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Cyberformalism

Histories of Linguistic Forms in the Digital Archive

Daniel Shore

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A groundbreaking study of how abstract linguistic signs circulate in literature, intellectual history, and popular culture.

Linguistic forms are essential to meaning: like words, they make a semantic contribution to the things we say. We inherit them from past writers and speakers and fill them with different words to produce novel utterances. They shape us and the ways we interpret the world. Yet prevalent assumptions about language and the constraints of print-finding tools have kept linguistic forms and their histories hidden from view.

Drawing on recent work in cognitive and construction…

A groundbreaking study of how abstract linguistic signs circulate in literature, intellectual history, and popular culture.

Linguistic forms are essential to meaning: like words, they make a semantic contribution to the things we say. We inherit them from past writers and speakers and fill them with different words to produce novel utterances. They shape us and the ways we interpret the world. Yet prevalent assumptions about language and the constraints of print-finding tools have kept linguistic forms and their histories hidden from view.

Drawing on recent work in cognitive and construction grammar along with tools and methods developed by corpus and computational linguists, Daniel Shore’s Cyberformalism represents a new way forward for digital humanities scholars seeking to understand the textual past. Championing a qualitative approach to digital archives, Shore uses the abstract pattern-matching capacities of search engines to explore precisely those combinatory aspects of language—word order, syntax, categorization—discarded by the "bag of words" quantitative methods that are dominant in the digital humanities.

While scholars across the humanities have long explored the histories of words and phrases, Shore argues that increasingly sophisticated search tools coupled with growing full-text digital archives make it newly possible to study the histories of linguistic forms. In so doing, Shore challenges a range of received metanarratives and complicates some of the most basic concepts of literary study. Touching on canonical works by Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and Kant, even as it takes the full diversity of digitized texts as its purview, Cyberformalism asks scholars of literature, history, and culture to revise nothing less than their understanding of the linguistic sign.

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Cyberformalism

Daniel Shore

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Reviews

Reviews

Shore's charge that we move from investigating discrete linguistic signs to combinatory linguistic forms is illuminating and will appeal to general readers as well as those specifically interested in digital humanities, English literary history, theology, grammar, and linguistics... Shore's scholarly range in this book is tremendous. He moves from contemporary digital technology to constructivist grammar to the niceties of seventeenth-century theology with ease, and so does the reader.

This is exciting work: Shore's process of discovery reads, in part, as detective fiction... The method outlined and the conclusions Shore draws are convincing: this is a smart piece of research which may be the first in a new generation of works in computational literary studies—works which are more humanized, and which foreground both the text and the reader.

An innovative work that substantially advances disciplinary conversation, both methodologically and through its specific historical insights, Cyberformalism is marked by its fundamental originality and magisterial treatment of a digital topic.

Cyberformalism brilliantly shows how recovering the history not of words but of linguistic structures—such as '[act] as if X' (which leads deep into the history of thinking about belief, action, and identity)—strikingly expands the possibilities of cultural analysis and gives us an exciting new discipline.

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About

Book Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgements
1. Linguistic Forms
2. Search
3. "Was It For This?" and the Study of Influence
4. Act As If and Useful Fictions
5. WWJD? and the History of Imitatio Christi
6. Milton’s Depictives

Preface
Acknowledgements
1. Linguistic Forms
2. Search
3. "Was It For This?" and the Study of Influence
4. Act As If and Useful Fictions
5. WWJD? and the History of Imitatio Christi
6. Milton’s Depictives and the History of Style
7. Shakespeare’s Constructicon
8. God is Dead, Long Live Philology
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Daniel Shore

Daniel Shore is the Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University. He is the author of Milton and the Art of Rhetoric.