Minutes of action! The language of football match reports in a contrastive perspective

Signe Oksefjell Ebeling, ILOS

Ferguson knew that sports were of no consequence in the long run, but they lent themselves to the written word more readily than most other subjects because each game had a built-in narrative structure … (Paul Auster)

In this talk I will introduce a new comparable corpus – the English-Norwegian Match Report Corpus (ENMaRC) – containing written football match reports from the English Premier League and the Norwegian “Eliteserie”. The reports are from the 2016-2018 seasons and are taken from the clubs' own web pages, written immediately after the matches are finished. By applying corpus-driven extraction methods – word lists, keyword lists, n-grams – the study offers some first explorations into lexico-grammatical features that characterise this particular text type in the two languages. Notably, the study reveals that match reports in the two languages are similar to other text types in the use of time and space expressions in the two languages, while the keyword analysis uncovers some interesting cross-linguistic differences in the language used to report on victories vs. defeats.

Following these more general observations of the corpus data, I will move on to examine a set of time expressions used in online football match reports in English vs. Norwegian. The starting point of the investigation is the most frequently occurring lexical words referring to time, namely minutes and minutter ‘minutes’. By pinpointing the phraseological characteristics of these items, the study seeks to contribute to a better understanding of how time expressions are used to frame events in football match reports. Drawing on insights from previous contrastive studies of English and Norwegian, which have shown that time adverbials are frequent in several text types in both languages (Ebeling et al. 2013; Hasselgård 2014; Ebeling & Ebeling 2017), this study may contribute to a better cross-linguistic understanding of the use of time expressions in English and Norwegian in general.

Although initial observations of minutes and minutter in the material drawn from the ENMaRC show substantial overlap between the two languages in terms of phraseological patterning, there are also some differences worth noting. English has more different recurrent patterns with minutes, i.e. there is less variation in the Norwegian data, and some patterns seem to be unique to English. To narrow the scope, the current study focuses on the predominant pattern in each language, i.e. the English sequence on # minutes (1), and the Norwegian sequence etter # minutter ‘after # minutes’ (2).

  1. ... Alexis smashed home a crucial third goal on 83 minutes. (AFC)
  1. Etter 86 minutter fikk vi likevel en god sjanse ... (AaFK)

‘After 86 minutes got we even so a good chance’

Further observations of a subset of the data suggest that there may be interesting cross-linguistic differences in the way in which events at a specific moment in time are reported, notably:

  1. in the preferred placement of the time expression in the clause;
  2. in the tense used;
  3. with regard to which participant is most prominent;
  4. when, during the 90 minutes of a game, the English/Norwegian pattern is typically used.

In my talk, then, I will offer a contrastive analysis of the two main minute patterns in light of these four points.



Auster, Paul. 2017. 4 3 2 1: A Novel. New York: Henry Holt.

Ebeling, Jarle, Signe Oksefjell Ebeling and Hilde Hasselgård. 2013. Using recurrent word-combinations to explore cross-linguistic differences, In Karin Aijmer & Bengt Altenberg (ed.), Advances in Corpus-based Contrastive Linguistics: Studies in Honour of Stig Johansson.  Amsterdam: Benjamins.177–199.

Ebeling, Signe Oksefjell & Jarle Ebeling. 2017. A cross-linguistic comparison of recurrent word combinations in a comparable corpus of English and Norwegian fiction. In Markéta Janebová, Ekaterina Lapshinova-Koltunski & Michaela Martinková (eds.), Contrasting English and Other Languages through Corpora, 2–31. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Hasselgård, Hilde. 2014. Discourse-structuring functions of initial adverbials in English and Norwegian news and fiction. Languages in Contrast 14(1). 732–3192.



Emneord: corpus linguistics, contrastive analysis, sports language
Publisert 17. sep. 2019 10:37