All about BNC Baby


BNC Baby is a collection of corpora and software designed to demonstrate the full potential of corpus linguistics in the teaching of English language and literature.
BNC Baby can be orderded through the University Shop

What's on the disk

The BNC-Baby disk (second edition) contains:
  • Full XML text of BNC-Baby
    four million words in total, extracted from the British National Corpus — a unique 100 million word snapshot of British English at the end of the twentieth century, together with detailed documentation of the corpus design and contents, and demonstration materials for using it in English language teaching.
  • The BNC Sampler
    two million words in total, extracted from the original BNC edition, and converted to XML format. These texts were all hand-tagged and corrected during production of the BNC.
  • A Standard Corpus of Present Day Edited American English
    the original Brown corpus, converted to XML, with POS tagging
  • Xaira
    a new search and retrieval program for use with this — or any other — XML corpus

How to install

The CD comes preconfigured for installation on a Microsoft Windows platform, and the software included on it will only function on that platform. A platform-independent version of Xaira is now available from our site on source forge. The corpora included on the CD can be read on any platform, and may be processed using any XML-aware software. You can copy one or more of the corpora from the CD to your hard disk, and access them from there, which will usually give better performance.


Martin Wynne is currently writing a suite of practical exercises demonstrating how to use BNC Baby in the teaching of English Grammar. The full suite will be available online from, but some samples are included on the CD.

The BNC Baby Reference Manual describes the corpus and its markup. It is available on the CD both in HTML and in PDF.

Xaira and Xaira Tools both have built in Help files. For more information and tutorials see the Xaira development site.

Information about the original Brown Corpus is available from the ICAME at the University of Bergen. A copy of the original User Manual is included on the CD.


The British National Corpus was originally created and is owned by a Consortium whose members are: Oxford University Press; Pearson Educational Ltd; Chambers; Oxford University Computing Services; UCREL, Lancaster University; British Library Research and Development Centre.

Creation of the British National Corpus was originally funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry and the Science and Engineering Research Council under grant number IED4/1/2184 (1991-1994) within the DTI/SERC Joint Framework for Information Technology. Additional funding was provided by the British Library and the British Academy.

BNC Baby was designed and constructed by Ylva Berglund and Martin Wynne of the Oxford Text Archive.

Xaira was designed and developed by Lou Burnard and Tony Dodd for the Research Technologies Service of Oxford University. It is copyright by the Chancellor Masters and Scholars of Oxford University. An open-source version of the system is currently under development, with funding from the Mellon Foundation.

Terms and Conditions

The Data and the Software included on this disk is protected by United Kingdom copyright laws, international treaty provisions, and other applicable national laws. The owners of the copyright retain all rights not expressly granted. By making use of the Data on your system you indicate your acceptance of the terms and conditions relating to the British National Corpus, stated below. If you do not accept any of these terms and conditions, you must delete the Software and Data from your system and dispose of this disk.

Licence to use the British National Corpus Baby Edition

This document is a legal agreement between You ("the Licensee") and the British National Corpus Consortium ("the Licensor"), as legal owner of the British National Corpus, which is a UK-registered trademark. Oxford University Computing Services ("the Distributor") has been appointed sole licensed Distributor of the British National Corpus and is authorised to collect and enforce such agreements.

All usage of the Data included on this disk is governed by the terms of a licence. The full text of this Licence is available from The version of this licence applicable to the BNC Baby Edition is attached below. You will be required to read this Licence and indicate that you accept its terms before making any further use of the data or software on the CD

This licence does not authorise any use of the BNC other than that which is explicitly permitted by the licence included herewith

Terms and Conditions Relating to the Brown Corpus

The version of the Brown Corpus included here was derived from the version included in the Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK 1.4) by Lou Burnard. NLTK data is licenced under the GNU Public Licence and the version included here is therefore freely distributable under the same licence.

Terms and Conditions Relating to the Xaira Software

You are authorised to install and use the software system included on the disk subject to the following Terms and Conditions:

  1. Single User Licence The software may be installed on any single machine for use by a single person. Neither the software nor the Corpus may be copied to other machines, belonging to the same or another person. The machine on which the software is installed may not be used to provide network access to the Corpus using the Software.
  2. Beta Test Agreement The software included here is under active development. Your feedback on its usability and in particular on any errors found in its operation is valuable to us. Please register as a beta test user by visiting our web site.
  3. Limitation of liability The software included here is provided ``as is'', without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to the warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and noninfringement. In no event shall the suppliers be liable for any claim, damages or other liability, whether in an action of contract, tort or otherwise, arising from, out of or in connection with the software or the use or other dealings in the software.

End User Licence Regarding the British National Corpus

This Licence Agreement is made between you ("the Licensee") and the British National Corpus Consortium (hereinafter termed the BNC Consortium)

WHEREAS the BNC Consortium has been created by a consortium of Oxford University Press, Longman Group UK Limited, W & R Chambers Limited, The University of Lancaster, The University of Oxford and The British Library, and

WHEREAS the BNC Consortium has obtained permission from a number of text providers (hereinafter termed the Text Providers) to include a sample of their texts in the British National Corpus and

WHEREAS the Licensee is the end user in the manner detailed herein of the British National Corpus Content which end user may be made up of academic researchers or researchers in commercial institutions, and

WHEREAS the Text Providers and the Software Developers have empowered the BNC Consortium under a separate agreement to grant a non-exclusive licence to the Licensee as detailed herein, NOW IT IS HEREBY MUTUALLY AGREED AS FOLLOWS:

1 Definitions

(a) The "BNC Texts" is a collection of spoken and written texts held on computer and selected for use in language-based teaching, research and development (hereinafter termed the BNC Texts).

