A Gentle Introduction to NLP

I’m giving a workshop at the University of Calgary’s Language Research Centre on the 16th of November 2018 (Craigie Hall D420, 9-10:30 am). Here’s the abstract:

A Gentle Introduction to Natural Language Processing

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is less intimidating than its name suggests. It’s just using a computer to process texts written in ‘natural’ (i.e. non-computer) languages like English, Estonian, or Esperanto. It slices those texts into lists of words, and then it does things with those words: counting, sorting, categorizing, comparing, transforming, substituting, and visualizing them. (Here’s my introduction and tutorial on some of these basic functions.) NLP is behind every phrase you Google, and every query you pose to Siri or Alexa; but what concerns us in this workshop is its potential for language research. You’ll learn how to collect and process texts, and how to run algorithms that quantify your qualitative inquiries. A case study will be my work detecting rhetorical figures like chiasmus in Shakespeare (“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”). To benefit from this workshop you need no programming experience, only a willingness to treat texts as data.

Get with the Programming

(This continues my previous post on this research project, about my questions and initial steps.)

This week I’m away to the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference to deliver a paper on rhetorical figures in early modern drama. (Wait! Don’t stop reading, it gets better.) I feel like a legit digital humanist for the first time in my life, because I’ve written my own computer program to analyze texts – a bash script in Unix that you can try for yourself on Github.

Okay, so my program just prepares my text files to run a far more complex program by Marie Dubremetz at Uppsala University (chiasmusDetector), but getting it to run on my files took some work.

Continue reading “Get with the Programming”