Technology with attitude

Google Books Grant to Fund Research on Swedish, Danish and Norwegian texts


Peter Leonard of University of Washington
Peter Leonard of University of Washington. Photo: UW / Mary Levin
Google recently gave a $45,000 grant to UCLA professor Tim Tangherlini and Peter Leonard, a doctoral student in Scandinavian studies at the University of Washington, to create tools for analyzing full-text books in the Google Books archive. According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, the grant is part of nearly $1 million Google has committed to support digital humanities research over the next two years. Their research will focus on 160,000 Swedish, Danish and Norwegian texts in the Google Books collection.

Leonard told Seattle Times book editor, Mary Anne Gwinn:

“We might ask: What kinds of adjectives were used near female characters in 19th-century novels?” says Leonard. “What words were used to describe nature? You might be able to find interesting things about how people talked about the city, or the country. You can do this only if you have computers that can count the words and do mathematical calculations.” Once the relevant books are identified, they can be read intensively for more clues.

The project, Northern Insights: Tools & Techniques for Automated Literary Analysis, Based on the Scandinavian Corpus in Google Books, is a collaboration between dissertator Peter Leonard and Tangherlini, Professor and Chair of the Scandinavian Section at UCLA. Tangherlini’s existing work on the Danish folklore collections of Evald Tang Kristensen will provide a model for the advanced electronic text analysis to be used in the project.

Read more in the Seattle Times article.