(b) The "BNC World Edition" is a version of the BNC Texts assembled into consistent electronic format and enhanced with syntactic and semantic annotations by the BNC Consortium (hereinafter termed the BNC Processed Material).

(c) The "Licensee's Results" are the results of work performed by the Licensee on the BNC World Edition in the course of research.

(d) The "Material" is collectively the BNC Processed Material and the Software

(e) the "Software" is a system for analysing and searching corpus data named Xaira and owned by the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford;

2 Terms of the Licence Granted to the Licensee

(a) The BNC Consortium hereby grants according to the terms and conditions set out herein and in consideration of the payments specified herein a non-exclusive, non-transferable Licence to the Licensee to use the Material for the purposes of linguistic research and/or the development of language products.

(b) Distribution of the BNC Processed Material is restricted to the Licensee or in the event of the Licensee being an organisation, to the Licensee's research group. This group is defined as consisting only of those Licensee's employees whom the Licensee authorises to perform the work using the BNC Material for the purposes described in 2a.

(c) Members of the said research group must not, except as herein provided, copy, publish or otherwise give to any third party access to the whole or any part of the Material. It is the responsibility of the Licensee to ensure that the members of the said research group understand and abide by this restriction, and to supervise their activities with respect to the BNC Processed Material. Neither the Licensee nor members of the Licensee's said research group may assign, transfer, lease, sell, rent, charge or otherwise encumber the Material.

(d) The BNC Processed Material may be installed at the place or places of work of the said research group. The place of work is defined as the computing systems that the members of a research group normally use to conduct their research activities. It can include both work and home computers, and is not restricted to a particular machine or building. Installation of the Software is subject to terms and conditions stated in a separate licence agreement.

(e) Copies of the Material may be made for backup purposes, or for the purposes of making data available to members of the research group where so permitted but the Licensee shall ensure that the BNC Consortium's copyright notice is reproduced on all copies or parts thereof of the BNC Processed Material, and that the appropriate Software Developer's copyright notice is reproduced on all copies or parts thereof of the Software. Any such copies will be deemed to be part of the Material. Copies for other purposes may not be made.

(f) There is no restriction on the use of the Licensee's Results except that the Licensee may not publish in print or electronic form or exploit commercially in any form whatsoever any extracts from the Material other than those permitted under the fair dealings provision of copyright law.

(g) The BNC Consortium does not grant to the Licensee any rights whatsover to reproduce the BNC Texts or use all or any part of the BNC Texts in other products or services of any kind in any way other than would be permitted under the fair dealings provision of copyright law.

5 Requirement to Exercise Professional Care

The Licensee and all members of its research group shall at all times exercise professional care and judgement to avoid violation of this Agreement and shall inter alia:

(a) maintain an up-to-date written record of all copies of the BNC Processed Material distributed and/or created under this Agreement, and of their location, and upon request and without unreasonable delay produce such record to the BNC Consortium,

(b) regularly check on the status and use of the Material,

(c) make use of file protection and other data security measures to prevent insofar as possible all and any unauthorised access,

(d) without prejudice to the foregoing take all such other steps necessary to protect the intellectual property rights of the BNC Consortium and/or the Text Providers and/or the Software Developers,


(e) generally maintain ongoing interest and involvement in the use and distribution of the Material as provided for herein.

If the research project becomes inactive (for example, if a researcher changes employment or takes a sabbatical leave), the Licensee must ensure that the Material is erased from active computer files, or otherwise to protected until such time as the project becomes active again.

6 Limitation of Liability

(a) The BNC Consortium gives no warranties and makes no representation that the Material will be suitable for any particular purpose, or for use under any specific conditions, notwithstanding that such purpose or conditions may have been notified to or to otherwise be known to the BNC Consortium. The terms of this agreement are in lieu of all warranties, conditions, terms, undertakings and obligations implied by statute, common law, custom, trade, usage, course of dealing and/or otherwise, all of which are hereby excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.

(b) The BNC Consortium accepts no responsibility for any technical limitations of the Material.

(c) The BNC Consortium does not warrant that the operation of the Software will be uninterrupted or free from errors.

(d) In no circumstances will the BNC Consortium be under any liability to the Licensee for loss of profits, goodwill or any kind of consequential losses of any nature even if such loss was foreseeable.

(e) The BNC Consortium shall accept no liability whatsoever in connection with any damage to the tangible property of the Licensee resulting from the negligence of the BNC Consortium, its employees, agents or sub-contractors.

7 Rights reserved

All rights in the Material, including copyright, which are not granted to the Licensee in this Agreement, are reserved.

8 Termination

(a) The BNC Consortium may terminate the Licence if the Licensee fails to pay the Licence fee within Thirty days of the due date and may terminate the Licence forthwith if the Licensee commits any material breach of this Agreement.

(b) This Licence shall automatically terminate if and when a receiver, administrative receiver or other encumbrancer takes possession of, or is appointed over the whole or any substantial part of the Licensee's assets; or if and when the Licensee enters into any arrangement with or for the benefit of its creditors (including any voluntary arrangement under the Insolvency Act, 1986).

On termination howsoever caused the Licensee shall destroy all copies of the Material. A duly authorised officer of the Licensee shall verify in writing to the BNC Consortium that the Licensee has complied with this obligation.

9. Jurisdiction

These terms will be governed by English law and English courts will have exclusive jurisdiction.

10. Severance

If any provision of these termsis found to be illegal or unenforceable for any reason, including but not limited to any infringement of the provisions of any competition laws, then that provision or those provisions will be severed from the Agreement but the remaining provisions shall remain intact.

11. Headings

Headings to the Clauses hereof are for guidance only and are not to be taken into account in the construction of this Agreement.

BNC Baby can be ordered from the University Shop