Chapter 6

The Results

6.1    Pronoun Counts

One of the problems inherent in a study of this type is to determine what use can be made of the computer in the analysis of some of the more intangible aspects of the text. One such area of interest in The Waves is the thoughts of the group members about themselves, about each other, and about the group as a whole. How can their speech aid us in analyzing these matters? To discuss oneself, or one's relationship with others, requires the use of certain words, chief among them pronouns. It is hard to talk about oneself without using one's name or the words 'I', 'my' and 'me'. 'You' is unavoidable when talking to someone or contemplating them from a distance. Discussion of a group when one is a member of that group requires the use of 'we' and 'us'.

It follows from this that any character in a text who engages in larger than normal amounts of introspection, interaction with another, or identification with a group, will probably produce higher than normal frequencies of first person singular, second person singular and plural, and first person plural pronouns. This does not necessarily mean that high frequencies of the pronouns imply the activities associated with them here - there might well be other factors completely unrelated to the activities that could account equally satisfactorily for the pronoun usage. However, in the absence of any strong evidence to the contrary, regular patterns of pronoun use, both by different characters and across time, would tend to support the view that usage correlates with activity. If this is true, then examining a character's usage of personal pronouns with the aid of the computer can provide us with valuable information about their thoughts and actions, and will also enable us to quantify the use of these pronouns in the text.

With this in mind a careful study was made of the way the six characters use certain pronouns. In line with the suggestions made above, the pronouns selected for study were the first and second person pronouns, both singular and plural. Not only the subject forms were examined, but also the object and possessive forms. The words thus required to be noted were I, my, and me ; we, our and us ; and you and your. (Note that for you the singular and plural and subject and object forms are homographs. The program used for this study was only able to differentiate items at the level of their graphic form, and these homographs were therefore not separable). The frequencies of pronoun usage for all the pronouns were examined, and were plotted for all the characters in all the chapters from lists produced by the computer 84 .

The frequencies in all cases are relative to the particular character's total usage of language in the particular chapter. That is, the count for the word is divided by the total number of words used by the character in that chapter, not in the whole book. The results of these studies are plotted in figures 1 - 18. For each of these graphs, the vertical axis shows the frequency of occurrence of each word. This usually runs from 0.00 to 0.05% in the case of the first person singular, 0.00 to 0.02% in the case of the second person, and from 0.00 to 0.03% in the case of the first person plural.

To provide a reference point for this measure, a word that was used on average once every ten words would have a frequency of 0.1. This means that a frequency of 0.05 translates to five times in every hundred. The horizontal axis shows the chapters, for each chapter in which the character speaks. Figures 1 - 6 show use of the first person, singular pronouns I, my and me for Bernard, Louis, Neville, Jinny, Rhoda, and Susan in that order. Note that not all characters speak in all the chapters.In these cases, the frequencies are given as 0.

Figure 1: Bernard's use of First Person Singular Figure 2: Louis' use of First Person Singular Figure 3: Neville's use of First Person Singular
Figure 4: Jinny's use of First Person Singular Figure 5: Rhoda's use of First Person Singular Figure 6: Susan's use of First Person Singular

Figures 7 - 12 deal with the characters' use of the first person plural pronouns we, our and us in the same order.

[ Skip to Next Chapter ] [ Table of Contents ] [ E-mail Author ]

©Andrew Treloar, 2015. W: E:

Last modified: Monday, 04-Sep-2017 16:30:46 AEST