is Google reliable?

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Wed Dec 11 08:57:48 UTC 2002

R Troike and David B had the following exchange:

>rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU,Net writes:
>        This leaves me wondering how usefully reliable hit statistics on
>Google are sometimes.

My experience leads me to believe that, while googling a word or phrase
can be revealing, Google is among the the least reliable of the many
electronic resources available to linguists.  It did lead me to some
sources for very rare terms, such as _eighteen-wheeler_ for a kind of

Season's greetings to all,
David Barnhart
barnhart at

Coming as it does from David, who has, very likely, the most experience of
any of us in trolling databases for lexical stuff, the comment re Google
reliability for lexical research is particularly valuable.

Google is a very lame tool for lexical research compared to, say, a robust,
dynamic corpus of contemporary English.  The Brit Natl Corpus is such a
corpus.  Even though it is now more than 10 years old, and British, it is
still a hugely valuable tool for lexical studies, even for general English.
The newest Oxford dictionaries from the UK were compiled using the BNC as a
main resource, and they are a true revolution in lexicography for that
reason -- IMHO.

Frank Abate

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