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Charting the semantics of labour relations in House of Commons debates spanning two hundred years: A study of parliamentary language using corpus linguistic methods and automated semantic tagging

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Abstract

In this chapter we use new corpus linguistic software tools to investigate the discourse(s) of labour relations in UK House of Commons debates over the 19th and 20th centuries. Our data is from the Hansard Corpus (1803–2005), and benefits from the annotation of meaning and sense categories with the newly-developed Historical Thesaurus Semantic Tagger (Alexander et al. 2015; Piao et al. 2014). Using the bespoke corpus interface CQPweb Hansard, we carry out automated searches for words tagged with relevant semantic category codes. Our quantitative results enable us to chart the semantics of parliamentary discourse on labour relations over time, providing a detailed empirical basis which, we argue, would usefully support further qualitative analysis in linguistic and other research.