17.593 KWIC

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Jan 31 2004 - 03:34:01 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 593.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

   [1] From: Norman Hinton <hinton@springnet1.com> (6)
         Subject: Re: 17.585 KWIC

   [3] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (41)
         Subject: KWIC, history and aesthetics


         Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 07:56:21 +0000
         From: Norman Hinton <hinton@springnet1.com>
         Subject: Re: 17.585 KWIC

Jim's right - -I use Tatlock and Kennedy,which was first published in 1927,
and it's in hard copy, the way I prefer it.

>whereas T & K give you the
>construction, no more, no less.

Right, and that's what I want. I usually know the passage anyhow once I
see the phrase, and it's not at all hard to look it up.

         Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 07:57:24 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: KWIC, history and aesthetics

The discussion of KWIC and concordancing has reminded me of a dormant
project of mine, which is to find a young scholar, who would likely need to
be a medievalist or begin as one, to write an intellectual history of the
concordance. This would make a *wonderful* book if properly done. Rouse &
Rouse have provided a few good articles on the invention of the concordance
in the late 12C or early 13C; Brian Stock has done some fundamental work
related to the topic; there are a pile of articles, parts of books etc from
the early years of computer-generated concordances; some here are likely to
know of other bits and pieces. But we need all of this stuff together, with
a rooting of the invention in the typological habit of mind. Tall order,
indeed, but don't such tall orders make the scholar's life worth living?

When such a history got to the KWIC (invented in 1954, as I recall, by a
chap named Luhn), the argument would need to partake of aesthetics. It's
only natural for the literary scholar to bristle at the brutality of the
KWIC's severing of lines in mid-word on either side, but that very
brutality and centering of the lines at the target word redirected
attention from syntactic units to verbal environments, and so the "span".
There's much of interest to be said, I expect, about the intellectual power
of visual design in this beautifully simple case.


PS If someone tells me the book has been written, and is able to cite it, I
will rejoice!

Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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