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Using corpus linguistics for analysis of literature Michael Toolan, University of Birmingham ELAL Summer School 10 July 2017
My topics today are two: 1. The role of lexical repetition and near-repetition in narrative texture and the reader’s making sense of a narrative, and 2. The role of repetition in the closing or completion of (some) modern short stories, through its special use in ‘High Emotional Involvement’ passages, near or at the close of such stories… in other words, revisiting ideas in Making sense of narrative text, which argued for the importance, in that sense-making, of situation, repetition and mental picturing. .
One of the paradoxes around reading a longer written narrative • even a short story is typically 5, 000 words or more…. • as soon as we've read most of those words we seem to forget them (we do forget them!) • we certainly can't reproduce them subsequently (even if, when they are read back to us, we might confidently confirm we did read those words…. ) • and yet we have read the story 'fully', and in some hard to specify sense we *do* recall a great deal of the story.
What do I mean by Situation? Situation is the understanding, by the reader or recipient, of some re-statable or paraphraseable problem, or lack, or other particularised incompleteness It is usually particularised as to time, or place, or animate participant(s), or some of these elements The mysteriousness of ‘beginnings’ of stories: where to begin? . .
What do I mean by Picturing? the text enables the reader to make sense of the narrative situation and its development across dozens if not hundreds of pages, and thousands of words of text, because it provides the reader with information out of which the reader can project a maximally vague and shifting mental picture of the unfolding situation • Non-symbolic, • Not a linguistic mental representation • Not an essential prop or guide, but a contingent aidememoire. . • So vague and indefinite that it is easily altered to fit emerging developments in the narrative
What do I mean by Repetition? A second occurrence of something perceived as ‘the same’ as another occurrence (which may be prior, or co-present) Repetition has to be understood/defined broadly enough to include repeated motifs in visual design (bridges, wallpaper. . ) In texts, repetition may be phonological, syntactic, lexicosemantic, etc. Pattern = Repetition (no pattern without repetition…)
What do I mean by Repetition? In narratives, and in particular when the reader’s is trying to make sense of a narrative, the kind of repetition that seems especially important is lexical repetition.
Hoey’s key idea in Patterns of Lexis in Text (1991) Text coherence and cohesion Textual coherence is a matter of psychological assessment, in the gift of the reader and not the text. Textual cohesion is a different matter. The patternings of cohesion that hold a text together are chiefly a matter of kinds of lexical repetition
Hoey’s key idea in Patterns of Lexis in Text (1991) Sheer basic lexical repetition binds a text together…. Pairs of sentences which share three ‘links’ by virtue of containing three or more words or phrases that are repetitions or near-repetitions, seem to be the most important sentence pairs in the text; a reasonably coherent text summary can be generated by retaining these and discarding the remainder of the text. Two sentences linked thrice over are said to form a ‘bond’: “lexical items form links, and sentences sharing three or more links form bonds” (1991: 91).
Some of Hoey’s kinds of repetition: • sr simple lexical repetition (two items that are identical or differing only in grammatical morpheme: cats, cat; dance, danced) • cr complex lexical repetition (the two items share a lexical morpheme along with some morphological difference, happy, unhappy; or are formally identical but involve a word-class shift, I will walk…the walk) • smp simple mutual paraphrase (synonymic substitutability of two items without information loss or gain; mutual if either item in context could substitute for the other) • spp simple partial paraphrase (synonymic substitutability of two items without information loss or gain; partial if one item--in the context--could substitute for the other but not vice versa) • acp antonymous complex paraphrase (the ones, like hot and cold, that aren’t caught by complex lexical repetition, being morphologically unrelated) • ocp other complex paraphrase (the triangulation method: where a is linked to b by complex repetition and a links to c by simple or antonymous paraphrase, then b is assumed to have a link to c. E. g. hot links to cold [acp] and hot links to heat [cr], so cold is assumed to link to heat by complex paraphrase— • s substitution (pro-forms; e. g. the canal-it)
Hoey was always agnostic about whether his lexical links and bonds method worked with narratives, as distinct from expository prose. In Making Sense I tried to show that the method was useful with a very short narrative like The Princess and the Pea, and then also with literary stories…
But surely there is more to lexical repetition in literary stories than things like a ‘dominant’ bonded pair? What larger design features of stories might be involved? • lexical repetition is just one resource used in stories • How does this relate to the story-reader’s increasing ‘immersion’ in a story? • How does repetition aid our sense of story situation? • What else in the linguistic structure ‘helps a story to end’? • And many other questions!
