[Humanist] 24.815 events: Language individuation

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Mar 24 07:25:51 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 815.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2011 06:18:43 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Language individuation

Language Individuation: A Symposium in Honour of John Burrows

4-8 July 2011
Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing
The Humanities Research Institute
University of Newcastle


Evidence-based work on authorship over recent decades has shown that 
writers create an individual style with a precision of detail and a 
consistency which would hardly have been predicted by traditional 
stylistics, let alone by the more recent understanding of literary 
production that foregrounds collective forces, such as institutions, 
ideologies, genres and language itself. Meanwhile cognitive linguistics 
and neuroscience have been exploring the connections between the 
language of the individual and physical structures in the brain from the 
perspective of the mechanisms of language production. This work takes 
the question of language individuation beyond literary style to wider 
questions of how individuals create styles in language in general, in 
everyday writing and speech. If our picture is of language users who 
cannot help transforming the undifferentiated common resource of 
language into highly specific recognisable idiolects, how best can we 
study this phenomenon, and establish its nature and limits?

The symposium honours John Burrows, the founder of computational 
stylistics. Burrows showed in his book Computation into Criticism: A 
Study of Jane Austen's Novels and an Experiment in Method (1987) that a 
quantitative study of function word use can reveal subtle and powerful 
patterns in Austen's language. The book also pioneered the application 
of Principal Component Analysis to language data. In subsequent work 
Burrows proposed a series of new techniques, Delta, Zeta, and Iota, all 
of which are now very widely used in computational stylistics. Burrows' 
work both before and after his retirement in 1989 has put authorship 
study on a rigorous basis and provided a model for an unusual and 
productive combination of statistical and literary analysis.

For more information, contact Hugh Craig, Humanities Research Institute, 
University of Newcastle, Australia, at hugh.craig at newcastle.edu.au.

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, www.mccarty.org.uk;
Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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