Ever On

Once we have addressed “What?” and made our lists and found our patterns, we must address “So what?”  How does what we discover help us learn?  I hope in the Concordance and the Home posts – particularly those tagged “Conclusions” –  I have begun to address So what? in a manner that helps us be better readers, listeners, and students.

Even before the “So what?” began to fill in, I admit that my imagination ran along that road that passes my front door.  At the end of each lesson must be “Now what?”  Dr. Olsen, my thesis advisor, and I had a wonderful time coming up with new questions to ask or perspectives to take.  Here I record and share some of the possible extensions this project could embrace, and new projects which these skills and methods could address.  Fellow students, if you’re looking for a project, please turn your hand to these questions and let us all hear your results!

  • as of August 1, 2015, about 33% of the concordance entries have remarks, trivia, mini-lessons, or quoted passages contained in them.  I’d love to complete the set!  Update as of September 19, 2017, over 50% of the entries have remarks.
  • since I wound up using the non-lemmatized Project Gutenberg stopwords, I want to go back to the text and re-remove The Ten Thousand most common words, without lemmatizing the resulting word list.  See what difference it makes, especially to my beloved strong verbs.
  • find the graph of all the food words, not just the uncommon ones, perhaps find a way to negatively weight the “lack of food” scenes.  With the help of Karen Wynn Fonstad’s work, it’s time to do the Caloric Intake map.  Update: step one, the Food Mini-Concordance is complete.
  • add to the concordance all the words found in the poems, regardless of commonness.
  • complete the concordance with all nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as Richard Blackwelder did.  I would first tag the uncommon words, of course, to be able to pull them out later (2015.12.31, I  finished tagging the uncommon words).
  • track the contractions – “cannot” instead of “can’t” heightens the register.
  • add each word’s rank in the word frequency lists to the spreadsheet.  Figure out how to do a weighted graph of uncommonality.  Does the curve smooth out?
  • find out which dwarves are named only together with their rhyme-brothers.
  • find words which appear in concentrated places in the work (like Trollish dialectical words) and make a word map.
  • tag and explore all those compound words.  Some are JRRT originals, I would bet.  Compare to his hyphenated words.
  • add the speaker of each word to the spreadsheet and see what can be learned about each character’s idiolect.
  • Include the use of contractions to that character-voice analysis
  • tag and explore the moments when the narrator speaks directly to the audience.
  • tag and explore anachronisms (like the freight train).
  • add word origins to the spreadsheet – think of the possibilities!
  • add the ages of each word to the spreadsheet – when they entered English and when they peaked in use.
  • find words which appear in concentrated places in the work and chart out their root languages to see if different folk’s or different regions’ dialects map on to different etymologies.
  • examine the contribution of syntax to register: OSV? Subjunctive?  (examine across all his works, of course)
  • examine the patterns of alliteration in Tolkien’s poetry and prose and its contribution to register.
  • use these techniques for all direct speech of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings and map his changes from Strider to King Elessar – are they personal growth (suggesting a unidirectional path), or responses to audience (suggesting dialectical biases which he can pick up as his audience changes)
  • Link more excellent papers by fellow scholars in the field on various words, especially onomastics.
  • Find all JRRT’s instances of “living stone” and see if that phrase is original to him – follow its use in subsequent fantasy.
  • Compare C.S.Lewis’ and Lewis Carrol’s word use to what we have learned about JRRT’s.
  • My dear Tech Support has created a word-frequency-creator into which I can throw any texts.  I can use those works which we know Tolkien read himself in childhood as the frequency filter (as opposed to the entire Project Gutenberg corpus; the Gutenberg lists include the Gutenberg copyright notes and use notes, therefore an imperfect tool).
  • These lexomic tools can address questions of collaboration, inspiration, and plagiarism.  We have Neil Gaiman’s account of how he and Sir Terry Pratchett collaborated on Good Omens: wouldn’t it be grand to test the tools on that work and then use the tools elsewhere?

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