Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Google Books Ngram Viewer

Google Books NGram Viewer was launched last week. This tool allows you to search though Google’s corpus of books to see how frequently certain words or phrases appear during a specified time period. The results are displayed graphically and allow you to compare a few different words and phrases. For example: I entered: LP record (blue), compact disc (red), and iPod (green) between the years 1950 and 2008 from the corpus of English Fiction, and this result was returned:

Then I compared the mainly obsolete legal term demurrer (blue) with its replacement, motion to dismiss (for failure to state a claim) (red) between the years 1900 and 2008 from the corpus of American English. I received the following result:

I'm sure the possibilities of this are endless. Of course there are always caveats to a tool like this, such as different meanings for the same word and that pesky medial s (that is sometimes mistaken for an "f"). Nonetheless, it is amusing.

To try it go to: http://www.ngrams.googlelabs.com/
For more information on the Ngram Viewer go to: http://www.ngrams.googlelabs.com/info.