[Humanist] 23.84 on language

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jun 18 05:59:05 CEST 2009

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 84.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>                (16)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.83 on language

  [2]   From:    Alan Liu <ayliu at english.ucsb.edu>                         (41)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.83 on language

        Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2009 09:22:30 -0600
        From: Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.83 on language
        In-Reply-To: <20090617082411.798711DC5B at woodward.joyent.us>

Interesting, but definitely science fiction.  Linguists tell me that  
typical human speech never sounds out of tune to a speaker of the same  

Sterling Fluharty

Sent from my iPhone

        Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2009 13:59:47 -0700
        From: Alan Liu <ayliu at english.ucsb.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.83 on language
        In-Reply-To: <20090617082411.798711DC5B at woodward.joyent.us>

One of the most interesting students in my recent digital humanities classes
created a project that analyzed phrasal and syntax structures in
Shakespeare's sonnets and mapped them over a musical tonal system--the
hypothesis being that this would allow us to experiment with whether the
human mind cognitively recognizes complex linguistic structures more quickly
or deeply if those structures, ironically, are freed of language.  An early,
crude attempt at the acoustic modeling is online here:
http://english149-w2008.pbworks.com/Textones, along with Shaun's good essay,
"Textones: Tonal Models of Shakespearean Sonnets,"
Shaun has since worked the project up into a senior thesis project with a
much more advanced (but not yet online) acoustic modeling scheme (sensitive
to complexities of phrasing).  As a further experiment, he ran it on
Hopkin's "Windhover" with interesting results--making me think that Hopkin's
poetry naturally renders as music rather than language.

Incidentally, one consistent result of many of the student projects in my
Literature+ courses (which require students to take a literary work and use
digital tools to do anything with it other than standard critical
interpretation) is what might be called, for lack of a better phrase, a
meta-aesthetic effect.  This occurs when an aesthetic artifact is submitted
to "data"-oriented analytical operations (e.g., text-analysis, graphing,
etc.) that, when rendered, unexpectedly release a secondary aesthetic
quality.  Thus Shaun's recent, more advanced musical models of Shakespeare
are quite haunting.  So, too, there is a compelling meta-aesthetic effect in
a short film produced by another group of students who mapped parts of
speech in a short Borges story over a system of discrete film/camera

I wonder if this meta-aesthetic effect of data modeling has been discussed
by others?

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