From broadcast archive to language corpus: Designing and investigating a sociohistorical corpus from Desert Island Discs

Nicholas Smith 1  and Cathleen Waters 1
  • 1 University of Leicester,


The aims of this paper are twofold: i) to present the motivation and design of a sociohistorical corpus derived from the popular BBC Radio show, Desert Island Discs (DID); and ii) to illustrate the potential of the DID corpus (DIDC) with a case study. In an era of ever-increasing digital resources and scholarly interest in recent language change, there remains an enormous disparity between available written and spoken corpora. We describe how a corpus derived from DID contributes to redressing the balance. Treating DID as an example of a specialized register, namely, a ‘biographical chat show’, we review its attendant situational characteristics, and explain the affordances and design features of a sociolinguistic corpus sampling of the show. Finally, to illustrate the potential of DIDC for linguistic exploration of recent change, we conduct a case study on two pronouns with generic, impersonal reference, namely you and one.

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