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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
WordHoard
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0292  Friday, 7 April 2006

[1] 	From: 	Martin Mueller <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 5 Apr 2006 15:06:39 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0281 WordHoard

[2] 	From: 	Stan Kozikowski <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 06 Apr 2006 09:21:50 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0281 WordHoard


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Martin Mueller <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 5 Apr 2006 15:06:39 -0500
Subject: 17.0281 WordHoard
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0281 WordHoard

It's a nice question what kind of critically significant information one 
should expect from frequency-based analysis.  The classic study remains 
J. F. Burrows' "Computation into criticism: a study of Jane Austen's 
novels and an experiment in method" (Oxford, 1987).  Burrows  used 
relatively fancy math to ask to what extent Austen's speakers  differ in 
their use of the very common 'little' or function words in  the language 
and to what extent the characters of those speakers are  reflected in or 
shaped by the distribution of very common words.

There are two ways of looking at the results. If you ask whether Burrows 
tells you anything about Jane Austen's characters that you didn't 'know' 
before the answer is probably 'no'. If you ask whether  he tells you 
anything about what goes into the making of effects that  competent 
readers have always responded to  the answer is probably  'quite a lot.'

Most people hate formal statistics, but wherever people are competent 
in any area, they are excellent informal statisticians, tacitly 
figuring the odds and responding to differences in distribution in 
nuanced and exquisite ways. If that is the case, you should never or 
rarely expect a statistician to produce results that run against widely 
shared perceptions. If a statistician told you that contrary to common 
opinion people with a cold do not suffer from or complain about stuffy 
or runny noses you will tell him to go away. The first statistician to 
nail down the positive association of lung cancer with smoking probably 
ran into a lot of responses of the kind "I could have told you that."

There are areas of life where people's intuitive statistics are 
notoriously unreliable. Risk assessment is one of them. The intuitions 
of experienced readers do not fall in that category, and the utility of 
frequency based analysis is probably quite modest, but useful 
nonetheless. It lets you describe in the language of numbers, very 
limited, but within their domain quite precise, what you have grasped 
already in a vaguer sense. And it happens quite often that 
frequency-based comparisons draw your attention to resemblances that you 
had not noticed before and that are worth following up.

If you ask who speaks the most words in the Comedy of Errors, the answer 
is "Adriana." In starting a discussion of that play you could do a lot 
worse than reflect on the fact that the wife who is treated with 
undisguised contempt in Plautus' source play is the protagonist of 
Shakespeare's comedy. It's a simple observation, but it takes you quite 
a ways.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Stan Kozikowski <
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Date: 		Thursday, 06 Apr 2006 09:21:50 -0400
Subject: 17.0281 WordHoard
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0281 WordHoard

Steve Urkowitz <
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 >

 >Phillip Weller suggests that if the frequent use of SIR and LORD are
 >parts of addresses in plays then the finding is not particularly 
important.
 >I would like to suggest instead that such a finding should lead us to pay
 >more attention to such "indicative" or deictic markers in Shakespearean
 >dialog.
 >
 >Pointing to or calling out to  people and things seems an almost 
obsessive
 >verbal function in the dialogue.    "Ye powers," and "O Nature" and that
 >run-of-the-mill "my Lord" encourage vigorous verbal and physical actions
 >of pointing and looking.  If I may suggest further, I think it is just 
this
 >dense web of actions that makes Shakespeare so appealing to actors and
 >audiences.  Doing Shakespeare means that you're always doing, acting,
 >involving your own fictional persona with the fictions of those others
 >on stage.  It's called PLAYING.
 >
 >If you find yourself snoozing at a performance, just check to see if the
 >actors are using those "addresses" as vocal springboards or instead are
 >sliding past them. And I wonder if there's a countable difference between
 >Shakespeare's usage and those of those guys who Gary Taylor so
 >champions?  But that's another post to puzzle through ....

Lords all and some,

Steve, typically, remains much adoing about noting (sans pun, of course, 
on "nothing")

Ergo, nota bene Hamlet's very telling, highly suggestive, and curiously 
repeated "sir"'s  to Osric.
These would be, indeed , an actor's doings, actings, and playings--to 
which I'd add "livings."

Much, very much--is going on here, for sure, lords, lads, and ladies.

Stan Kozikowski

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