LDNA – Towards a Decomposition of Language



In the Digital Humanities, there is a fast-growing body of research that uses data visualization to explore the structures of language. While new techniques are proliferating they still fall short of offering whole language experimentation by the literary critic. We characterize this domain-specific task, highlighting the challenges faced by the literary critic in the humanities, such as those that stem from a structuralist approach to literature. We provide a mathematical technique that maps words and symbols to ordered unique numerical values, showing that this mapping is one-to-one and onto. We demonstrate this technique through linear, planar, and volumetric visualizations of data sets as large as the Oxford English Dictionary and as small as a poem. The visualizations of this space have been designed to engage the viewer in the analogic practice of comparison already in use by literary critics but on a scale inaccessible by other means. We studied our visualization with expert participants from many fields including, english, visualization, design, and computer graphics. We present our findings from this study and discuss both the criticisms and validations of our approach.

(forthcoming in Digital Humanities Quarterly)


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