Time Magazine Corpus: A site with a way with words

This website is pretty interesting and rather easy to use though it does have a more dated design. Time magazine partnered with English Corpra.org  to create a site that shows the frequency of words used in Time magazine articles that were released from 1923-2006. This site is one of many Corpa created including a Wikipedia corpus, a movie corpus, and a tv corpus.  There are 275,000 Time magazine articles uploaded onto the site, some of which can be downloaded onto your computer. This site is a useful tool that can show the evolution of the English language over time, with the growth of certain slang terms and some words that develop multiple meanings. The way to use the website is quite simple, you just type in a word, and press the “find matching strings” button, and then it opens up to a page with a table that shows how many times the word has been used in different decades, you can click onto the number under each decade and it opens a list of every time that Time magazine used the word in that era organized by date, with a part of the sentence that it appears in. By clicking on the date you can open up a bigger segment of the article so you can see the context of its use. Though there are links to the articles, unfortunately, these links don’t allow you to actually see the articles since most are no longer on Time magazine’s website. Another thing of note is that the website only allows first-time users about 10 searches before it requires you to create a profile so you can continue searching.

There are multiple ways to explore the site beyond just searching words. There are luckily some suggestions on the home page that allows you to do things such as compare words and there use in different eras, and explore the use of certain adjectives among other things. The kind of questions I thought of while using the site was how it could be used to explore the use of slang terms in print media throughout time. When did certain words become popular and for how long? I had a little trouble thinking of words and started to think about words that might be unique to different eras. One word I looked up was “rapper” which predictably did not really appear until the later 20th century, which is a reflection of the invention of hip hop and its growing popularity.

Other words like “negro” are more dated and eventually fall out of use. “Negro” was a word used frequently in the 20s-60s reaching its peak in the 60s with over 4,000 uses and then significantly drops to a measly 196 in the 70s and continued to drop into the 21st century. This seems to reflect significant changes within the country at large, such as the end of segregation and the Civil Rights movement Another word that reflects change is the word “apple” with infrequent use early on but after the 70s the word “apple” doubled in frequency because now it refers not only to the fruit but also the company. This website is a good way to see the way that language, and culture change throughout time, it also can be used to get a glimpse into what was considered significant to people in the past and can be a good way to see the way language is affected by history, however, it is not a very engaging site because of its simplistic platform and though it does allow for some insight it would be more beneficial if you could access articles without the need to download them. However, this is still a helpful website.


2 Replies to “Time Magazine Corpus: A site with a way with words”

  1. Jamie,

    Thanks for this review of the Time Magazine Corpus! While dated, the “idea” behind the project seems very much in line with Google NGram and, it some ways, seems to work BETTER because of its limited scope. Since this only deals with issues of Time Magazine, there are fewer issues of survey representation (since we know it all comes from Time) and thus, maybe trust the results to be a bit more accurate?

  2. Thanks for this comprehensive overview! I found your examples to be really helpful for understanding this “corpus.” They seemed to be questions crafted based on the digitized research, something Jockers called for. Do you see yourself using this for any research in the future?

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