A Digital Humanities Approach to the Emergence of CULTURE as a Liquid Modern Word: Evidence From Synchronic and Diachronic Language Resources

Maristella Gatto


As empirical approaches to the study of natural language based on digital technology, corpus linguistics and computational linguistics are two faces of the same coin, whosevalue lies in the attempt to integrate quantitative and qualitative aspects of linguistic analysis. This attempt has become all the more challenging in recent years as the language data at our disposal grows day by day. Indeed, the changing nature of language resources in the era of big data has inevitably also changed the research questions that it is possible to address (Hiltunen et al, 2017). The increase and variety of the data available has opened up new horizons, by empirically supporting research questions concerning social phenomena, or by providing new hints for tracking language change, as is the case with the novel discipline of Modern Diachronic Corpus-Assisted Language Change (Alessi & Partington, 2020). These new research areas are continually evolving and expanding also thanks to a growing number of easy-to-access resources and tools so that the fields of corpus linguistics, digital linguistics and digital humanities “overlap, intertwine and feed off each other when it comes to making use of the increasing variety of resources available for linguistic research today” (Nevalainen, Suhr and Taavitsainen, 2019, p.1).

It is against this background that the present article reports on the preliminary results of a corpus-based investigation into the process that has transformed the very specific material meaning of the word “culture” into the extremely elusive, liquid concept we are familiar with today. The analysis starts from the findings of earlier investigation of the lexico-grammar profile of the world “culture” based on contemporary synchronic corpus resources and attempts further exploration of these findings on the basis of diachronic language resources, such as Google Books and the English Historical Book Collection.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v15i6.21539

Copyright (c) 2023 Maristella Gatto

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