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Thursday, May 12 • 10:30am - 10:45am
Complex Systems in Digital Humanities: Corpus Linguistics and Variation

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As I have shown (Kretzschmar 2009, 2015), the basic elements of speech--i.e., language in use, what people actually say and write to and for each other-- correspond to what has been called a “complex system” in sciences ranging from physics to ecology to economics. I will introduce the principles of complexity science in a non-technical way, and then apply properties of complexity to corpus linguistics and language varieties. In corpus linguistics, complex systems tells us, through its property of nonlinear distributions, how to manage the traditional issue of balancing the need to find just the right documents (precision) vs. finding all the relevant documents (recall). Complexity theory also suggests how we can find the particular aspects of language that differentiate the writing of one author from another, say in a study of a corpus made from the works of one author in comparison with a corpus of writings by other people from the same period. Thus, we can apply the linguistics of speech to problems we need to address, and thereby do a better job of using digital means to understanding the language variation around us.


Kretzschmar, William A., Jr. 2009. The Linguistics of Speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kretzschmar, William A., Jr. 2015. Language and Complex Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Thursday May 12, 2016 10:30am - 10:45am MST
COOR L1-18 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  Culture and Ethics, Long Paper
  • Session Location COOR L1-18