Background and history

The Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots (HCOS) (1450–1700) was compiled in the 1980s and early 1990s simultaneously with the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts (HC) to provide data for studying the last stages of the differentiation of the northern English dialect, the rise of a distinctive Scottish variety of English, and finally the anglicisation of Scots (see Devitt 1989, Meurman-Solin 1993, 1997). To allow comparisons between corpora created in Helsinki at that time, it was considered relevant that the computer format of the HCOS as well as its parameter coding and editorial and typographical conventions should be the same as in the HC and the Corpus of Early American English. Besides aiming to ensure diachronic representativeness, the variable of genre was used as the most central tool in the assessment of balance (for critical remarks on the conventionalised structuring principles in corpora, see Meurman-Solin 2001). The texts are based on previous editions of manuscripts or facsimiles of printed works. Meurman-Solin (1993) contains a detailed description of the texts of the HCOS and the parameter values applied to define them.


Devitt, Amy J. 1989. Standardizing Written English. Diffusion in the Case of Scotland 1520-1659. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meurman-Solin, Anneli. 1993. Variation and change in early Scottish prose. Studies based on the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots (Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae, Diss. Humanarum Litterarum, 65). Helsinki.

Meurman-Solin, Anneli. 1997. Differentiation and standardization in early Scots. In: Charles Jones (ed.) The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language, 3-23. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Meurman-Solin Anneli. 2001. Structured text corpora in the study of language variation and change. Literary and Linguistic Computing 16(1): 5-27.