Published July 15, 2016 | Version v1
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Straight Talk! Automatic Recognition of Direct Speech in Nineteenth-­century French Novels


Slides and text for the paper "Straight Talk! Automatic Recognition of Direct Speech in Nineteenth-­century French Novels" at DH2016 in Krakow, Poland. 

Abstract: In fictional prose narrative such as novels and short stories, various forms of speech, thought, and writing representation are ubiquitous and have been studied in great detail in linguistics and literary studies. However, beyond quotation marks, what are linguistic markers of direct speech? And just how ubiquitous is direct speech really? Is there systematic variation in the amount of direct speech over time or across genres? Especially for the field of French literary history, where typography is not a reliable guide, we really don't know.
This is regrettable, because being able to quickly and automatically detect direct speech in large collections of literary narrative texts is highly desireable for many areas in literary studies. In the history of literary genres, this allows to observe distributions and evolutions of a fundamental, formal aspect of the novel on a large scale. In narratology, differentiating narrator from character speech is a precondition for more detailed analyses of narrator speech, e.g. with regard to text type (descriptive, narrative, argumentative text). And in authorship attribution, it hereby becomes possible to discard character speech from a set of novels and perform authorship attribution on the narrator speech only, something which may improve attribution.
Against this background, the work presented here addresses both the question of how to identify direct speech in French prose fiction and that of how prevalent direct speech is in different subgenres of the nineteenth-century French novel.




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