Edited by Tanja Säily, Arja Nurmi, Minna Palander-Collin and Anita Auer
[Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics 7] 2017
► pp. 53–82
Reading into the past
Materials and methods in historical semantics research
The Linguistic DNA project investigates concepts in early modern England and adopts a bottom-up approach to query whether the key concepts intuited by historians of ideas are manifested in the printed discourse of the time. By applying computational methods and close reading to Early English Books Online, we identify concepts that early moderns were discussing, developing and changing. In this article, we discuss the challenge of information retrieval and the negotiation between distant reading and close reading. We present three case studies informed by the project’s three research themes. Research theme 1 examines historical and social contexts of conceptual change. Research theme 2 analyses lexical semantic relationships within conceptual structures. Research theme 3 explores lexicalisation pressure, using categories from the Historical Thesaurus of English.