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05 SEPTEMBER 2014

The Largest Vocabulary in Hip hop

"Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare's vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.

I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist's first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay–Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

35,000 words covers 3–5 studio albums and EPs. I included mixtapes if the artist was just short of the 35,000 words. Quite a few rappers don't have enough official material to be included (e.g., Biggie, Kendrick Lamar). As a benchmark, I included data points for Shakespeare and Herman Melville, using the same approach (35,000 words across several plays for Shakespeare, first 35,000 of Moby Dick).

I used a research methodology called token analysis to determine each artist's vocabulary. Each word is counted once, so pimps, pimp, pimping, and pimpin are four unique words. To avoid issues with apostrophes (e.g., pimpin' vs. pimpin), they're removed from the dataset. It still isn't perfect. Hip hop is full of slang that is hard to transcribe (e.g., shorty vs. shawty), compound words (e.g., king shit), featured vocalists, and repetitive choruses.

It's still directionally interesting. Of the 85 artists in the dataset, let's take a look at who is on top."

(Matt Daniels, May 2014)

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TAGS

benchmark • big vocabulary • choice of words • corpus • cultural expressiondatasetdictiondigital humanitiesEnglish languageexpressive repertoireexpressive vocabulary • extensive vocabulary • Herman Melville • hip-hop • lexicomane • lyrics • Matt Daniels • Moby Dick • musicnaming • pimp • raprapperresearch method • sesquipedalian • slang • speaking vocabulary • token analysis • use of wordsvocabularyWilliam Shakespeareword heapwords

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 JULY 2014

The Adventure of English: the evolution of the English language

"The Adventure of English is a British television series (ITV) on the history of the English presented by Melvyn Bragg as well as a companion book, also written by Bragg. The series ran in 2003.

The series and the book are cast as an adventure story, or the biography of English as if it were a living being, covering the history of the language from its modest beginnings around 500 AD as a minor Germanic dialect to its rise as a truly established global language.

In the television series, Bragg explains the origins and spelling of many words based on the times in which they were introduced into the growing language that would eventually become modern English."

[Complete eight part series available on YouTube distributed by Maxwell's collection Pty Limited, Australia]

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TAGS

2002 • A Dictionary of the English Language • American English • American Spelling Book • Anglo-SaxonArabicaristocracyAustraliaAustralian Aborigineauthoritative historyBible • Blue Backed Speller • British televisionCaribbean • Catherine of Aragon • Celtic language • Celts • Church of England • cockney rhyming slang • colonisationcommon languagecommunication • Convicts land • dialectdictionaryDutch • educated people • English languageEsperantoFrenchFrench languageFrisian • Frisian language • Gaelic • Germanic rootsgrammarGreek • Gullah language • Hebrew • Henry V of England • Henry VIII of England • historical eventshistoryhistory of ideas • History of the English language • history of useimmigrationIndiaindustrial revolutioninvasionIsaac NewtonITVJamaicanJane Austen • John Cheke • John WycliffeJonathan Swift • Joseph McCoy • Katherine Duncan-Jones • King James I • languagelanguage developmentLatin wordlinguisticsmedieval churchMelvyn Braggmini-series • modern English • Netherlands • Noah Webster • North America • Old English • peasant • Philip Sidne • pidgin • pronunciation • Queen Elizabeth I • Robert Burns • Rural Rides • Samuel JohnsonSanskritScotland • Scottish language • scripture • spelling • Squanto • television series • The Adventure of English (2002) • theologian • Thomas Sheridan • United Statesuse of wordsvikingvocabulary • Websters Dictionary • West Africa • William Cobbett • William Jones • William Shakespeare • William the Conqueror • William Tyndale • William Wordsworth • words

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 JULY 2011

Helvetica: feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture

"Helvetica is a feature–length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.

Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day. The film was shot in high–definition on location in the United States, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium."

(Gary Hustwit, 2007 Swiss Dots Ltd.)

