertaking the compilation of project such a corpus for German - which in effect has now become the GerManC project - and completed some preparatory work on it.

The ultimate aim of the project is to compile a representative historical corpus of written German for the years 1650-1800. This is a crucial period in the development of the language, as the modern standard was formed during it, and competing regional norms were finally eliminated. A central aim of the project is to provide a basis for comparative studies of the development of the grammar and vocabulary of English and German and the way in which they were standardized. The structure and design of the GerManC corpus is thus intended to parallel that of similar historical linguistic corpora of English, notably the ARCHER corpus. This is currently being further developed by an international team of scholars including Professor David Denison and Dr Núria Yañez Bouza in Linguistics and English Language in Manchester, and we are collaborating with them in order to assure a maximum degree of comparability between the corpora. Following the model of the ARCHER corpus and given the aim of representativeness, the complete GerManC corpus will contain 2000 word samples from nine genres: drama, newspapers, sermons, personal letters and journals (to represent orally oriented registers) and narrative prose (fiction and biographies), academic, medical and legal texts (to represent more print-oriented registers).