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Usage Fluctuation Analysis: A new way of analysing shifts in historical discourse

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Forthcoming
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/08/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Corpus Linguistics
Issue number4
Volume24
Publication statusAccepted/In press
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article introduces a methodology for the diachronic analysis of large historical corpora, Usage Fluctuation Analysis (UFA). UFA looks at the fluctuation of the usage of a word as observed through collocation. It presupposes neither a commitment to a specific semantic theory, nor that the results will focus solely on semantics. We focus, rather, upon a word’s usage. UFA considers large amounts of evidence about usage, through time, as made available by historical corpora, displaying fluctuation in word usage in the form of a graph. The paper provides guidelines for the interpretation of UFA graphs and provides three short case studies applying the technique to (i) the analysis of the word its and (ii) two words related to social actors, WHORE and HARLOT. These case studies relate UFA to prior, labour intensive, corpus and historical analyses. They also highlight the novel observations that the technique affords.