A Corpus Linguistic Approach to Literary Language and Characterization
Virginia Woolf's The Waves
This book focusses on computer methodologies as a way of investigating language and character in literary texts. Both theoretical and practical, it surveys investigations into characterization in literary linguistics and personality in social psychology, before carrying out a computational analysis of Virginia Woolf’s experimental novel The Waves. Frequencies of grammatical and semantic categories in the language of the six speaking characters are analyzed using Wmatrix software developed by UCREL at Lancaster University. The quantitative analysis is supplemented by a qualitative analysis into recurring patterns of metaphor. The author concludes that these analyses successfully differentiate all six characters, both synchronically and diachronically, and claims that this methodology is also applicable to the study of personality in non-literary language. The book, written in a clear and accessible style, will be of interest to post-graduate students and academics in linguistics, stylistics, literary studies, psychology and also computational approaches.
[Linguistic Approaches to Literature, 18] 2014. xxi, 277 pp.
Publishing status: Available
© John Benjamins
Table of Contents
List of conventions
List of figures and tables
List of appendixes
List of concordances
2. Virginia Woolf's The Waves
3. Literature review
4. Corpus approaches to the study of language and literature
6. Character differentiation through word-classes
7. Character differentiation: Semantic fields
“This book presents an original and systematic approach to characterisation in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and provides an excellent demonstration of how corpus-based methods can address issues relevant to both stylisticians and literary critics.”
Elena Semino, Lancaster University
“This interesting and clearly written book describes a quantitative study of the individual characters’ spoken words in Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”. Both technical details of the computer packages and statistical tests used and a suitable literary analysis of the book are brought together, including a discussion of why the narrative structure of “The Waves” makes it particularly amenable to a quantitative analysis. All the steps in the analysis are carefully explained, including the pre-processing of the original corpus, part of speech and semantic tagging using the Wmatrix tool developed by Paul Rayson at Lancaster University, the visualisation of the output in Microsoft Excel, and a statistical analysis of character idiolects using the Log-Likelihood measure. The analysis is both synchronic, comparing the speeches of the individual characters who appear in the book, and diachronic, following changes in the characters’ speech throughout their lifetimes. The findings show that the characters are indeed differentiated and that these differences are more pronounced during their adolescence and in later life. Since previous critics using traditional analyses have claimed to have found no language differences between the six characters, this book shows how a macroscopic, quantitative analysis of a literary work can provide evidence for language distinctions that a “naked eye” reading might miss. The methodology described in this book is of general applicability to corpus studies of literary texts, and thus will inspire future work in computational stylometry. However, rather than comparing the frequencies of lexical words to compare speech samples, Balossi has taken the relatively novel approach of comparing the frequencies of parts of speech and semantic fields. A particularly useful feature of this book is the thorough use of footnotes to guide the reader to each of the online linguistic resources mentioned in the book.”
Michael Oakes, University of Wolverhampton
“This book contains an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of Virginia Woolf's The Waves. It exploits the full power of a multidisciplinary approach using corpus linguistics and computational methods to investigate the linguistic differentiation of the six characters in the novel and goes well beyond the simple counting of word frequencies or function words. But the author also goes further to locate the study in the appropriate contexts of the cognitive model of characterization, authorship attribution, cognitive metaphor theory, stylistics and literary criticism. The author is to be congratulated on taking all these disparate theoretical and practical elements and weaving them together in such an interesting book. Not only will this book appeal to those interested in the work of Woolf but also those who wish to learn how to apply similar methods more widely in the study of characterization in literature.”
Paul Rayson, Lancaster University
“A Corpus Linguistic Approach to Literary Language and Characterization Virginia Woolf's The Waves is a strong and valuable contribution to the computational study of literature. I especially like the thoroughness of the book’s treatment of earlier criticism on The Waves. The close attention to that criticism helps to focus the study, which also effectively presents some strong corrective arguments against some strains within it. The book is an excellent partial answer to Stephen Ramsay’s claim that trying to solve the question of whether the voices are different is a category mistake: it shows rather definitively that there “really”are different voices. I will want to go back over the book more closely later, but I especially appreciated chapter 7: in spite of some doubts I have about the semantic categorization that the chapter is based upon (even after the reasonable corrections offered there), I think the closer attention to the lexis of the novel in chapter 7 makes it more satisfying than the analysis of categories in chapter 6. The multiple methods and theories used in the book seem a bit surprising at first, but it makes very good use of a variety of approaches and does a good job of wrapping them up into an effective and persuasive final package.”
David Hoover, New York University
Cited by other publications
Brooke, Julian, Adam Hammond & Graeme Hirst
Piao, Scott, Fraser Dallachy, Alistair Baron, Jane Demmen, Steve Wattam, Philip Durkin, James McCracken, Paul Rayson & Marc Alexander
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Literature & Literary Studies
BIC Subject: DSBH – Literary studies: from c 1900 -
BISAC Subject: LIT004120 – LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh