Tuesday 10 February 2009

Cool Text Tools, part 2

Next is the much more nerdy Text Stat. This is a free and relatively simple computer program which can analyse text corpora. One of its most useful functions is its ability to produce a frequency list of all the words in a text. For example, I used it to find that there are 39 references to 'king' or 'kings' in John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel – 'parliament' and its variants do not appear. This is interesting, because I expected that word to appear at least somewhere in a thousand-line poem about the king's relationship with parliament.

Of course, one shouldn't read too much into what is little more than a crude count of how many times a word appears in a document. However, being able to look at texts from an entirely new angle might prove to be a useful stimulus of new ideas. One could then investigate them by doing a proper, conventional reading of the texts.