Google’s Ngram Viewer

Google’s Ngram Viewer gives the power of corpus studies to anyone with an Internet connection. For years, only researchers could access this kind of powerful data-today it’s yours.

The way it works is the user punches in keywords of interest, which Google then spits out as a chart showing frequency over time. The default timeline starts at 1800 and goes to 2000, but can be narrowed by the user.

This seemingly simple tool can have a huge number of applications. Researchers have used frequency studies to predict when a disease is going to become an epidemic, linguists have created vocabulary lists like the Academic Word List (AWL) based on frequency, and just for fun it’s interesting to see how words like “groovy” or “rad” have gone in and out of style.

For teachers, Ngram viewer is a great way to get students doing research and thinking about source types.