English Language Study Resources

Selected Electronic Resources for English Language Study
Compiled by Anne Curzan, University of Michigan

The internet has opened up exciting new possibilities for research on the English language--research focused on both the language's history and its current state. There are corpora designed specifically for linguistic research (e.g., the Helsinki Corpus) and there are text databases (e.g., Shakespeare's First Folios) that can be used to pursue language questions. The following list of resources is only a selection; you can find many more resources at the Humanities Text Initiative website.


Oxford English Dictionary
The electronic OED allows you quick and easy access to the largest historical dictionary ever published. The Dictionary is designed to provide the history of meaning and use of almost all words in the English language, from 1100 through the late twentieth century, with illustrative quotations.

The Early Modern English Dictionaries Database
By combining full texts of early dictionaries written over 160 years by lexicographers with varying purposes, the Early Modern English Dictionaries Database (EMEDD) is a reference work for English of the Renaissance period. It is designed to make accessible the English-language content of bilingual (English and other languages) and monolingual (English-only) dictionaries and glossaries published in England from 1500 to 1660.

A Table Alphabeticall, by Robert Cawdrey (1604)
A Table Alphabeticall, a dictionary of "hard usual English words," is generally regarded to be the first fully developed monolingual dictionary in English. For each of the 2543 headwords contained in its first edition, Cawdrey provided a concise definition - the standard entry rarely exceeded more than a few words, usually synonyms - and he marked those words thought to be of French or Greek origin. While small and unsophisticated by today's standards, the Table was the largest dictionary of its type at the time and, when viewed in the full context of Early Modern English lexicography, it exemplifies the movement from words lists and glosses to dictionaries which more closely resemble those of today.

Linguistic Corpora

The British National Corpus (An On-line Sample Version)
The British National Corpus is a very large (over 100 million words) corpus of modern English, both spoken and written. The Corpus is designed to represent as wide a range of modern British English as possible. The written part (90%) includes, for example, extracts from regional and national newspapers, specialist periodicals and journals for all ages and interests, academic books and popular fiction, published and unpublished letters and memoranda, school and university essays, among many other kinds of text. The spoken part (10%) includes a large amount of unscripted informal conversation, recordeded by volunteers selected from different age, region and social classes in a demographically balanced way, together with spoken language collected in all kinds of different contexts, ranging from formal business or government meetings to radio shows and phone-ins. While we do not presently have access to the full corpus, you can do simply searches on-line, which will provide results of up to 50 hits.

The COBUILD Bank of English
The Bank of English is a collection of samples of modern English language held on computer for analysis of words, meanings, grammar and usage. Here on the internet you can now do simple searches in the Concordance Demonstraton or Collocation Demonstration page (go to the bottom of this website under "Can I use this resource?" to find these links).

Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MiCASE)
A searchable corpus of academic spoken English, which includes 152 transcripts totaling 1,848,364 words. This is an invaluable resource for examining patterns in spoken academic American English.

Text Collections

The Humanities Text Initiative at the University of Michigan makes available a range of electronic text collections, including:

Modern English Works
The texts in this collection come from a variety of sources on the Internet, including the Oxford Text Archive, Project Gutenberg, the Online Book Initiative, and contributions from individual text encoders. Authors include Conrad, Dickens, Forster, Melville, Poe, Wharton, and many more.

American Verse Project
The Humanities Text Initiative (HTI) is assembling an electronic archive of volumes of American poetry. Most of the archive is made up of 19th century poetry, although a few 18th century and early 20th century texts are included.

Michigan Early Modern English Materials
The Michigan Early Modern English Materials (MEMEM) were compiled by Richard W. Bailey, Jay L. Robinson, James W. Downer, with Patricia V. Lehman. The Materials consist of citations collected for the modal verbs and certain other English words for the Early Modern English Dictionary. Many of the slips used in the work were the original Oxford English Dictionary slips, provided to the University of Michigan by the editors of the OED.

