7.6 Words and Decades
I’m not going to start with the list of most common words each decade, because it just looks like what we found back in section 7.3. Some words are really common, and they stay that way through the data set. What’s more interesting is to look at words that are more common in a particular decade than they are in general. And this in turn requires picking a domain of words.
I’ll start with the 1000 most common words (stop words excluded) from the data set. (I’m not going to do the graphs that I did in section 7.3, because they would just be repetitive; it’s very often just the same words.)
I guess nothing there is too surprising. The keywords in the first few decades are basically what you’d expect if you knew there was a lot of idealism going on. Then there is much more attention to aesthetics in the middle decades, as well as a huge focus on statements. (I think the term ‘statement’ is too ambiguous between sentence, utterance and proposition to be used nowadays, but that clearly wasn’t the view then.) And then Rawls shows up, along with some people called “David”. “Probabilities” shows up in the 1990s but not later because it is replaced, as we’ll see, with “credences”. The boom in the topic Norms looks a little less surprising when you see ‘normative’ is used so much, especially in the 2000s, that it ends up on the list of 1000 most common words.
Let’s increase the domain to the 3000 most common words in the data set.
The main auditorium at Monash University is the Alexander Hall. Graduations are there, but it isn’t otherwise a major part of student life. I think I went there more often as a high school student than as a university student. But still, it was nice to know that a big part of the university was named after a philosopher, Samuel Alexander. We also had a nice sketch of him on the wall of one of the seminar rooms in the philosophy department while I was there. That didn’t mean that we actually talked about Alexander’s work; I don’t remember ever being assigned one of his papers in a class or seminar. That was perhaps a bit too bad, since he’s argaubly the second most important Australian philosopher for the first half of the 20th century.
Let’s expand this list to the 5000 most common words.
When I was cleaning out the data I thought that ‘sensa’ was some kind of OCR error. But it’s a really common word in 1920s and 1930s discussions of sense-data. In later years, the distinctive words get to be more and more to do with names.
That said, we also see here a word that I should have filtered out: ‘Basil’. Some uses of it are legitimate, but most are because ‘Basil Blackwell’ turns up in bibliographies. I wish I’d caught that one.