Journal Article

Alberti’s letter counts

Bernard Ycart

in Literary and Linguistic Computing

Published on behalf of EADH: The European Association for Digital Humanities

Volume 29, issue 2, pages 255-265
Published in print June 2014 | ISSN: 0268-1145
Published online June 2013 | e-ISSN: 1477-4615 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqt034
Alberti’s letter counts

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Four centuries before modern statistical linguistics was born, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72) compared the frequency of vowels in Latin poems and orations. Using a corpus of twenty Latin texts, Alberti’s observations are statistically assessed. Letter counts prove that poets used significantly more a’s, e’s, and y’s, whereas orators used more of the other vowels. The sample sizes needed to justify the assertions are studied, and proved to be within the reach of Alberti’s scholarship. Alberti appears to have made the first quantified observation of a stylistic difference ever, anticipating by more than four centuries the developments of stylometry and statistics.

Journal Article.  4616 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Computational Linguistics ; Language Teaching and Learning ; Bibliography ; Digital Lifestyle ; Information and Communication Technologies

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