Bible: King James Version and Revised Standard Version
The original electronic text for this version of the Bible was provided by the Oxford Text Archive. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyright © National Council of Churches of Christ in America.

Middle English Compendium
The Middle English Compendium has been designed to offer easy access to and interconnectivity between three major Middle English electronic resources: an electronic version of the Middle English Dictionary, a HyperBibliography of Middle English prose and verse, based on the MED bibliographies, and an associated network of electronic resources.

Corpus of Middle English Verse and Prose
This collection of Middle English texts was assembled from works contributed by University of Michigan faculty and from texts provided by the Oxford Text Archive, as well as works created specifically for the Corpus by the HTI. At present, forty-two texts are available; several others will be added soon.

Old English Corpus
Originally prepared for internal use at the Dictionary of Old English, the Corpus contains all surviving OE material, excluding some variant texts.

Other available electronic text collections include:

Oxford Text Archive
The Oxford Text Archive holds several thousand electronic texts and linguistic corpora, in a variety of languages. Its holdings include electronic editions of works by individual authors, standard reference works such as the Bible and mono-/bilingual dictionaries, and a range of language corpora.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare ("The Works of the Bard")
Advertised as the first complete electronic edition of Shakespeare's works, this site provides quick access to his plays as well as an easy-to-use search engine. The site includes no information about the source texts and no bibliographic references, however, so use the resources here with appropriate caution.

Renaissance Electronic Texts
A series of old-spelling, SGML-encoded editions of early individual copies of English Renaissance books and manuscripts, and of plain transcriptions of such works, including Edmund Coote's The English Schoole-maister, Shakespearean and Elizabethan sonnets.

British Women Romantic Poets
The British Women Romantic Poets Project is producing an online scholarly archive consisting of E-text editions of poetry by British and Irish women written (not necessarily published) between 1789 (the onset of the French Revolution) and 1832 (the passage of the Reform Act), a period traditionally known in English literary history as the Romantic period

Victorian Women Writers Project
The goal of the Victorian Women Writers Project is to produce highly accurate transcriptions of works by British women writers of the 19th century. The works include anthologies, novels, political pamphlets, religious tracts, children's books, and volumes of poetry and verse drama.

Documenting the American South
"Documenting the American South" (DAS) is a full-text database of primary resources on Southern history, literature, and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century. Currently, DAS includes three digitization projects: slave narratives, first-person narratives, and Southern literature. A fourth, based on Confederate imprints, is in development.

An extensive array of full-text news (newspapers, wire services, transcripts and newsletters), business literature, industry and company information, legal, biographical and reference resources from the past twenty years, which you can search by topic, date, type of source, etc.

The New York Times on the Web
From this site, you can search the archives of The New York Times for phrases, names, etc. (You must register as a user first, which is free and easy to do.)

English Dialect Resources

LAMSAS (Linguistic Atlas of Middle and South Atlantic States)
Based on data from over a thousand language surveys, these dialect maps chart the geographical distribution of various words and grammatical features. (Note: every time you choose a new feature and create a map, you must hit the "Reload" button or you will see the previous map.)

TELSUR Project: Atlas of North American English
The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy
Pittsburgh Speech and Society Page

General English Language Pages

World Wide Words (compiled by Michael Quinion)
SIL Encore IPA Fonts

General English Resources

Literary Resources on the Net (compiled at UPenn by J. Lynch)
English Online Resources (compiled at the Univ. of Virginia)

English Dictionary Resources

OneLook Dictionary Search
Urban Dictionary (compiled by users of the web site)

English Grammar Resources

The Internet Grammar of English (available for a limited trial period only)
The American Heritage Book of English Usage

Essays on Electronic Scholarship

"The Rationale of Hypertext" by Jerome McGann
"Reading, Scholarship, and Hypertext Editions" by John Lavagnino
"Corpus Linguistics" by Tony McEnery and Andrew Wilson

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