Computation Into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen's Novels and an Experiment in Method

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Most readers and critics behave as though common prepositions, conjunctions, personal pronouns, and articles--the parts of speech which make up at least a third of fictional works in English--do not really exist. But far from being a largely inert linguistic mass which has a simple but uninteresting function, these words and their frequency of use can tell us a great deal about the characters who speak them. In Computation into Criticism, he reveals that even in so early a novel as Northanger Abbey the major characters differ very sharply in the frequency with which each uses such words as "the," "of," "it," and "I." When, especially in the later novels, there is evidence of consistent and meaningful change in even the simplest idioms of the heroines, it becomes possible to study character development in an even clearer light than before. What emerges from this fascinating study is not a game with numbers, but rather the groundwork for more authoritative literary judgments.

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A Set of Pronouns
The Chisquared Test as a Register of Significant

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