Mining for constructions in texts using N-gram and network analysis

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

In constructionist theory, constructions are functional entities that pair form and conventionalized semantic and/or discourse-pragmatic function. One of the main tasks of the construction grammarian is thus to identify and document constructions. Seeing that it is unlikely that this can be done satisfactorily via introspection, there is a need for different ways of identifying constructions in language use. In this paper, we will explore the extent to which the N-gram information retrieval technique – which has seen use in phraseological analysis, discourse analysis, register characterization, and corpus stylistics – is applicable in the identification of constructions and their functionality in discourse. An N-gram is a constellation of a specified number (N = number) of entities that frequently (co)occur in a data population. In this paper we will report on an exploratory study in which we apply N-gram analysis to Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Mark Twain's novelThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and extrapolate a number of likely constructional phenomena from recurring N-gram patterns in the two texts. In addition to simple N-gram analysis, the following will be applied: comparative N-gram analysis which draws on a slightly adjusted distinctive collexeme analysis, hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis, and N-gram-based network analysis. The latter is explored as a way to capture different N-gram types, and underlying constructions, in one representation. The main premise is that, if constructions are functional units, then configurations of words that tend to recur together in discourse are likely to have some sort of function that speakers utilize in discourse. Writers of fiction, for instance, may use constructions in characterizations, mind-styles, text-world construction and specification of narrative temporality. In this paper, our special interest lies in the relationship between constructions and the discourse of fiction. As the study reported in this article is exploratory, it serves just as much to test the methods mentioned above as to analyze and characterize the two novels.
TidsskriftGlobe: A Journal of Language, Culture and Communication
Sider (fra-til)23-54
StatusUdgivet - 2 okt. 2015

ID: 164294150