17.744 MonoConc (Pro), with thoughts on teaching

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 07 2004 - 17:03:17 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 744.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (26)
             Subject: MonoConc features was Re: 17.734 Michael Barlow found,
                     with reasons why this matters

       [2] From: Norman Hinton <hinton@springnet1.com> (8)
             Subject: concordances

       [3] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (41)
             Subject: MonoConc Pro

             Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 08:56:09 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: MonoConc features was Re: 17.734 Michael Barlow found,
    with reasons why this matters


    Could you please elaborate? A listing of the features would be nice. I
    should restate that as "functions" and not deviate from the proposed

    > Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 07:31:08 +0000
    > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
    > >
    > I am particularly fond of Michael's creation, MonoConc, because it offers
    > everything one needs to teach the essentials of text-analysis from a corpus
    > linguistics perspective, it does what it does very quickly, it does not
    > require huge amounts of disk space AND it can be mastered by an attentive
    > undergraduate in 5-10 minutes. Certainly there are functions that I value
    > which it does not have and other packages do, but for the basics and for
    > teaching purposes I have not found a piece of software to match it.

    And a bit more light on teh "teaching purposes" might also help guide


    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

    Wondering if...

    mnemonic is to analytic as mimetic is to synthetic

    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 08:56:37 +0100 From: Norman Hinton <hinton@springnet1.com> Subject: concordances

    WIllard, I'm very interested in your recommendation of MonoConc. I went to the site and it looked very good -- but so did MonoConc Pro. Do you have any feelings abut one over the other ?

    And also -- for several years now I have used SCP - the Simple Concordance Program, freeware by Alan Reed. Have you ever used it ? If so, how would you compare it to MonoConc ?

    I know you're busy but if you have a minute to answer, I'd really appreciate it.

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 08:59:01 +0100 From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> Subject: MonoConc Pro

    I've been asked to elaborate on my recommendation of MonoConc Pro (I said MonoConc but meant the Pro version) as to its features &c. My very positive opinion of the program, however, has little to do with features per se. These are not exactly minimal, but there are other programs considerably more sophisticated in that regard.

    MonoConc I've found excellent as a quick means of getting to what I take to be the essential, basic mechanics of analyzing corpora: produce a KWIC; sort to the left, sort to the right -- one word, two words, three words from the target etc.; produce frequency statistics for the target word and for collocations. One can do things with tags, but I never mention that to students during the use of MonoConc. Tag-recognition was an add-on to MonoConc, I think, but in any case the intention is to get them to recognize that such analysis gets you so far with certain kinds of questions but not further. Then you need to consider how encoding can extend the range of analysis &c. Or, to put the matter another way, the questions of corpus linguistics and those of literary analysis overlap but are not coincident.

    MonoConc is very easy to learn -- as I said, 5 to 10 minutes is all that's required. The students I've had tend to come to humanities computing believing that it's about pushing buttons. So I've tried to rush them past the push-button interface to problems of interpretation. The more sophisticated-in-features this interface is, the harder that is to do, the more they take what they see as a harder problem of the kind they've mostly already mastered rather than a new sort of problem entirely.

    (It's no wonder they're the way they are. A colleague recently showed me a handout his son had been given in a maths class in school. It showed a standard geometrical diagram of a triangle with formulae for sine, cosine and tangent, more or less as decoration, then the sentence: "To get sin(x), press SIN on your calculator; to get cos(x), press COS; to get tan(x), press TAN." Apparently there was little by way of actual mathematics given in the class for which this handout was support.)

    Would it match the experience of others to say that the more computing is taught in the schools, the more difficult it becomes to get students into a humanities computing course so that they can understand what the fuss is about?

    Yours, WM

    [Note: If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours please resend.] 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 www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/

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