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Fun with the Ngram Viewer

Posted on Friday, December 17, 2010 in Online Resources

I just found the new Ngram Viewer from Google Labs. This new tool allows for searches of specific words in Google Books and displays them as a graph. Playing around with some conlang-related terms, I found:

  • Poor conlang doesn’t even register.
  • Esperanto shows a peak around the 1930s.
  • Klingon peaks in 2001.
  • Volapuk (yes, sans umlaut) had it’s highest occurrence between 1880 and 2008 in 1898, with a steady decline since then.

One has to remember that two words typed in the search box without quotes can occur across sentence boundaries as well as in contexts other than the one intended. I tried the phrase constructed language and while it does have a number of occurrences pertaining to our favorite craft, it also has occurrences like “Certainly every science should seek for a well constructed language ; but it were to take the effect for the cause, to suppose that there are well established sciences, because there are well formed languages” (Elements of Psychology, 1834).

In any case, it’s an interesting tool and just plain fun to play around with.

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