Abby Cothran

The language used in the State of the Union address is very different than the English that one speaks on a regular basis. This is for a multitude of reasons—first of all, presidents tend to be extremely educated so they discuss subjects and use vocabulary that might not be in one’s everyday vernacular or discussion they carry out. Their State of the Union addresses are specific in message: they talk directly to the American people and about subjects that are relevant at that time and to their presidency. They promote their own ideas and plans for future change and discuss other issues affecting the country at the time in which they deliver their speeches. Of course the words that they use are different than the most common used words in the English language because they are specific in nature and are meant to address certain topics that one does not discuss on a day-to-day basis, generally.

There were several things that Antconc revealed to me about State of the Union addresses that were both expected and unexpected to me. Emphasis on words pertaining to the American government (i.e. congress, America, citizens, government, national, peace, etc.) was unsurprising to be very commonly used words in such speeches. Words to bring people together like “we” and “union” for example are also unsurprising as presidents want to bring the country together and want to appeal to as many people as possible in their speeches while still taking stances on what they believe in and what their plans are for actions. Overall, I would say I was generally unsurprised by the most common used words in the State of the Union word list on Antconc. In this lab, we were told to focus on the word “future.” I was told to focus on 1951-2000 speeches, and the frequency of the word was 317.The most frequent bigrams shown on the left in this program was “future of,” used 22 times, “future is,” used 11 times, and “future generations,” used 10 times. On the right, the most frequent bigrams were “the future,” used 144 times, “our future,” used 35 times, and “for future,” used 14 times. This showed the emphasis placed on things happening in the future, and to future American citizens, rather than what was occurring at that moment in America. I would be interested to see how the most commonly used words in my subset, such as future, matched up with those from previous speeches. I think this could be a really interesting way of examining changing values and ideals of American people and could be a real advantage of using Antconc—not just for political reasons but for social reasons too. One may be able to find out about new trends and the changing interests of Americans by using programs such as Antconc. It is a really neat program that allows you to be able to examine key points in certain bodies of texts and could be very useful for gathering data and coming to conclusion about what this means politically and socially.

For its numerous benefits, there is no doubt that Antconc poses certain challenges to researches, as well. Some data could possibly be misleading or lead researchers to make over generalizations that don’t hold true in the grand scheme of things. It can also be a pretty complicated system to use and took a while to figure out how to fully operate the system. With that being said, once you are able to operate Antconc eventually, there would really be no real alternative as it would be the quickest and easiest way to analyze textual data in this form.

3 expected words in sotu than in regular English:

people (33), congress (36), America (41)

1 unexpected word: I

I’ve inserted screenshots from my computer of the work I did using Antconc.

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