Elaine Keown wrote:
> What is the minimum size for a corpus? I just started Biblical Aramaic,
> which is only 10 chapters, 276 verses. Is that large enough to do
> meaningful corpus work on?. . .
Of course, if it is only _Biblical_ Aramaic you're interested in, then
you either must use what you have, or expand the canon. The latter route
is highly dubious!
If you confine yourself to the 276 verses, then yes you can study it as
a corpus, but very few things will repeat themselves with enough
frequency for you to make certain statements about. Perhaps a few
stylistic matters, or a few patterns associated with a few key words in
your texts is all that will show themselves.
I recently completed a study of student essays at my college, and though
I had 29000 words of text (far more than you'll have!), and all of a
very tightly constrained subject matter, I found I could only make a few
statements about characteristic lexis with any confidence at all. Huge
corpora do have their advantages, but such was not available to me, and
appears not to be to you either.
Of course, you could always go the road of adding contemporaneous
Aramaic texts to your corpus, but with an ancient language that is
frought with difficulty: Which end of four centuries do you date the
Biblical material at? And did the Biblical authors use Aramaic in a way
that differs significantly from the authors of other contemporaneous
texts anyway? That is, were the Biblical writers proficient as native
speakers, or did they use a dialect peculiar to their Jewish fellows?
If you were game enough to tackle these questions, then you could
perhaps work from a larger corpus, or compare the Biblical corpus
against an extra-Biblical corpus. But you would of course have to
qualify everything -- assumed dating of all texts, provenance of your
corpus texts, and variation in subject matter. But that method could
still yield you some interesting insights on how, say, the Aramiac of
Daniel compares to the Aramic of royal proclamations or of business
Don't die the death of a thousand qualifications, but do be careful only
to make responsible and supportable statements based on your small
Small is beautiful, when that's all that's available!
-- Gordon Cain Teacher of ESOL TAFE International Education Centre Liverpool (Sydney) Australia email@example.com
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