Basic structure

(Adapted from project website)


Corpus design

CONTE-pC is divided along temporal and social criteria. Chronologically, the corpus is split into three periods, each spanning 25 years from 1776 to the end of 1849, with the exception of period 1, which lasts only 24 years- Its design includes three genres: diaries, (semi-)official letters, and local newspapers. Although all three genres are non-speech-based genres, they may be classified according to their level of formality to allow statements about written, as well as hypotheses about spoken, Ontario English.

Following the classification by Kytö and Rissanen (1983), diaries belong to the informal register and are thus closer to spoken language. Official letters, in contrast, are formal pieces of writing. Some of the letters in CONTE are written by people with little schooling, where some influence from the informal register is to be expected. For this reason, these letters are termed semi-official letters, as opposed to the official letters by the more proficient writers. On the basis of this observation we may assume semi-official letters to be closer to spoken language than the official ones (cf. Tieken, 1985) for the principles of this approach). Newspaper texts belong to the formal register. This genre is comprised of local Ontario newspaper text and is the only genre in CONTE that is entirely made up of printed texts. As a consequence, some regularization on behalf of the printers may be expected.
Along social lines, CONTE is divided into two social classes, with the exception of the newspaper genre. Therefore, the diary and letter sections are split into middle and lower class writers (in the absence of an upper class in Early Ontario). Where possible, this distinction was based on external information, where this was not possible, as was the case with some letter writers, the absence of an author's name in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, combined with unskilled handwriting and appropriate letter content was taken as an indicator of lower class membership.