Macro-Etymological Textual Analysis

an application of language history to literary criticism
Jonathan Reeve

English is a Patchwork Quilt

By counting the colors and patterns of these patches, we might learn something new about a text.

Word Resonances

Consider the following near-synonmyms:

  • ask / question / interrogate
  • goodness / virtue / probity
  • fast / firm / secure

Introducing the Macro-Etymological Analyzer

  • a web app written for the LAMP stack
  • free and open-source software, licensed under the GPLv3
  • available for use on
  • find the source code at
Brown Corpus Categories Sorted by Proportion of Latinate Words
Latinate Words in Revisions of Leaves of Grass
Latinate Words in Portrait, by Chapter
Selected Canterbury Tales in Modern English Translation
The Waves by Narrator
Victorian vs. Modernist Novels
Victorian vs. Modernist Novels: Hellenic
Male and Female American Poets of the 20th Century
CLMET Narrative Fiction, 1710-1920, Latinate
CLMET Narrative Fiction, 1710-1920, Hellenic

Trends 2

  • Many of these trends may also be observed in the speech of fictional characters.
  • The proportion of Latinate words is correlated, albeit somewhat loosely, with level of discourse, formality, militarism, and scholarly language.
  • Religious and scientific language, especially that of physics and geometry, are likely to have a high proportion of Hellenic words.

Opportunities for Further Comparison

  • chapters in James Joyce's Ulysses
  • early Dickens vs. late Dickens
  • genres of the Corpus of Historical American English
  • ...and many more.