A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce's Bildungsroman, is an experiment in style particularly well-suited to macro-etymological analysis. The narrative is written in the first person, and the language of the protagonist follows his age--early chapters are written in a juvenile voice, and later chapters are written with more mature language. The novel begins: "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road..." Except for "very," which is descended from Anglo-French, all of these words are of Germanic origin. Later in the novel, there are lengthy discussions of religion which might introduce more Hellenic words, given that Hellenic words are correlated with religious speech in the Brown corpus.

Latinate Words in _Portrait_, by Chapter

The above figure shows the proportion of Latinate words by chapter. As expected, there is a general increase in the proportion of Latinate words, perhaps correlated with the character's linguistic maturity. There is a slight decrease in the final part, however--could this be attributed to the fact that Stephen, in Chapter 4, converses with the director, a Jesuit priest, whereas in Chapter 5, his dialogue is primarily with his friends? Probably not, if one considers that his conversations with his friends include jokes in Latin. In fact, Chapter 5 includes many Latin sentences, which are read as errors by the Etymological dictionary, since they are not English words. A more sophisticated program might recognize them as foreign words and treat them accordingly.

Hellenic Words in _Portrait_, by Chapter

The proportion of Hellenic words in A Portrait are perhaps even more telling. On the whole, the progression mirrors that of Latinate words, except for the fact that Chapter 3 contains an unusually high level of Hellenic words. Since these proportions are, overall, very low (less than 0.16%), it is only a few words that make this difference. In Chapter 3, those words are: "agony," (which appears 9 times), "baptism" (which appears 3 times), "demon" (twice), "zealous" (twice), "eon" and "poetry" (both of which appear only once). It is clear from these words that we are listening to Father Arnall's sermon on hell--during this speech, the word "agony" appears five times. The other four instances are Stephen's own feelings of agony, some of which were brought about by this sermon.

With the above in mind, it is perhaps too tempting to see the Hellenic proportions as markers of religious language, especially since religion is one of the primary motifs of the latter half of the novel. As the Brown corpus has shown us, however, high proportions of Hellenic words aren't only correlated with religious language, but with learned language, as well. Upon examination of the Hellenic words in Chapter 5, we find words appropriate to the physics classroom setting: "energy" (4 instances) "kinetic" (3) and "physics" (2). There are also words one might associate with Greek drama--"tragic," "dramatic," "poetry," "myth," and "melancholy," as well as the more learned words "didactic" and "cardiac."


This post is an adapted and expanded excerpt from my 2013 Master's thesis, "Macro-Etymological Textual Analysis: an Application of Langauge History to Literary Criticism." The program described herein is the web app created for these experiments, the Macro-Etymological Analyzer. Read more about the program and related experiments in my introductory post, "Introducing the Macro-Etymological Analyzer."


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