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What is the most up-to-date, robust, and reliable way to check verb (or other POS) frequencies in current usage?

Is there any hope of an algorithm involving counting Google hits and dividing by some benchmark number (say 1,000,000,000,000) or is that so error-prone as to be out of the question?

(Any help with tags would be appreciated.)

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I'm not sure Google would be your best choice, since many of the "hits" point to identical pages hosted under different domains, or quotations of other pages. The result set would no doubt reflect more about the popularity of the content in question than it would about frequency of word usage. –  Robusto Nov 26 '10 at 17:34
    
Right. The other major problem that came to mind is that Google isn't counting words (even in their now-unpublished estimates of indexed pages). They are only counting pages, which may or may not be a useful denominator. –  WAF Nov 26 '10 at 17:45
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Use a professionally created corpus, like the Corpus of Contemporary American English. You get much more reliable data and examples, plus you can do sophisticated part-of-speech searches.

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Are there any free downloadable word frequency sources? All the ones I have found so far, including the one you link to, seem to be pay sites if you want all the frequency data –  Andrew S. Feb 4 at 16:39
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A better way is to find a word used in texts. Most language experts analyze books, newspapers and magazines that are edited before they are published rather than taking on the Internet as a whole. You can choose what countries and target demographics by this method as well. I would go for quality over quanity otherwise your numbers are meaningless. The word "friend" is frequently misspelled "freind". It is a common error, but not standard English.

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