4.0883 Further Queries: Repetition; Age of E-Mailers (2/63)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 13 Jan 91 17:39:19 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0883. Sunday, 13 Jan 1991.

(1) Date: Thu, 10 Jan 91 22:27:53 EST (47 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: repetition?

(2) Date: 13 Jan 91 13:52:15 EST (16 lines)
Subject: age of e-mailers

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 91 22:27:53 EST
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: repetition?

The following query was first sent out to the members of Ficino, an
electronic seminar for Renaissance and Reformation studies. I apologize
to those who are seeing it for the second time, though perhaps in this
specific case the sin illustrates the problem.

In the course of marking up the text of a poem for analysis with the
text-retrieval program TACT, I have started to wonder again about the
phenomenon of repetition and how it might be recognized by computer. In
part my question here has to do with computer programs specifically --
I'd like to know if anyone knows of an existing piece of software -- in
part it is about the nature of the phenomenon. I realize that repetition
is an enormous topic with fuzzy boundaries. At the moment I'm
preoccupied with only a very small part of it: repetition of small
phrases, words, syllables, sounds. A specific example, from Ovid's

uror amore mei: flammas moveoque feroque.
quid faciam? roger anne rogem? quid deinde rogabo?
quod cupio mecum est: inopem me copia fecit.
(Met. 3.464-6)

No one will have much difficulty figuring out the repetitions here, or
in any relatively small passage, but what about in very large sections
of text? I would like to know, for example, how accurate my sense is
that in certain sections of the poem the amount of repetition increases
dramatically, and where those sections are -- without having to specify
repetitions of what. Of course we have every reason to believe that
echoic verse would characterize the story of Narcissus, but if we knew
where else repetition was prominent, we'd be able to say some
interesting things, perhaps. If we had an automatic procedure to find
simple repetition, then we could look at much larger bodies of text.

Does anyone know of appropriate software? Is it possible to define an
algorithm that would detect it? More generally, are there linguistic and
other studies of the phenomenon that I should know about? If we
understood repetition well on this level, wouldn't it then be possible
to be more exact about literary allusions?

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------23----
Date: 13 Jan 91 13:52:15 EST
Subject: age of e-mailers

Has anyone else found themselves automatically assuming that all/most
e-mail correspondents are more young than not? Only to be disabused
sharply from time to time. I am myself neither old nor young, and only
realized how casually I had gotten to assume that most of these people
squirting e-mail back and forth were at least younger than I am, when a
couple of messages, from people who *seemed* to have qualities I would
associate with youth (energy, flexibility, interested in new things and
ideas) turned out to be at least fiftysomething. I've said here before
that e-mailers are like angels, bodiless intellects reduced to thought
and articulation (all other functions reserved for the non-e-mail parts
of our lives). Is this also the old Irish Tir na n-Ogh, Land of the
ever-young? Have we found the fountain of youth?