Problems in investigating keyness, or clearing the undergrowth and marking out trails…

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The article explores what might be meant by keyness in Corpus Linguistics. Keyness is a textual quality which is beginning to arouse interest, but as yet it is little understood and much exploratory work is needed. To this end, the chapter focuses in on a number of specific issues: the amount of text to take as a unit when computing keyness, statistical problems in making claims of different kinds about they keyness of words and phrases, the choice of an appropriate reference corpus, and the types of repetition which characterize key words. Many of these are illustrated by reference to Shakespeare plays. However, the overall aim is less to characterise the Shakespeare plays than to delineate the research area, to pin down the nature of keyness.


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