Skip to main content

Applying keyword analysis to gendered language in the Íslendingasögur

  • Tam T. Blaxter (a1)

Keyword analysis has been used to investigate properties of style and genre, as a tool in discourse analysis, and as a method of identifying differences between the speech of distinct social groups. It has often been criticised as a blunt tool which can exaggerate what differences are present and fails to distinguish between quite distinct phenomena. However, it remains a very powerful tool for wide analysis of systematic differences between corpora when used with sufficient scepticism. This paper uses keyword analysis to examine differences between the speech of male and female characters in the Íslendingasögur, narrative prose texts composed in Iceland in the 13th and 14th centuries. This dataset is of particular interest because such representations of speech are the only window on the language of social groups who were not involved in text production in medieval societies. It aims to demonstrate a rigorous application of keyword analysis, exemplifying what it can and, crucially, what it cannot show.

Hide All
Anthony Lawrence. 2012. Antconc: A Freeware Concordance Program for Windows, Mactintosh OS X, and Linux. (30 November 2012).
Baker Paul. 2004. Querying keywords: Questions of difference, frequency, and sense in keywords analysis. Journal of English Linguistics 32, 346359.
Baker Paul. 2008. Sexed Texts: Language, Sexuality and Gender. London: Equinox.
Baker Paul. 2010. Sociolinguistics and Corpus Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Baker Paul. 2012. Mars and Venus reappraised: Using the Manhattan Distance to explore the sex differences paradigm in the BNC. Presented at the UCREL Corpus Research Seminar Series, Lancaster.
Bestgen Yves. 2014. Inadequacy of the chi-squared test to examine vocabulary differences between corpora. Literary & Linguistic Computing 29 (2), 164170.
Blaxter Tam T. 2013. Sociolinguistic variation in the Old Icelandic family sagas. MPhil thesis, University of Oxford.
Brown Penelope & Levinson Steven C.. 1987. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage (Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics 4). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cameron Deborah. 2007. The Myth of Mars and Venus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cleasby Richard, Vigfússon Guðbrandur & Dasent George Webbe. 1894. An Icelandic–English Dictionary, Based on the Ms. Collections of the late Richard Cleasby. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Culpeper Jonathan. 2009. Keyness: Words, parts-of-speech and semantic categories in the character-talk of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 14 (1), 2959.
Gries Stefan Th. 2005. Null-hypothesis significance testing of word frequencies: A follow-up on Kilgarriff. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 1 (2), 277294.
Grob Lindsey M., Meyers Renee A. & Schuh Renee. 1997. Powerful/powerless language use in group interactions: Sex differences or similarities? Communications Quarterly 45 (3), 282303.
Harrington Kate. 2008. Perpetuating difference? Corpus linguistics and the gendering of reported dialogue. In Harrington Kate, Litosseliti Lia, Sauntson Helen & Sunderland Jane (eds.), Gender and Language Research Methodologies, 85102. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Helgadóttir Sigrún, Valsdóttir Eyrún, Rögnvaldsdóttir Auður & Stefánsdóttir Hjördís. 2012–. Mörkuð íslensk málheild. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum. (12 May 2012).
Hirschman Lynette. 1994. Female–male differences in conversational interaction. Language in Society 23, 427442.
Johannessen Janne Bondi. 2008. The pronominal psychological demonstrative in Scandinavian: Its syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 31 (2), 161192.
Kilgarriff Adam. 2005. Language is never, ever, ever, random. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 1 (2), 263276.
Oakes Michael & Farrow Malcom. 2007. Use of the chi-squared test to examine vocabulary differences in English language corpora representing seven different countries. Literary & Linguistic Computing 22 (1), 8599.
Rayson Paul. 2004. Keywords are not enough. Presented at the Invited Talk for JAECS (Japan Association for English Corpus Studies), Chuo University, Tokyo. (22 December 2013).
Rayson Paul. 2008. From key words to key semantic domains. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 13 (4), 519549.
Rayson Paul, Leech Geoffrey & Hodges Mary. 1997. Social differentiation in the use of English vocabulary: Some analyses of the conversational component of the British National Corpus. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 2 (1), 133152.
Rögnvaldsson Eiríkur & Helgadóttir Sigrún. 2011. Morphological tagging of Old Norse texts and its use in studying syntactic variation and change. In Sporleder Caroline, van den Bosch Antal & Zervanou Kalliopi (eds.), Language Technology for Cultural Heritage, vol. 2, 6376. Berlin: Springer.
Schmid Hans-Jörg. 2003. Do men and women really live in different cultures? Evidence from the BNC. In Wilson Andrew, Rayson Paul & McEnery Tony (eds.), Corpus Linguistics by the Lune (Łódź Studies in Language 8), 185221. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Shibamoto Smith Janet S. 2004. Language and gender in the (hetero)romance: ‘Reading’ the ideal hero/ine through lover's dialogue in Japanese romance fiction. In Okamoto Shigeko & Smith Janet S. Shibamoto (eds.), Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology, 113130. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.
Shibamoto Smith Janet S. & Occhi Deborah J.. 2009. The green leaves of love: Japanese romantic heroines, authentic femininity, and dialect. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13 (4), 524546.
Stubbs Michael. 1995. Collocations and semantic profiles: On the cause of trouble with quantitative studies. Functions of Language 1 (2), 2355.
TEI Consortium (ed.). 2007. TEI P5: Guidelines for electronic text encoding and interchange, 2.1.0. Last updated 17/06/12. TEI Consortium. (16 August 2012).
Xiao Zhonghua & McEnery Anthony. 2005. Two approaches to genre analysis: Three genres in Modern American English. Journal of English Linguistics 33, 6282.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Nordic Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0332-5865
  • EISSN: 1502-4717
  • URL: /core/journals/nordic-journal-of-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 135 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.