Tour de CLARIN: Lancaster Summer Schools in Corpus Linguistics: Behind the scenes

Submitted by Jakob LenardiÄŤ on 6 August 2020

Blog post written by Vaclav Brezina (@vaclavbrezina) and Dana Gablasova (@danagablas), edited by Darja Fišer and Jakob Lenardič

Lancaster Summer Schools in Corpus Linguistics are a free annual event held at Lancaster University, UK, at the end of June. Co-organised by the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science, which is a CLARIN-UK member, and the Department of Linguistics and English Language, the summer schools offer a week of intensive training in corpus linguistics, in which lectures are combined with practical, hands-on sessions in computer labs. The summer schools attract participants from all around the world; since 2013, more than 1,000 participants from over 30 countries have attended the summer training programme. In 2017, Darja Fišer, the director of User Involvement at CLARIN , gave a presentation on CLARIN ERIC at a plenary session of the summer schools.

Drawing on particular strengths of the department and the research centre, we currently offer three streams reflecting major areas in the field of corpus linguistics and its applications:

  • Corpus linguistics for analysis of language, discourse and society
  • Corpus linguistics for language learning, teaching and testing
  • Statistics and data visualisation for corpus linguistics

In this blogpost, we share our experience as organisers of the event. Dana is the main organiser, coordinating the academic programme and teaching in all three streams; she is also the convenor of the stream for Language learning, teaching and testing. Vaclav is the convenor of the stream focusing on Statistics and data visualisation in corpus linguistics.

A lecture on corpus linguistics and health communication (Elena Semino)

A computer lab session during Lancaster Summer schools in 2019 (Vaclav Brezina)

A lecture of language of Shakespeare from the corpus perspective during Lancaster summer schools in 2019 (Jonathan Culpeper)

A session on corpus methods in language learning and teaching (Dana Gablasova)

A closing session of the summer schools in 2019 (Tony McEnery)

Currently, the summer schools are one of the largest events of its kind involving 120 participants each year.

Preparations for the Lancaster summer schools 2019

Lancaster Summer schools offer an interesting social programme including a free tour around Lancaster. Lancaster summer schools 2020 offered an online tour of Lancaster instead.

Social dinner at the historical building of the Lancaster Town Hall.

This year brought a special challenge across the higher education sector and the society in general. Despite the covid-19 crisis, we decided to go ahead with the Lancaster Summer Schools 2020 in an online format. This involved pre-recording of lectures (the Corpus statistics stream offered a full series of seven lectures) and preparing materials and events to be available online. We used Lancaster University’s Open learning MOODLE environment to deliver lectures and exercises asynchronously; in edition, several live events were organised via MS Teams to give the participants the opportunity of synchronous interactions via Q&A. One of the highlights of the online version of the summer schools this year was a free webinar on corpus analysis of linguistic data. As part of the webinar, we released #LancsBox v. 5, a free software tool for the analysis and visualization of corpora. The new version includes the Wizard tool, which automatically analyses corpora and produces research reports. #LancsBox is one of the corpus tools listed on the CLARIN-UK website.

While moving resources online involved considerable effort, it was very rewarding that this format allowed us to share the materials and training with a large audience of those interested in learning about corpora and corpus methods; we were delighted that more than 5,000 people accessed the resources during the online summer schools in June 2020. As a result, we decided to keep the resource page available also after the end of the event and to continue adding resources to it ( So if you are interested in corpus linguistics and would like to visit Lancaster University, don’t miss the application process, which usually opens in early January. It would be wonderful to see you in Lancaster at one of our future training events or you can keep in touch with us online.

Unveiling the Wizard tool in #LancsBox v. 5

Lancaster summer schools 2020: A snapshot from a webinar introducing a brand new version of #LancsBox. The video is available here.