Qualitative vs Quantitative analysis
Qualitative analysis: Richness and Precision
The aim of qualitative analysis is a complete, detailed description. No attempt is made to assign frequencies to the linguistic features which are identified in the data, and rare phenomena receives (or should receive) the same amount of attention as more frequent phenomena. Qualitative analysis allows for fine distinctions to be drawn because it is not necessary to shoehorn the data into a finite number of classifications. Ambiguities, which are inherent in human language, can be recognised in the analysis. For example, the word "red" could be used to signify the colour red, or as a political cateogorisation (e.g. socialism or communism). In a qualitative analysis both senses of red in the phrase "the red flag" could be recognised. The main disadvantage of qualitative approaches is that their findings can not be extended to wider populations with the same degree of certainty that quantitative analyses can. This is because the findings of the research are not tested to discover whether they are statistically significant or due to chance. Quantitative analysis: Statistically reliable and generalisable results In quantitative research we classify features, count them, and even construct more complex statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed. Findings can be generalised to a larger population, and direct comparisons can be made between two corpora, so long as valid sampling and significance techniques have been used. Thus, quantitative analysis allows us to discover which phenomena are likely to be genuine reflections of the behaviour of a language or variety, and which are merely chance occurrences. The more basic task of just looking at a single language variety allows one to get a precise picture of the frequency and rarity of particular phenomena, and thus their relative normality or abnormality. However, the picture of the data which emerges from...
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