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Keywords and characters: Desdemona in Othello

Watch Jonathan Culpeper explain, focusing on Desdemona, how keywords can identify the ways in which character is constructed linguistically.

This video-talk, though voiced by Jonathan Culpeper, incorporates the words of Sean Murphy.

As you already know, a statistically-derived keyword is more than the most frequent words. Here, we focus on the character Desdemona in Othello.

A simple list of the most frequent words in Desdemona’s talk does, in fact, reveal something of interest, notably, a preference for first person pronouns (“I” and “my”), perhaps reflecting a self-focus. However, a keyword analysis reveals more by way of detail. It confirms that the first person pronouns are important, as they are also keywords, but reveals other patterns too, for example, that Desdemona has a tendency to express polite deference.

This analysis of Desdemona sets the scene for what we will do more comprehensively in the following video-talk. You will, of course, have opportunities to do this kind of analysis for yourselves (once you have had guidance from Andrew Hardie on how to do it using CQPweb). For now, if you have any reactions or concerns, put them in the comments.

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