Friday, November 16, 2012

Fun with Lexomics (and you can have some, too)

I've been remiss in posting, mostly because I've had so many other things to do for, well, the past couple of years.  The lexomics project, which really started as a way for Mark LeBlanc and I to connect his introductory Computer Science course with my Anglo-Saxon and Tolkien courses, has just kept growing and growing. We got two NEH grants and made some discoveries.

Then this summer everything took off. In the most remarkable intellectual experience of my academic career, a group of Wheaton students and faculty, visiting undergrads and visiting faculty started producing new discoveries and uncovering interesting problems so rapidly that we could not keep up writing about them.  A project that was supposed to run from May 25-July 1 ended up going from May 15 through August 28.  Students were showing up at the lab at 8:00 a.m. and leaving at 6:30 and working over night. At one point a visiting professor just started laughing when three people at once called out "Professor Drout! Come see this!" None of us could wait to get into the lab and tackle new problems. It was more fun than I would have ever thought possible to have doing research (and I think research is pretty fun).

At one point Wheaton's communications firm, Generation, came and made a film.  It captures some of the excitement (but the real thing was much better). 


Dr. Andrew Higgins said...

Professor Drout

Hello. Very interested in the working you are doing here especially on isolating the segments of Beowulf and the work you mentioned in Dublin on Tolkien's works. For my dissertation on Tolkien's Early Mythology I am interested in isolating when segments of the early poems and prose (based on what we have access to) were written especially Pre and post World War One. What would be the best way to keep track of these projects. Will there be a e newsletter or updates you can subscribe to - of course I will purchase all papers and books that come out. What a fantastic blending of technology and tradition to unlock the secrets hidden within these poems. I would expect nothing less from one of my key Tolkien academic role models.

Best Andy Higgins

Dr. Andrew Higgins said...

Professor Drout

Hello me again. Just to say I have now gone through all the Lexomics tutorials and tested out the scrubber and divitext with some of Tolkien's early poems. Going to think about how to use in the research I am doing. Interested to see what shifts in language and tone we might be able to see in his poetry and early prose before and after the war. Also interested in looking at how the poetry worked with the early language development of Qenya and, to a lesser extent, Goldogrin. Have already done a frequency analysis of words that appears in the early poems which have entries in the Qenya lexicon. Be interesting to see how lexomics could get at this. Layers of The Book of Lost Tales would be interesting as well but of course what we have our edited texts but perhaps Lexomics can divide out the different layers Christopher has included (e.g Tuor A, B, etc). Happy to do some work on this perhaps entering The Fall of Gondolin text first and seeing how this breaks out in the dendragram analysis.

Exciting stuff

Thanks, Andy

Irena said...

According to what you taught in Modern Scholars' course on grammar shouldn't it be "a way for Mark LeBlanc and me" (and not "and I") :) ?

Michael said...

Andy: great to hear that the software is turning out to be potentially useful. We did a bit of work with Tolkien material this summer: published Silmarillion and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We can't (yet) understand all of our results yet, but one thing we did find is that we can separate later Tolkien from earlier Tolkien in "Of Turin Turambar."
The real key is figuring out how you are going to segment the text, because you want to avoid cutting structures in half, but you often don't know where the structures are! It is still a very wide-open field.
We will keep the Publications page updated as things come out--a piece on Guthlac A should be out in Modern Philology in their November issue, and papers on the Turin story, Beowulf, medieval Latin and Anglo-Saxon prose are all at various stages of completion/review/in press.

Michael said...

Irena: You got me! You are absolutely correct that grammatically is should be "for Mark and me" since the pronoun is the object of the preposition "for."