So way back when I started messing around with digital history tools, I tweeted some results that turned out to be the best mistake I ever made because Heather Froelich tweeted back a response. Since then, she has been my across-the-pond guide to some serious sh1t including antconc, a freeware concordance program.
fill in the blanks for the following. Try to come up with 3-4 examples each (this shouldn’t be very difficult – you can use one word, or 2+ words…)
What were the kinds of words you used to fill in these blanks? My examples for he included “he is” “he was” “he has” “he ate” “he likes”; for not i had examples like “did not” “dare not” “shall not”. The reason this was kind of easy was because we know what words go together VERY often, and are therefore highly salient. (Pick up a book near you and look to see what is appearing next to he or it, for instance). These words, as you have noticed, are collocates – yes – but they also build stock phrases as n-grams.*
When I say expectations, I mean “What words do you expect to find near these words based on your knowledge of the language anyway?” You may not have ever thought about them this way – but start by filling in the blanks. If you can produce a quick list of words you’d expect to find like that, go see if they are indeed appearing in your corpus. If they are, great, that means you’re mostly adhering to expectations. If they’re NOT, why not? Can you explain it?
well SH!T it worked for “he”
“not” also works, as is = top collocateand for “it” got was way up top
This is also where things can get interesting. What about “male _________”? (patriarchy, hegemony, oppression …) These are all expected based on your corpus of women’s lib writing. but what if “male hegemony” only shows up after a certain date? That’s interesting, because we might have assumed that the phrase “male hegemony” was already established by 1979 – but you now have evidence which suggests otherwise. (More questions to ask after that: do they all start using “male hegemony” in 1982? Who does it first? How quickly does this phrase spread? etc) Get creative!
I’m looking forward to working with 1978-1981 Chrysalis which my amazing graduate student Whitney Esson is digitizing and converting and well as Off Our Backs for the same dates courtesy of JSTOR. I’ll be presenting the results at the Greenwood Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education in March and as always will blog as I go! he Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Educatio