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TAGS

200750th anniversaryadvertisingaesthetics • Alfred Hoffmann • Bruno Steinert • cultureDavid Carsondesign formalismErik Spiekermann • every day • feature film • global visual culture • graphic designHelveticaHermann ZapfJonathan Hoeflerkerning • Lars Muller • Leslie Savan • Massimo Vignelli • Matthew Carter • Michael Bierut • Michael C. Place • Mike Parker • modernismneutralneutralityNeville Brody • Norm (graphic design team) • Otmar Hoefer • Paula Scherpsychology • Rick Poynor • Stefan Sagmeister • Swiss StyleSwitzerlandTobias Frere-Jonestypetypefacetypographyurban spaces • use of type • visual communicationvisual culturevisual languageWim Crouwelwords • worlds of design

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
19 JUNE 2011

A comparable dichotomy between metaphor and metonymy

"Roman Jakobson found a comparable dichotomy between metaphor and metonymy in his seminal paper, 'Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,' published in his monograph, Fundamentals of Language (Mouton & Co––Gravenhage, 1956). Here Jakobson discussed two types of aphasia based on complementary disorders in comprehending language: (a) a similarity disorder whereby one primarily depends on syntactic context to draw words into use (pp. 63–64); and (b) a contiguity disorder whereby one's style becomes a telegraphic 'word heap' without much, if any, evidence of syntax (pp. 71–72). According to Jakobson, two faculties are thus involved in the use of language: (a) selection in the choice of words to express an idea (metaphoric); and (b) the combination of words, again to express an idea (metonymic). Elaborate sentences without a particularly impressive vocabulary (for example in the prose of Henry James) illustrates the similarity disorder, while big vocabulary in loosely constructed sentences (for example in the prose of James Joyce) illustrates the contiguity disorder. Joyce heaped together his words with apparent abandonment, while James strenuously belaboured his syntax to produce exactly the right effect––an effect he found difficult to articulate with words alone as opposed to their combination in intricate sentences. An inferior choice of words, Jakobson claimed, is at the sacrifice of metaphor, whereas an inferior combination of words is at the sacrifice of metonymy (p. 76)."

(Edward Jayne)

Jakobson, R. (1971). "Fundamentals of Language". The Hague/Paris: Mouton, Harvard University and Morris Halle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1). Edward Jayne. "The Metaphor–Metonymy Binarism"

TAGS

aphasia • choice of wordsClaude Levi-Strauss • combination of words • comprehending language • constructed sentences • contiguitydeconstructionismFerdinand de Saussuregrammar • Henry James • ideasJacques DerridaJacques LacanJames Joyce • John Langshaw Austin • language • langue • langue and parole • Louis Hjelmslev • metaphormetaphoric • metonymic • metonymynaming • paradigmatic relations • parole • Paul de Man • rhetoricRoland Barthes • Roman Jakobson • selection • semiology • semiotics • sentences • signifiedsignifierstructuralism • syntactic context • syntagmatic relations • syntaxtelegraphictropesvocabularyword heapwords

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
25 APRIL 2011

Stephen Fry: Don't Mind Your Language...

"For me, it is a cause of some upset that more Anglophones don't enjoy language. Music is enjoyable it seems, so are dance and other, athletic forms of movement. People seem to be able to find sensual and sensuous pleasure in almost anything but words these days. Words, it seems belong to other people, anyone who expresses themselves with originality, delight and verbal freshness is more likely to be mocked, distrusted or disliked than welcomed. The free and happy use of words appears to be considered elitist or pretentious. Sadly, desperately sadly, the only people who seem to bother with language in public today bother with it in quite the wrong way. They write letters to broadcasters and newspapers in which they are rude and haughty about other people's usage and in which they show off their own superior 'knowledge' of how language should be. I hate that, and I particularly hate the fact that so many of these pedants assume that I'm on their side. When asked to join in a 'let's persuade this supermarket chain to get rid of their 'five items or less' sign' I never join in. Yes, I am aware of the technical distinction between 'less' and 'fewer', and between 'uninterested' and 'disinterested' and 'infer' and 'imply', but none of these are of importance to me. 'None of these are of importance,' I wrote there, you'll notice – the old pedantic me would have insisted on 'none of them is of importance'. Well I'm glad to say I've outgrown that silly approach to language. Oscar Wilde, and there have been few greater and more complete lords of language in the past thousand years, once included with a manuscript he was delivering to his publishers a compliment slip in which he had scribbled the injunction: 'I'll leave you to tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whiches &c.' Which gives us all encouragement to feel less guilty, don't you think?

