CHELAR: Corpus of Historical English Law Reports 1535-1999


Paula Rodríguez-Puente, Teresa Fanego, María José López-Couso, Belén Méndez-Naya, Paloma Núñez-Pertejo.

Research assistants:

Cristina Blanco-García, Iván Tamaredo, Noelia Castro-Chao, Daniela Pettersson-Traba.

Compilation dates: 2011-2016. Release date: 2016.

ISBN: 978-84-608-8006-6.

Corpus description:

CHELAR is a specialised corpus consisting of law reports dating from the period 1535-1999. Law reports are records of judicial decisions which are “cited by lawyers and judges for their use as precedent in subsequent cases” (Encyclopædia Britannica Online s.v. law report); they typically contain an account of all the facts of the case, the arguments of the judge, his reasoning, the judgment he arrives at and the kind of authority and evidence he uses.

The earliest law reports were brief manuscript notes of proceedings which were collected and published annually, whence their name Year Books. The Year Books were produced between 1268 and 1535; they consisted of anonymous reports written either in French or Latin and contained no bibliographical information. From 1535 onwards law reports have been written in English, and have followed a standard format. The year 1535 was therefore chosen as the starting date for CHELAR.

Law reports have a primarily informative function and can be broadly categorised as expository, descriptive legal writings, as opposed to legislative, prescriptive writings such as acts of parliament, statutory documents, contracts, agreements, wills and insurance policies. CHELAR thus enables researchers to investigate a legal text type which is not included in any other existing diachronic corpus – apart from the legal section in ARCHER 3.2, also compiled by the VLCG team as part of their work for the ARCHER Consortium.

The corpus contains approximately half a million words. It is structured into nine periods of 50 years each, except for the first subperiod, which covers from 1535 to 1599.

CHELAR is available as plain text and with POS annotation (CLAWS-7; LancasterUniversity). It is currently also being annotated following the TEI XML guidelines.


CHELAR can only be accessed under the conditions laid out in the User Agreement. For any queries, please contact Teresa Fanego (teresa.fanego@usc.es) or Paula Rodríguez-Puente (rodriguezppaula@uniovi.es).

CHELAR documentation:

Overall structure of CHELAR.

Source texts and word counts.

Entry for CHELAR in CoRD (Corpus Resource Database at VARIENG, Helsinki).


Fanego, Teresa, Paula Rodríguez-Puente, María José López-Couso, Belén Méndez-Naya, Paloma Núñez-Pertejo, Cristina Blanco-García & Iván Tamaredo. 2017. "The Corpus of Historical English Law Reports 1535-1999 (CHELAR): A resource for analysing the development of English legal discourse." ICAME Journal 41: 53-82.

Rodríguez-Puente, Paula. 2011. "Introducing the Corpus of Historical English Law Reports: Structure and compilation techniques." Revista de Lenguas para Fines Específicos 17: 99-120.

International Workshop on CHELAR and related corpora:

The workshop "Advances in Corpora of Legal English: Investigating variation in legal discourse" was organised  in the context of ICAME 38 (Annual Conference of the International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English), Charles University in Prague, 24 May 2017.
Workshop convenors: Teresa Fanego & Paula Rodríguez-Puente.

A peer-reviewed volume stemming from this workshop will be published shortly (April 2019). Details are as follows:
Teresa Fanego & Paula Rodríguez-Puente, eds. Corpus-based research on variation in English legal discourse. (Studies in Corpus Linguistics 91). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. vii+ 295 pp. ISBN 978 9027202352.


2011-2012: Spanish Ministry of Education and Science; project HUM2007-60706.
2014-2017: Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness; projects FFI2014-51873-REDT and FFI2014-52188-P.
2017-2019: Regional Government of Galicia; grant ED431B 2017/12.
2018-2020: Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities; grant FFI2017-86884-P.


ARCHER: A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers

ARCHER is a corpus of British and American English covering the period 1600-1999, originally compiled by Douglas Biber (NAU) and Edward Finegan (USC) in the early 1990s. It is managed as an ongoing project by a consortium of participants at fourteen universities in seven countries, as follows:

  • Department of English, Northern Arizona University (NAU)
  • Department of Linguistics, University of Southern California (USC)
  • Department of English, University of Michigan
  • Department of English, University of Helsinki
  • Department of English, Uppsala University
  • Department of English I, University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)
  • Department of English, University of Heidelberg (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)
  • Department of English, University of Bamberg (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg)
  • Department of English Studies, University of Trier
  • Department of English, University of Zurich
  • Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Manchester
  • Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University
  • School of Education/School of English, University of Leicester
  • Research Unit on Variation, Linguistic Change and Grammaticalization; Department of English and German, University of Santiago de Compostela

The current phase of the project, ARCHER 3.2, has corrected and expanded the corpus to 3.3m words. The VLCG team has added British legal texts for all periods from 1600 to 1999; a description of the legal component can be found in:

López-Couso, María José & Belén Méndez-Naya. 2012. “Compiling British English legal texts: A contribution to ARCHER”. In Nila Vázquez González (ed.), Creation and use of historical English corpora in Spain, 5-19. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

The project is currently coordinated by David Denison at the University of Manchester and Nuria Yáñez-Bouza. You are invited to visit the ARCHER website at www.manchester.ac.uk/archer for further details of the corpus and the consortium. On the Documentation page, the website has a User Agreement form for you to download. This must be completed and submitted online.


COLMOBAENG: A Corpus of Late Modern British and American English Prose

Compiler: Teresa Fanego.

ISBN: 978-84-608-7691-5.

COLMOBAENG is a database of British and American English texts compiled over 2004-2007. It covers the years 1700 to 1879 and has about 1,170,000 words (800,000 BrE; 370,000 AmE). Interested scholars who wish to use COLMOBAENG simply need to contact us. Fuller details and user’s manual are available at the following address:



Fanego, Teresa. 2012. "COLMOBAENG: A Corpus of Late Modern British and American English Prose". In Nila Vázquez (ed.), Creation and use of historical English corpora in Spain, 101-117. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  Department of English and German | Facultad de Filología | Universidad de Santiago de Compostela | 15782 Santiago de Compostela, SPAIN
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