In mid-June, Studia Neophilologica published online the first peer-reviewed article from the Linguistic DNA project:
Linguistic DNA: Investigating Conceptual Change in
Early Modern Discourse
Susan Fitzmaurice, Justyna A. Robinson, Marc Alexander,
Iona C. Hine, Seth Mehl, and Fraser Dallachy.
This article describes the background and premises of the AHRC-funded project, ‘The Linguistic DNA of Modern Western Thought’. We offer an empirical, encyclopaedic approach to historical semantics regarding ‘conceptual history’, i.e. the history of concepts that shape thought, culture and society in a particular period. We relate the project to traditional work in conceptual and semantic history and define our object of study as the discursive concept, a category of meaning encoded linguistically as a cluster of expressions that co-occur in discourse. We describe our principal data source, EEBO-TCP, and introduce our key research interests, namely, the contexts of conceptual change, the semantic structure of lexical fields and the nature of lexicalisation pressure. We outline our computational processes, which build upon the theoretical definition of discursive concepts, to discover the linguistically encoded forms underpinning the discursive concepts we seek to identify in EEBO-TCP. Finally, we share preliminary results via a worked example, exploring the discursive contexts in which paradigmatic terms of key cultural concepts emerge. We consider the extent to which particular genres, discourses and users in the early modern period make paradigms, and examine the extent to which these contexts determine the characteristics of key concepts.
The “worked example” is based on early output from our concept modelling process, and takes my previous research on valour as a starting point. It is exciting to find that evidence I had previously located through qualitative reading and simple searching of EEBO-TCP can be corroborated using big(ish) data approaches.
In print, the article will form part of a special issue on the History of English, edited by Merja Kytö, Irma Taavitsainen, and Jeremy Smith. The online version is open access.
Read the full text at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00393274.2017.1333891