(Above: According to Chronicle, the word “Rex” peaked a century ago. Oh well.)
The New York Times has opened to the public a graphing tool called Chronicle, an N-gram viewer that generates a timeline chart of the usage of a word or phrase appearing in the New York Times during the past 162 years.
The tool is very similar to Google’s Ngram Viewer a graphing tool that generates a timeline of words or phrases appearing in books scanned into the database of Google Books.
Alexis Lloyd, Chronicle’s creator, explains it in this blog post.
Two years ago, I created Chronicle, a tool for graphing the usage of words and phrases in New York Times reporting. Inspired by my own love of language and history, it’s a fascinating way to see historical events, political shifts, cultural trends or stylistic tropes. Chronicle can reveal things like the rise of feminism, evolution of cultural bêtes noires or when we shifted from talking about the “greenhouse effect” to talking about “climate change”. The Times’ corpus is particularly interesting as a reflection of culture because our style guide carefully informs how our reporters use language to describe the world, which allows us to see those changes more clearly than if we were looking at a heterogenous archive of text. More broadly, Chronicle acts as another example of “semantic listening” approaches we have been researching in the lab — methods for extracting useful semantic signals from streams as diverse as conversations, web browsing history, or in this case, a historic corpus of news coverage.
Try it out here.
Tip: You can generate comparative timelines with a URL that has dots (.) between the search terms, like this: http://chronicle.nytlabs.com/?keyword=red.blue.white