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Department of Linguistics

Style Council

The Style Council Centre was established in 1992 under a grant from Language Australia (NLLIA) to research and publish information about the English language in Australia. It builds databases of spoken and written Australian English, of Aboriginal English, and conducts surveys on points of language where Australians diverge from Britons and Americans. It conducts regular conferences, on the state of the language (known as Style Councils), and publishes their proceedings.

Research Areas

Corpus Development and Annotation

Australian English

The Australian Corpus of English (ACE), collected by the DRC and Style Council at Macquarie University. It contains 1 million words consisting of 500 samples of written Australian English from 1986, and parallels the American Brown corpus.

The Australian ICE Corpus is a component of the International Corpus of English, containing 500 samples of 2000 words each, including 200 of spoken language and 300 written language. It was collected by the DRC and Style Council at Macquarie University, 1991-5.

Web documents (EDOC) 

This is a corpus of web-based documents, collected 2000-1, under the categories of "Informational" and "Instructional writing". Each category contains 50 samples, with the corpus totalling around 200, 000 words. It has been annotated for structural and presentational features such as heading levels, lists, paragraphs, to allow comparison of documents designed for screen-reading with printed texts. Talkback Radio The Talkback Radio corpus (currently around 200,000 words) is an element of the Australian English Grammar project (see below). Talkback programs from the ABC and commercial radio stations all over Australia are being collected and transcribed to provide examples of spontaneous public speech. Corpus of High School writing This corpus was developed to investigate the acquisition of writing skills among High School students. It consist of nearly 3700 (3686) essays by NSW high school students, written for the 1993 Sydney Morning Herald Young Writers Competition, totalling about 160,000 words. The essays came from 227 schools scattered all over the state, and from all six years of secondary schooling (though fewer from Year 11 and 12 students). In order to quantify the various language problems that students evidence in their writing, an extensive annotation system was devised, with four compartments in which problems in spelling, word forms, syntax and punctuation were all registered.

Australian English Grammar

This project, funded by an ARC Grant (2004-6) aims to research and write a descriptive account of the grammar of Australian English, which will be published in the "Varieties of English Around the World" series (John Benjamins). The project will:

  • establish the extent to which the norms of Australian English grammar are independent from those of British and American English,
  • test the proposition that Australian grammatical options are often driven by pragmatic aspects of the communicative context.

A subsidiary aim is to develop an inventory of Australian/British/American grammatical differences, as input to "smart" information systems for automatic knowledge abstraction in Australia and overseas.

Language surveys

Feedback survey 

These surveys focus on known contentious areas of language usage such as punctuation, capitalisation, grammatical issues and pronunciation. The surveys and reports on them are published in Australian Style.

Langscape Questionnaires 

The Langscape Project consisted of surveys carried out through the international review English Today, and online (1998-9). It investigated the response of English speakers across the world to various items of editorial style that are divergent for British and American writers and publishers.


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Professor Pam Peters
Phone: +61 2 9850 8773
Email: Pam.Peters@mq.edu.au
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