is Google reliable?

Wed Dec 11 12:13:57 UTC 2002

abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET,Net writes:

>Google is a very lame tool for lexical research compared to, say, a
>dynamic corpus of contemporary English.

While I have not a very high opinion of a "straight" google search, it
is made more useful for general linguistic research in news media by
using "Google News."  This resource is described in their own words:
Google News presents information culled from approximately 4,000 news
sources worldwide and automatically arranged to present the most
relevant news first. Topics are updated continuously throughout the
day, so you will see new stories each time you check the page. Google
has developed an automated grouping process for Google News that pulls
together related headlines and photos from thousands of sources
worldwide -- enabling you to see how different news organizations are
reporting the same story. You pick the item that interests you, then go
directly to the site which published the account you wish to read.
The address of the site is
There are several ways to examine the record of English usage.   Most
of these ways warrant justification for particular lexicographic
projects depending upon their scope and objective.  When vigorously
examining new words it is important to have as wide a range of
publications as is practicable to handle.   Such sources, especially on
the Web, are frequently changing their base of observation.  A stable
data base, such as a static corpus, can make statistical observations
more accurately.  My father's scheme for many years relied upon a
stable inventory of publications that allowed for the reliable
estimation of language growth year by year.  His approach was described
on several occasions.  On the subject in "Methods and Standards for
Collecting Citations for English Dictionaries" in Proceedings of the
Fourth International Congress of Applied Linguistics (Stuttgart, 1977,
p 278): "Most excerpting of citations is now done by various dictionary
publishers to bring up to date existing file so that new dictionaries
now in existence can be kept up to date.  Such reading is done in
newspapers of record, news magazines, and various magazines of literary
or scientific importance."  He then lists the publications used in
updating the World Book Dictionary (when it was under his editorial
direction).  He continues: "All of these newspapers and magazines are
circulated largely among educated speakers of English.  It would be
interesting to calculate the total readership of these newspapers and
magazines in relation to the total number of speakers of English in
order to determine in some fashion the extent of our sampling.  It
would be interesting also to calculate the extent of overlapping of the
new vocabulary that comes into the English language in each section of
the reading..."
David Barnhart
barnhart at

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