RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Data Mining: Martyrs (Sept 1)

After “revealing” the contents behind the Test Corpus dataset on Voyant, my eyes are immediately drawn to the cirrus.


Clearly, the most frequent word used in the corpus is said (312 times). Following, God (180), Christ (115), Time (105), Death (98), and Governor (95) are also prevalent, while words such as word (7), sacrifice(9), and endure(9) are small and not frequently included in the texts. Solely judging from the word bubble, one can determine that the texts are religious.



Word Trend_Said

Clicking said causes a Word Trend graph to appear. Specifically, the word said is most frequently used in “Scillitan.” Being Catholic, I recognize this as a reference to the Scillitan Martyrs. Simultaneously, this sheds light as to why said is the most used word throughout the dataset; martyrs translates to witnesses, and witnesses are always speaking.

Life vs. Death Word Trend


Playing with word trends, I plotted life and death against each other. Almost always, death is written more than life– with the exception of texts “Lyons-Vienne” and “Polycarp.” Looking further, In “Lyons-Vienne,” life is once used in this context:

“‘…being well pleased even to lay down his life in defense of the brethren. For he was and is a true disciple of Christ…’ Relevation 14:4″

Although life is used more frequently than death in this text, it is used to emphasize martyrdom.


Martyr Word Trend


I also found it interesting that despite the theme of the texts was Martyrs, the word martyr itself was not found in five out of the eleven texts. The Word Trend to the left displays the use of the word in “Ignatius,” where martyr was used the most, at a count of six times.


That being said, what I did not learn, or rather understand, was what exactly vocabulary density is and why words with notable peaks in frequency was important. On a separate note, I do not think that Voyant is a tool to closely interpret texts, rather it is most useful to compare texts, find prevalent topics, and filter through quotes for support on a large scale. All in all, using Voyant for the first time helped me understand how it is considered a breakthrough in Digital Humanities.


  1. a_colombo

    I like the insight you were able to get into the religious texts you examined. You delved into them a lot as far as Voyant’s capabilities go, and I thought the fact that “martyr” rarely showed up in the texts was particularly interesting, even though they were about martyrs. Your points in your conclusion are all spot-on – Voyant is definitely useful for comparing documents, but not so much for understanding them and their contexts.

  2. Dr. S

    Vocabulary density is a measure of how many different words there are in a text. The more unique words per total # of words, the higher the density. So “The bomb is the bomb” has a lower density than “The bomb is a boom.”

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