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From Keyness to Distinctiveness. Triangu­lation and Evaluation in Computational Literary Studies

Schröter, Julian; Du, Keli; Dudar, Julia; Rok, Cora; Schöch, Christof

There is a set of statistical measures developed mostly in corpus and computational linguistics and information retrieval, known as keyness measures, which are generally expected to detect textual features that account for differences between two texts or groups of texts. These measures are based on the frequency, distribution, or dispersion of words (or other features). Searching for relevant differences or similarities between two text groups is also an activity that is characteristic of traditional literary studies, whenever two authors, two periods in the work of one author, two historical periods or two literary genres are to be compared. Therefore, applying quantitative procedures in order to search for differences seems to be promising in the field of computational literary studies as it allows to analyze large corpora and to base historical hypotheses on differences between authors, genres and periods on larger empirical evidence. However, applying quantitative procedures in order to answer questions relevant to literary studies in many cases raises methodological problems, which have been discussed on a more general level in the context of integrating or triangulating quantitative and qualitative methods in mixed methods research of the social sciences. This paper aims to solve these methodological issues concretely for the concept of distinctiveness and thus to lay the methodological foundation permitting to operationalize quantitative procedures in order to use them not only as rough exploratory tools, but in a hermeneutically meaningful way for research in literary studies.

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