Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/141

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
137
CHARACTERISTIC CURVES OF COMPOSITION.

Conversation' and Mill's 'Political Economy' as representatives of the opposite extremes of the chain of forms of composition just described, we have the following schematic types of word-curves (Fig. 2) characteristic not of any particular author, but of the form of composition employed.

Of course no one would expect anything more than an approximate conformation to these types in any specific case, for We have already stated that the form of composition into which an author casts his

PSM V65 D141 Schematic and actual word curves in compositions.png
Fig. 2. Schematic Word-curves representing, (A) 'Light Conversation,' (B) Classic Dramatic Prose, (C) Fiction, (D) Essay and Description, (E) Scientific and Philosophic Discourse. Fig. 3. Actual Word-curves, (A) Swift's 'Polite Conversation,' (B) Beaumont and Fletcher's Dramatic Works, (C) Dickens's 'Christmas Carol,' (D) Bacon's 'Essays' and 'New Atlantis' and 'Henry VII.,' (E) Mill's 'Political Economy.'

thought is but one of several possible factors affecting the word-curve. But Dr. Mendenhall's diagrams seem to show that it is the predominating factor. In Fig. 3 I have superimposed on one the other four of Mendenhall's diagrams, and to complete the series I have added the word-curve of Swift's 'Polite Conversation.' A more striking corroboration of our hypothesis could scarcely be expected from data intended to establish the theory of characteristic curves.

It may be pointed out in passing that our hypothesis explains several puzzling phenomena brought out in Dr. Mendenhall's investigations. It is now clear why none of the thousand word-graphs from Dickens's 'Oliver Twist' 'could by any possibility be mistaken' for any one of ten similar graphs from Mill's 'Political Economy,' why the 10,000 word-curve from Mill's 'Political Economy' varies very strikingly from a similar curve from his 'Essay on Liberty' (Fig. 4). It explains why the two word-curves of 10,000 words each, one from 'Oliver Twist,' the other from 'Vanity Fair,' agree so closely, fully as closely in fact as two different curves of 10,000 words each from Dickens himself (Fig. 5), an occurrence which Mendenhall remarked, 'must be largely the result of accident, and it would not be likely to repeat itself in another analysis.' Finally our hypothesis removes all