The Lifespan of Words (three ways)

Getting ready for DH2017 this morning, I found myself curious about the lifespan of English words–when they come into the language and when they fall out. So I got all the earliest and latest attestation dates for all the words in OED3, and plotted them out. Here are three graphs (“visualizations,” if you like), all based on exactly the same data, that show slightly different things about the lifespan of words. Since I’m off to the conference very shortly, I’ll give all three here with minimal comment. For larger PNGs click on the image, or download the linked PDF for a detailed and scalable view.

    1. This graph shows the earliest and latest attestations, stacked from bottom to top in order of earliest to latest. Bearing in mind that about half of 2017 OED3 entries are actually 1989 OED2 entries, which are mostly 1884-1933 OED1 entries, we should consider 1800-1850 to be a fuzzy range for obsolescence today: words last-attested before then are probably now obsolete (and in fact the blurry boundary is fairly visible at around 1850). The slope of the graph represents the rate of new-word attestation: i.e. slow until 1400, then faster, with a bit of a slow down around 1700 (this is probably due to OED’s well-known deficit of 18thC quots, rather than a feature of the language). Thicker horizontal white breaks indicate periods during which new words didn’t last very long.

Read More

Guest Post: Don’t go breaking (up) my genre: visualizing genre against attributes

Danielle Griffin is a research assistant on her third co-op term at The Life of Words. This is the first of a few posts based on her last work-term report,”Comparative Data Visualizations of Textual Features in the OED and the Life of Words Genre 3.0 Tagging System”. Danielle’s report won the Quarry Integrated Communication Co-op […]

How Indigenous American words came into English

I’ve been deep in the OED documentation of borrowings and loanwords for my look at “tramlines” [see my previous post, and look out for a few more to come] and OED’s treatment of foreign, about to be naturalized, and naturalized words. I got curious about some of the Indigenous American words in my dataset, and […]

||-Tripping over tramlines-||

“Tramlines”, icydk, are those upright parallel bars that OED1 and OED2 editors used to indicate that a word was “alien or not fully naturalized”. So, for instance, zeitgeist you may recognize as a word of German origin, not infrequently heard in English. In OED1 (1928) it appeared as ||Zeitgeist, and this mark was preserved on […]

Guest Post: Cataloguing the Catalogue

Cosmin Dszurdsza is a research assistant at The Life of Words. In my last guest post I discussed problematic magazine classifications. Now, once again, a periodical publication proves to be an exciting and difficult genre identification challenge. The kind of text I will be dealing with today is the “catalogue” (filtered out of our data […]

Three conferences this summer

After a baby-related travelling hiatus of a couple three years, TLOW is hitting the road this summer, with stops at Ryerson University in Toronto (just barely down the road, really) at the end of May, for the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities meeting at CFHSS Congress; then off to Barbados and the University of the […]

One last round with metadata from Hathi and Underwood

In “Hathi’s Automatic Genre Classifier” and “Hathi Genre Again – Zero Recall“, I ran a couple of experiments comparing genre categories assigned by human taggers working on the Life of Words OED mark-up project to two sources of genre metadata associated with the HathiTrust Digital Library. The first post looked at data from the automatic […]

Poetry Competition Time

As part of our OMRI funding, LOW runs an annual poetry competition, open to all high school students in Ontario. Last year’s pilot run had a few dozen submissions, from which we picked one winner, two runners up, and twelve honorable mentions, all collected in our 2016 Anthology. Last year’s theme was “write a poem […]

Shakespeare’s Earliest Citations in the OED

No author’s representation in the OED has received more comment than Shakespeare’s: if you ever come across a mention of OED citation evidence, more than likely it’s being used to substantiate (sometimes challenge or qualify) a claim that Shakespeare invented the most English words, or made up the most new meanings for existing words, or […]

OED Subject Matter

In my last post I described using HathiTrust’s Solr Proxy API to fetch Hathi genre metadata for OED quotations. But genre is not the only metadata that Hathi sends back down the intertubes when I ask it a question. For most works, I also get a Library of Congress Classification code for the volume. This […]