Category Archives: Digital Humanities

Burchfield’s Reach-Backs

The vast majority of the quotation evidence in Robert Burchfield’s OED Supplements comes from after the first (1928) edition was completed. The median date for these is 1944, whereas for the first edition it’s 1742. However, in some circumstances the Supplements did reach back into periods already covered by OED1 — if it could antedate […]

Sex in the OED

Two subprojects concerning OED quotation metadata are now near enough to complete to present some preliminary results. They concern the sex of the authors quoted in the OED, in both the first edition (1928) and the later Supplements (1933, 1972-86). The most focused work on this question so far has been Baigent, Brewer, and Larminie, […]

Guest Post: Strong and Weak Genre Classification

Over the summer we’re featuring guest posts by Research Assistants at The Life of Words. Here Cosmin Dzsurdzsa – a 2nd year undergraduate in English at UW – thinks about moving from human intuition to computer rule-making in textual-genre classification: When trying to automate text classification algorithmically, one has to pay close attention to how […]

How did OED Supplements Supplement?

There has always been an interest in the changing editorial practice within and between various editions of the Oxford English Dictionary. Recently some scholars have complained that changing electronic interfaces are making it impossible to distinguish what edition a particular definition or quotation is coming from. See, e.g., Charlotte Brewer, “OED Online Re-launched: Distinguishing old […]

Vector Space and Poetic Logic

I’ve been spending the weekend experimenting with vector space modelling and poetic language. Vector space word embedding models use learning algorithms on very large corpora in order map a unique location in n-dimensional space to each token (=word) in the corpus. “N-dimensional space” is just a mathy-sounding way of saying that multiple (or n) features […]

Ted Cruz is no Scyld Scefing

I’ve read Beowulf. Beowulf was a friend of mine. And Senator… You know, when things sound stupid, they very usually are. And this headline sounds stupid: Ted Cruz as Beowulf: Matching Candidates With the Books They Sound Like [- The Upshot (New York Times Data Blog – click to view article)] No one who has […]

Two Notes on T. S. Eliot and the OED

I have two upcoming notes in the journal Notes & Queries concerning T. S. Eliot and the Oxford English Dictionary. Though they won’t be published until later next year, the self-archiving policy at Oxford Journals allows me to make an unrevised pre-print version available here. The two articles are: “The ‘Oxford Dictionary’ in T. S. […]

Introducing the LOW Team

The recent Ontario Early Researcher Award [See “Big Boost for The Life of Words“] turned what had been largely a one-man show into a multi-person operation involving a number of research assistants and associates. To give them their due, I’ve created a team profiles page where they introduce themselves and their interests. I’ll keep this […]

Big boost for The Life of Words

This news just released: The Life of Words is getting a major boost, in the form of a $150,00 grant from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, UWaterloo, and St Jerome’s University, to fund my research on poetry and the Oxford English Dictionary. The Early Researcher Award provides $100,000 in funding from the Ministry […]

Method as Tautology

Although it has been available for a while in the advanced access section of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, and before that Literary and Linguistic Computing, my article on digital methods in literary research has recently been published in its final version. The full bibliographic details are: Williams, David-Antoine. “Method as Tautology in the Digital […]