There are all kinds of pedants around with more time to read and imitate Lynne Truss and John Humphrys than to write poems, love–letters, novels and stories it seems. They whip out their Sharpies and take away and add apostrophes from public signs, shake their heads at prepositions which end sentences and mutter at split infinitives and misspellings, but do they bubble and froth and slobber and cream with joy at language? Do they ever let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoric bliss? Do they ever yoke impossible words together for the sound–sex of it? Do they use language to seduce, charm, excite, please, affirm and tickle those they talk to? Do they? I doubt it. They're too farting busy sneering at a greengrocer's less than perfect use of the apostrophe. Well sod them to Hades. They think they're guardians of language. They're no more guardians of language than the Kennel Club is the guardian of dogkind.

The worst of this sorry bunch of semi–educated losers are those who seem to glory in being irritated by nouns becoming verbs. How dense and deaf to language development do you have to be? If you don't like nouns becoming verbs, then for heaven's sake avoid Shakespeare who made a doing–word out of a thing–word every chance he got. He TABLED the motion and CHAIRED the meeting in which nouns were made verbs. New examples from our time might take some getting used to: 'He actioned it that day' for instance might strike some as a verbing too far, but we have been sanctioning, envisioning, propositioning and stationing for a long time, so why not 'action'? 'Because it's ugly,' whinge the pedants. It's only ugly because it's new and you don't like it. Ugly in the way Picasso, Stravinsky and Eliot were once thought ugly and before them Monet, Mahler and Baudelaire. Pedants will also claim, with what I am sure is eye–popping insincerity and shameless disingenuousness, that their fight is only for 'clarity'. This is all very well, but there is no doubt what 'Five items or less' means, just as only a dolt can't tell from the context and from the age and education of the speaker, whether 'disinterested' is used in the 'proper' sense of non–partisan, or in the 'improper' sense of uninterested. No, the claim to be defending language for the sake of clarity almost never, ever holds water. Nor does the idea that following grammatical rules in language demonstrates clarity of thought and intelligence of mind. Having said this, I admit that if you want to communicate well for the sake of passing an exam or job interview, then it is obvious that wildly original and excessively heterodox language could land you in the soup. I think what offends examiners and employers when confronted with extremely informal, unpunctuated and haywire language is the implication of not caring that underlies it. You slip into a suit for an interview and you dress your language up too. You can wear what you like linguistically or sartorially when you're at home or with friends, but most people accept the need to smarten up under some circumstances – it's only considerate. But that is an issue of fitness, of suitability, it has nothing to do with correctness. There no right language or wrong language any more than are right or wrong clothes. Context, convention and circumstance are all.

I don't deny that a small part of me still clings to a ghastly Radio 4/newspaper–letter–writer reader pedantry, but I fight against it in much the same way I try to fight against my gluttony, anger, selfishness and other vices. I must confess, for example, that I find it hard not to wince when someone aspirates the word 'aitch'. ..."

(Stephen Fry, 4 November 2008)

Fig.1 Matthew Rogers (2010). 'Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language'. http://rogerscreations.com/blog/?p=202

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TAGS

Anglophone • animated presentation • apostrophe • Charles Baudelaire • circumstance • clarityclarity of thoughtClaude Monetcommunicationcontextconvention • correctness • cultureeducation • elitism • evolutionexpressiongrammatical rulesGustav Mahler • heterodox language • Igor Stravinskyinnovationintelligence of mind • John Humphrys • kinetic typographyknowledgelanguagelanguage developmentlanguage habitslinguistics • Lynne Truss • meaning makingmotion graphicsmotion typographyOscar WildePablo Picasso • pedantry • pleasure • pretension • Radio 4scriptible • sensuous • sentence • sharpie • signageStephen Fry • technical rules • Thomas Stearns Eliotusageuse of wordsverbal freshnessvisualisationWilliam Shakespearewords

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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