Large-scale quantitative profiling of the Old English verse tradition

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The corpus of Old English (OE) verse is an indispensable source for scholars of the Indo-European tradition, early Germanic culture, and English literary history. Although the focus of sustained literary scholarship for over two centuries, OE poetry has not been subjected to corpus-wide computational profiling, in part because of the sparseness and extreme fragmentation of the surviving material. Here we report a detailed quantitative analysis of the whole corpus that considers a broad range of features reflective of sound, meter, and diction. This integrated examination of fine-grained features enabled us to identify salient stylistic patterns despite the inherent limitations of the corpus. In particular, we provide quantitative evidence in support of the unitary authorship of Beowulf and the Cynewulfian authorship of Andreas, shedding new light on two longstanding questions in OE philology. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of high-dimensional stylometric profiling for fragmentary literary traditions and lay the foundation for future studies of the cultural evolution of English literature


Neidorf, L., M. S. Krieger, M. Yakubek, P. Chaudhuri, and J. P. Dexter (2018). Large- scale quantitative profiling of the Old English verse tradition. Nature Human Behaviour (in press)