Last updated: December 2, 2020
(/htdocs/ppche/ppche-release-2016 on babel)

Penn Parsed Corpora of Historical English

The Penn Parsed Corpora of Historical English are running texts and text samples of British English prose across its history - from the earliest Middle English documents up to the First World War. They include three corpora:

  • the Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English, second edition (PPCME2),
  • the Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Early Modern English (PPCEME), and
  • the Penn Parsed Corpus of Modern British English, second edition (PPCMBE2).
The texts come in three forms: simple text, part-of-speech tagged text and syntactically annotated text. The syntactic annotation (parsing) permits searching not only for words and word sequences, but also for abstract syntactic structures. All of the annotation has been carefully reviewed by expert human annotators for accuracy and consistency. The corpora are designed for the use of students and scholars of the history of English, especially the historical syntax of the language, and they are publicly available to individuals, research groups, and libraries.

The 2016 release adds 2 million words to the Modern British English corpus, for a total of 3 million words, and includes a substantial number of corrections to the other corpora in the series. In addition, several small changes have been made to streamline the annotation guidelines.

As of July 2020, the 2016 release of the Penn Parsed Corpora of Historical English is being distributed by the Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC). The LDC catalog number is LDC2020T16. Potential new users, whether individuals or institutions, should contact the LDC at ldc AT ldc DOT upenn DOT edu. So should past users wishing to update license agreements dating from before the 2016 release, who should make clear their status as past licensees in their request.

If you already hold a license for the 2016 release, the new mode of distribution does not affect you, except that you will no longer be charged annual subscription fees.

Please note that the local web server that was distributed with the 2016 release on CD-ROM is not being distributed by the LDC and is no longer being maintained. Users who have installed the web server are free to continue to use it. The corpora can also be searched using Corpus Search, an open source program written by Beth Randall, which can be downloaded from its Sourceforge project webpage. However, the documentation is no longer being maintained there, but rather here.

Questions concerning the annotation or search of the PPCHE should be sent to Beatrice Santorini at beatrice DOT santorini AT gmail DOT com. This is also the address to send reports of annotation errors, so that we can continue to improve the quality of the corpora.


  • The PPCME2 was created with the support of the National Science Foundation (Grants BNS 89-19701 and SBR 95-11368), with supplementary support from the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation.
  • The PPCEME was created with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant PA 23382-99) and the National Science Foundation (Grant BCS 99-05488).
  • The PPCMBE2 was created with the support of the National Science Foundation (Grants BCS 05-08731 and BCS 11-47499).

With respect to the above-listed grants, any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the National Science Foundation.

Byland Abbey, Yorkshire. It was at abbeys like Byland, throughout Britain, that the manuscripts on which our knowledge of Middle English is based were largely written, copied, and preserved. The monastic orders that built and inhabited these monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, whereupon the buildings were dismantled for building materials by the landlords who succeeded to the monastic estates. Most of the abbeys' manuscripts were lost, but some came into private hands and so survived. Photo © A. Kroch 1998.