Staff member
SUSANNE meets spoken English

Sponsored by the Economic & Social Research Council (UK), the CHRISTINE project set out to extend my SUSANNE analytic scheme and Corpus to cover spoken English, and particularly spontaneous, informal spoken English.

The resulting CHRISTINE Corpus is now ready and available for use. It offers structural analyses of a cross-section of 1990s spontaneous speech from all British regions, social classes, etc. For details on its current location and how to download it, see my resources page. The CHRISTINE documentation file is also available as a Web page (250 kb).

(The CHRISTINE project terminated formally in December 1999. While it was in being, the project annotated considerably more material than the sample now published, but the remainder was not brought into a suitable state for publication by the end of the project. The current CHRISTINE Corpus was originally referred to as “CHRISTINE Stage I”, in the expectation that it would soon be replaced by a larger corpus. It is still hoped to do this eventually, but the work remaining to be done has turned out to be considerably more than was envisaged in 1999; hence the short name “CHRISTINE Corpus” is now used for the corpus currently available.)

Before this project began, I referred to it as the “Spoken SUSANNE project”. But it is useful to have a short, distinctive name for a separate research undertaking. Apart from anything else, we needed a name in order to create structure in our mass of electronic files at Sussex.

SUSANNE stood for “Surface and underlying structural analyses of natural English”. (One of the N’s was taken from “analyses”.) But the name was also appropriate for reasons that I shan’t go into here, having to do with the life of St Susanna.

Our new project was “daughter of SUSANNE”. But Susanna, as a holy virgin, had no daughter. So I chose a “successor” name in terms of the calendar. St Susanna’s day is 23rd July. July 24th is the day dedicated to SS Christina of Tyre and Christina the Astonishing. (It is also the day of our local Sussex saint, Lewina of Seaford ― but “Lewina” seemed too strange a name to make a satisfactory project title.)

St Christina of Tyre makes a good patroness for a project on speech. We are told that, after being condemned to have her tongue cut out, she carried on speaking just as clearly as ever. Picking up her excised tongue, she threw it at the judge, blinding him in one eye. (A neat trick, which we shall have to bear in mind in case we have any trouble with Research Council assessors.)

If you insist on an acronym, CHRISTINE can just about be twisted into that too: “Chrestomathized speech trees in natural English”. (Ouch!) At any rate, it makes a distinctive and attractive name.