• This led me to think about (the idea of) a Highly Emotionally Involving passage, at or near the close of the story, and its possible role in story closure. • In particular I wanted to try to identify the chief stylistic features of such a passage: those features that were conducive to HEI reading….
Wmatrix (Rayson 2003, 2008) does some of the usual text-processing tasks: generating word-frequency lists; calculating a text’s keywords; generating its word clusters; producing concordances; it also does a parts-ofspeech tagging of every word or multi-word expression. Similarly, it offers a semantic tagging of each word, assigning a semantic tag to every word of the text (claimed 92% accuracy), there being 21 discourse fields and over 200 semantic categories in its classification.
High Emotional Involvement (HEI) passages • highly (disproportionately) lexically repetitive, especially locally rather than long-distance • mark a point of greatest reader emotional/ethical engagement with the character(s) in their situation • distinguishable by several other distinctive stylistic features besides… • seem to be highly visualisable, i. e. , may have special impact on the ‘maximally vague ongoing mental picturing’ enacted by the reader
High Emotional Involvement (HEI) section of Alice Munro’s story “Passion” When she’d said that, she felt cold. She had thought she was serious, but now she saw that she’d been trying to impress him with these answers, trying to show herself as worldly as he was, and in the middle of that she had come on this rock-bottom truth. This lack of hope--genuine, reasonable, and everlasting. ***** She’d thought it was touch. Mouths, tongues, skin, bodies, banging bone on bone. Inflammation. Passion. But that wasn’t what had been meant for them at all. That was child’s play, compared to how she knew him, how far she’d seen into him, now. What she had seen was final. As if she was at the edge of a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. Looking out at such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was.
Ten HEI passage stylistic features, in summary In emotively immersing passages: 1. Key projecting verbs are feel, think, know, see, and want 2. Negation is widespread: a lack of hope, no comfort, that wasn’t what…; 3. Sentence grammar is comparatively elaborate, complex; or sentences are longer; or use of nominal clauses and clefting is more prominent; mostly, the focalising character will be sentence Subject.
Summary of ten HEI passage stylistic features 4. In part because sentences/clauses are longer, their internal rhythms tend to be more developed; and this in turn may make the passage feel (be) more poetic, with richer tonality or voicing than adjacent text. 5. Much more noticeably than elsewhere in the narration, standard sentence grammar may be departed from; sentences (e. g. lacking a Subject or finite main verb, or easily recoverable ellipsis relative to a previous sentence) may border on the ungrammatical.
Summary of HEI passage stylistic features, continued… 6. More temporal simultaneity (marked by As he did x, he felt y structures, which typically combine report of a physical or external narrated event with report of a mental or internal event/reaction/insight; hence a double telling); more temporal staging, or multiply-coordinated processes or events… 7. Absolute/ultimate words: everlasting, never, rock-bottom, deeper than she could ever have managed, on and on, all there was…final 8. Heat, light and dimension words are prominent: cold, dark, deep, rock-bottom, inflammation
Summary of HEI passage stylistic features, continued… 9. A higher density of lexical and structural repetition and para-repetition in HEI passages than elsewhere; kinds of para-repetition mean that there are noticeable possibilities of inter-substitutability of words, phrases, within the HEI. In effect, the passages are highly rhetorically crafted. The lexical repetitions (in HEI passages) may make links with lexis (thus situations) from earlier in the story, or they may be intra-HEI repetitions, or both. [more on this afternoon] 10. Much more likely to find Free Indirect Thought here than in the non-HEI co-text…
Some repetitions and para-repetitions in the HEI passage in Munro’s “Passion”, bolded: What she had seen was final. As if she was at the edge of a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. Looking out at such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was.
