07 December 2010

More on Researches

A few weeks ago, I wrote (here) about the use of the plural researches, specifically about whether this use that is common in places such as Brunei might be extending into standard English in places such as the USA; and I quoted data from the COCA corpus showing that there are 13 instances of 'my researches' and 20 of 'his researches'.

But what does this mean? Is 13 tokens in a corpus of 410 million words a lot or not? Does it indicate a pattern or just a few isolated instances?

To put it into perspective, we can compare it with 'my research' and 'his research'. The search for "my|your|his|our|their researches" finds a total of 47 instances. In comparison, a search for "my|your|his|our|their research" finds a total of 4787 instances. So it seems that the plural use of researches is about 100 times less common than the singular research in contemporary American English. In other words, singular research predominates.

We can ask several more questions:
  • Is plural researches increasing in frequency?
  • Does plural researches maybe represent some specialist use of the term?
  • What kind of texts does researches tend to occur in?
Clearly, there is lots and lots that can be done with a fantastic on-line resource like COCA.

One final issue: furnitures only finds four tokens (compared with 12,943 for furniture). So clearly the plural use of furnitures, something that is also common in this part of the world, has not become established in American English.