12.2038, Sum: Internet Search Engines for Linguistic Purposes

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-12-2038. Mon Aug 13 2001. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 12.2038, Sum: Internet Search Engines for Linguistic Purposes

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Date:  Sun, 12 Aug 2001 20:28:23 +0400
From:  "Denis V. Kazakov, Translation Service" <translation_service at mtu-net.ru>
Subject:  Reliability of Internet for Linguistic Purposes

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Sun, 12 Aug 2001 20:28:23 +0400
From:  "Denis V. Kazakov, Translation Service" <translation_service at mtu-net.ru>
Subject:  Reliability of Internet for Linguistic Purposes

Some time ago I posted the following query on using Internet search engines
for linguistic purposes:

>A few weeks ago I saw somebody mentioning that he used Google to see
how some English phrases are used or something.  I often use Alta
Vista or Yahoo in my work as a translator to find out "if it is said
this way in such and such language."  Does anybody have any data on
the validity of such searches? Do they have any quantitative value?
Any other data on the use of the Internet search engines for
linguistic purposes?

I wish to thank all who sent their answers, which I give below. Apparently,
general-purpose search engines have greater use for languages which do not
have specialized corpora (like Russian, for example).

Denis Kazakov,

- ------------------------------------

Dear Denis,

we had a seminar on internet resources given by a group of translators from
the University of Germesheim about searching tools. The Prof in charge was
Prof Dr. Frank Austermuhl. He has just published a book on this topic (I
can?t remember the title), but it was published by St. Jerome Publ. He gave
us some hints about how to use Google or yahoo to test collocation,
specially when translating into a foreign language.

I hope this information can help you further.

Best regards,

Luciane Ferreira

- ------------------------------------

Dear Denis Kazakov,

It's OK to use such searches, as long as you know what you're doing.
Search engines nowadays have huge coverage (> 1 bln web-pages),
having index good content as well as a lot of junk. Therefore, the
mere fact that you found a page through such an engine, should not
be viewed as any kind of endorsement by this engine - the crawling
(indexing) process is fully automatic and therefore blind.
I'd suggest that whenever you find a particular phrase usage, have
a look at the author and the style of writing. If the page sounds
otherwise reputable, you can be moderately sure the usage is OK.
Of course, pages with scientific writing would carry more weight etc.
I myself used search engines in this scenario (to validate language
usage), so I believe when you use your best judgement about the
page source, it should be OK.

Quantitative value: the more documents your search engine finds that
feature a particular expression, the more confident you're in its

As for the engine, I'd suggest to use Google (over Altavista, Yahoo
or in fact any other engine), as it's coverage and quality are

Searching tip: if you're looking for a phrase, enclose it in quotes
("like this") for searching to get precise match (but don't use quotes
if you're unsure about the phrase, and want to let the search engine
find pages with the same words arranged in a possibly different order).
Note also that Altavista performs stemming on its queries
(i.e., "dogs" = "dog"), while Google does not.


Evgeniy Gabrilovich.

- ------------------------------------

Hi Denis,

Just several ideas. Internet is a big corpus (there was a paper
on its advantages and disadvantages: Adam Kilgariff, Web as
Corpus. In Proc. of Corpus Linguistics 2001 Conference,
Lancaster, UK, March-April, 2001), but for English there are more
organized corpora with online access and additional
possibilities, like part-of-speech tags and specification of
collocations. Two examples are
The Bank of English:
The British National Corpus:

Their free versions are limited to 40 and 50 lines respectively,
but they still affirm that "it is said this way in English". If
you find anything similar for Russian or German, let me know.


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