Repetitions confirmed by the replacement/exchange test: What she had seen was final. As if she was at the edge of a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. Looking out at such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was. What she had seen was all there was. As if she was at the edge of dark, cold, level water that stretched on and on. A flat dark body of water. Looking out at such cold, level water, and knowing it was final.
Repetitions confirmed by the replacement/exchange test: What she had seen was final. As if she was at the edge of a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. Looking out at such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was. What she had looked out at was final. As if she was at the edge of a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. Seeing such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was. What she had seen was final. As if she was looking out at a flat dark body of water that stretched on and on. Cold, level water. At the edge of such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was all there was.
Yet another re-writing: What she had looked out at was all there was. As if she was at the stretch of a flat dark body of water that edged on and on. Cold, level water. Seeing such dark, cold, level water, and knowing it was final.
Why should these HEIs have so much repetition in them, what is the attraction, the effect? • a focussing, a concentration, through recurrence of terms, on one moment or situation (for this, lexical repetition is neither necessary nor sufficient , but seems to correlate with it) • They may have an ‘arresting’ function (wrt narrative and narrativity, repetition tends to bring the onward movement of the narrative to a temporary halt). To repeat is to go over again, making no change, rather than to move on, to a new development. Cf Shklovsky…
Short story HEIs genre-specific? • IF HEI passages are (as here claimed) a feature of one sub-genre of short stories, is it also the case that they appear differently, or not at all, in novels?
HEI passages and the negotiation of Ending in the story… • Q: In the inescapable comparison with the long narrative (the novel or romance), how does the story justify so briefly (one hour, 20 pages) coming to a halt, ending its reporting of characters, situation…? • A: for some stories, in part, by providing for the reader an HEI ‘moment’, or episode, of emotional/intellectual insight or immersion
Situation, repetition & picturing and Short story HEI passages: How are these related to each other? HEI passages in short stories are—for many readers —among the most vividly pictured scenes in that story: (near end of Carver’s ‘Boxes’, Gabriel at the end of Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, the gypsy and Yvette gripped against the cold and shock in ‘The Virgin and the Gypsy’ etc…)
Situation, repetition & picturing and Short story HEI passages: How are these related to each other? The HEI passage in a short story is the passage with the highest amount of grammatical and lexical repetition—for that story…
Situation, repetition & picturing and Short story HEI passages: How are these related to each other? As a consequence, finally, the HEI passage in a short story is the passage in which the reader has the most vivid (and immersing) sense of the situation…
The Virgin and the Gypsy (1930) D. H. Lawrence. top keywords: (disproportionately frequent, by comparison with a suitable reference corpus) Yvette gipsy Lucille she her granny Aunt Cissie rector jewess Leo Mater (and various further grammatical ítems and character names…)
The Virgin and the Gypsy top Lexical keywords among the top 100 keywords (with LL Keyness from 99 for rectory down to 22 for rage): Those occurring 30+ times (freq of >0. 10 of text) are in bold: rectory cart caravan old shuddering (13) blank fire cap steps face cried stone little steep quarry water snowflower vague gipsies elderly house awful bold ladder jersey liked low horse perfectly gone oh gazed sort copper naked (15) irritable hate contempt towel beastly young strange shivering (6) selfishness chimney dark man rub gardener stony smashed nerves hammering caravans athletic all right (28) pipe soft stream road mirror said pure rage
You can’t ‘get’ a full sense of the story from these lexical keywords (all the character names, and grammatical keywords, have been removed) but can you get any sense? !. . rectory cart caravan old shuddering (13) blank fire cap steps face cried stone little steep quarry water snowflower vague gipsies elderly house awful bold ladder jersey liked low horse perfectly gone oh gazed sort copper naked (15) irritable hate contempt towel beastly young strange shivering (6) selfishness chimney dark man rub gardener stony smashed nerves hammering caravans athletic all right (28) pipe soft stream road mirror said pure rage
The Virgin and the Gypsy (1930) D. H. Lawrence The tale relates the story of two sisters, daughters of an Anglican vicar, whoe return from overseas to a drab, lifeless vicarage in the post-First World War East Midlands. Their mother has run off, a scandal that is not talked about by the family. Their new home is dominated by a blind and selfish grandmother along with her mean-spirited, poisonous daughter. The two girls, Yvette and Lucille, risk being suffocated by the life they now lead at the Vicarage. They try their utmost every day to bring colour and fun into their lives. Out on a trip with some friends one Sunday afternoon, Yvette encounters a Gypsy and his family and this meeting reinforces her disenchantment with the oppressive domesticity of the vicarage. It also awakens in her a sexual curiosity she has not felt before, despite having admirers. She also befriends a married Jewish woman who has left her husband is living with her paramour. When her father finds out about this friendship, he threatens her with "the asylum" and Yvette realizes that at his heart her father, too, is mean spirited and shallow. At the end of the novel, Yvette is rescued during a surprise flood that washes through the home and drowns the grandmother. The rescuer who breathes life and warmth back into the virginal Yvette is the free-spirited Gypsy. Yvette's life is changed forever after.
