Word frequency and what it all means

I am currently reading (or, more accurately, utterly absorbed by) Italo Calvino’s if on a winter’s night a traveller. I have just got to the bit where the discussion turns to frequency of appearance of words in certain types or genres of books and what that all means. So, for fun, I decided to test this on the Beast, also known as, my MA thesis.

I found some software on the Internet that analyses word frequency. So I pasted in the Beast.

One of the best books ever

Here is a summary of some of the results (I have wielded out the most boring and predictable words, such as ‘a’, ‘the’ and ‘of’):

The twelfth most frequently occurring word is: ‘objects’ – 184 times (1.1165% of the text).

This is closely followed, at thirteen, by ‘things’ – 159 times (0.95% of the text).

Then there is a steam of boring words before we get to number 25 – ‘life’ which appears 88 times at 0.53% of the text, and at number 26 is ‘still’ at 85 times and 0.151% of the text. This of course begs the question why were there three lives without a still in a thesis about still life?

At number 28 we see the word ‘art’ with 74 appearances and 0.44% of the text. That is shockingly low.

After that, the most notable are ‘virtual’ at 64 occurrences, space at 59, ‘reality’, ‘idea’ and ‘one’ tie at 38 occurrences. I see that ‘power’ and ‘people’ both appear 29 times, and ‘exist’, ‘relationship’, and ‘self’ 28 times each. ‘Artist’ is there 23 times, yet ‘cyberspace’ 21 times. I ‘argued’ 14 times (that sounds about right for me) and only ‘explained’ once. Something must have been quite ‘baffling’ to me about things and still life art, but only just the once. 

Some of the words in the thesis

And, very curiously, the word ‘spaceship’ appeared once too. I don’t remember discussing spaceships.



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