The Virgin and the Gypsy HEI passage: He turned away, unable to control his spasms of shivering. Yvette had disappeared right under the bedclothes, and nothing of her was visible but a shivering mound under the white quilt. He laid his hand on this shivering mound, as if for company. It did not stop shivering. "All right!" he said. "All right! Water's going down. " She suddenly uncovered her head and peered out at him from a white face. She peered into his greenish, curiously calm face, semi-conscious. His teeth were chattering unheeded, as he gazed down at her, his black eyes still full of the fire of life and a certain vagabond calm of fatalistic resignation. "Warm me!" she moaned, with chattering teeth. "Warm me! I shall die of shivering. " A terrible convulsion went through her curled-up white body, enough indeed to rupture her and cause her to die.
The Virgin and the Gypsy HEI passage: The gipsy nodded, and took her in his arms, and held her in a clasp like a vice, to still his own shuddering. He himself was shuddering fearfully, and only semi-conscious. It was the shock. The vice-like grip of his arms round her seemed to her the only stable point in her consciousness. It was a fearful relief to her heart, which was strained to bursting. And though his body, wrapped round her strange and lithe and powerful, like tentacles, rippled with shuddering as an electric current, still the rigid tension of the muscles that held her clenched steadied them both, and gradually the sickening violence of the shuddering, caused by shock, abated, in his body first, then in hers, and the warmth revived between them. And as it roused, their tortured, semi-conscious minds became unconscious, they passed away into sleep. (283 words of 30, 500 word novel. = just under 1%)
The Virgin and the Gypsy top Lexical keywords in the putative HEI passage: shivering 5; shuddering 4; white 3; semiconscious 3; still 3; body 3; teeth 2; mound; peered; chattering; shock; calm; soul (all 2);
The Virgin and the Gypsy top Lexical keywords in the putative HEI passage: shivering 5; shuddering 4; white 3; semiconscious 3; still 3; body 3; teeth 2; mound; peered; chattering; shock; calm; soul (all 2); So shivering and shuddering are lexically key (disproportionate) in the whole story, and also, especially, in the HEI passage …
The Virgin and the Gypsy top Lexical keywords in the putative HEI passage: But this is just the beginning of an examination of the stylistic features of the HEI passage… if we have time, we can discuss some more characteristics…
And what about poems, and the role of repetition and a sense of completion in them? How does that work, in a poem like this one from Heaney? . . . Again, if we have time, we can discuss! Thank you! The Rain Stick Up-end the stick and what happens next Is a music that you never would have known To listen for. In a cactus stalk Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe Being played by water, you shake it again lightly And diminuendo runs through all its scales Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves, Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies; The glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air. Up-end the stick again. What happens next Is undiminished for having happened once, Twice, ten, and thousand times before. Who cares if all the music that transpires Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus? You are like a rich man entering heaven Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.