Unlocking the Mystery That Is WordHoard

From my experience with learning how to use all of these digital humanities tools in Ullyot’s workshops, I found WordHoard to be one of the most straight-forward options. It has a simple interface and no extra flashy features.  While trying to come up with some sort of clever anecdote to start this blog post off with, I decided to take myself back to the actual WordHoard website to find more information about the tool.  One thing the site mentioned was what “WordHoard” actually means.  It turns out that the tool is named after an Old English phrase for “unlocked”.  I thought this was an extremely fitting name for the tool seeing as it almost feels like an intricate maze that needs the correct key to “unlock” answers in order to use it effectively.  Knowing how to correctly submit queries is like the “key” to the treasure.   Without the right knowledge of how to operate the tool, WordHoard can seem like a mysterious abyss filled with unreachable answers.

If you have a specific idea for something you want to find, Word Hoard allows you to fill in all of the criteria and run a search through any body of Shakespeare’s work (or the work of Chaucer, Spenser, and Early Greek Epic) to find an answer. This is a great asset to the tool because you have every text in its entirety right there in front of you to use if you need, without having to import any texts of your own.  All of the textual data stored in WordHoard is deeply tagged, allowing for people to explore their queries thoroughly. But the searches unfortunately don’t always come up with good results, and sometimes you end up with no results at all. You have to play around with the criteria until you can find something close to what you were looking for, and this can be limiting for the user if they cannot figure out how to properly enter their query.   The annoying thing about fiddling around with the query is that you have to restart every single time; you can’t just edit one part of it. For example, I tried to search for the amount of times Hamlet spoke about “love” in Act 3 Scene 4.  I wanted to see the amount of times he used it as a noun versus a verb.  So I entered the first query to look like this, selected “noun” first:

But my original search window disappears as soon as I click the “Find” button to give me the results, pictured below:

So in order to go back and see how many times Hamlet spoke of love as a verb in Act 3 Scene 4, I’d have to fill out the entire query again but this time selecting “verb”.  This tends to be very inconvenient if you’re trying to find answers quickly.

The interface of WordHoard includes a lot of drop down menus, which can lead you to exactly what you are looking for in a text query.  The one issue I find with the drop down menus is that there are just too many of them.  If I didn’t click on a certain menu, then I wouldn’t be led to numerous other options branching off of that one.  This is where the “mysterious abyss” description comes into play.  There are just so many ways to submit a query on WordHoard that it is difficult to know which ones to use and how to find them amongst the other options.  See the image below for an example of the numerous options WordHoard offers.  One can continuously click the “+/-“ buttons on the left hand side of the window and bring up more and more options, all of which have their own drop down menus to select from.  This can be very overwhelming for users to grasp if they are not already knowledgeable with the tool.

As you can see in the image above, the “Find Words” function allows you to submit a query on any word in Shakespeare’s texts.  You can select everything from the lemma down to the parts of speech, spelling, major word class, which specific work, the part of a specific work, author, publication year, narration or speech, speaker, speaker gender, prose or verse, or speaker mortality.

All in all, WordHoard has a lot of potential to be a very useful and effective tool when studying something such as Hamlet.  This important thing to remember about the tool is that you need to have a really good feel for its numerous menus and options so that you can effectively find the best answers possible for the queries you submit.  Otherwise, you will be wasting time restarting your query every time you want to fix one part of your search, which could prove to be a little frustrating!  In my opinion, it’s practice makes perfect with WordHoard.  The more you use it, the better results you will receive.



4 thoughts on “Unlocking the Mystery That Is WordHoard

  1. Hi,
    I figured, to start with, I may as well comment on my own tool and group member 🙂

    So firstly, one thing I wanted to talk about was the definition of ‘wordhoard’. I don’t know if its relevant really, but it was sort of bugging me and I noticed you attempted to put it in your post as well. I also saw on the website how they said it was an Old-English term for ‘unlocked’, but to me, that didn’t quite make sense. Hence why I searched for another meaning and put that in my own post. The website for WordHoard says, like you included,

    “The WordHoard project is named after an Old English phrase for the verbal treasure ‘unlocked’ by a wise speaker”.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but I found this extremely confusing, and its the first sentence of their website, which doesn’t really make things any better if we are to read on…. I decided, after looking at your post, to try and search for what this ‘Word Hoard’ means and what ‘unlocked’ really means. And so, after a (somewhat) quick search of the internet, I found out some things which make that confusing ‘unlocked’ a little more clear.

    According to this website for definitions: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/word-hoard , Word-hoard is, “The sum of words one uses or understands; a vocabulary”. This makes sense, I think, and if I am not mistaken, this is the ‘modern’ usage of the term; on my own post for the definition it said ‘A supply of words’, I guess this is meaning the same thing.

    But still, this is not really the meaning in which the website for WordHoard states. So then, I ask myself again, what is this ‘unlocked’ that comes from Old-English? And what does it mean?

    Perhaps I am going too far into this, but again, it was slightly bugging me.

    So, I found out from here: http://nicedefinition.com/Definition/Word/wordhoard/wordhoard.aspx (I found it is somewhat hard to search on the internet for the definition of ‘Word Hoard’; one example: ‘do you mean “the word: Hoard?”‘ ‘no no, I mean “Word Hoard!”‘). Anyways, the site tells us something different and that ‘Word hoard means ‘a treasury of words’. I think this could be relevant to the original statement of ‘unlocked’, with the treasure and all, but again, its not that clear to me.

    And then, I found out from the previous site, which eventually lead me here: http://glosbe.com/ang/en/wordhord
    So I found from here that Word Hoard in old-English could be possibly be spelled differently. I wasn’t sure, but then suddenly this seemed a reasonable thing; of course it would be spelled differently….
    So now I found out it’s not ‘Word-Hoard’, but ‘Wordhord’. Huh. Apparently, this site just translates though from old-English to English, and so it says: (poetic) treasure of words, Word-Hoard. Again, the same thing.

    Then, after all this searching, I found my answer was right in front of me all along. Suddenly! It appeared that I didn’t even need to go round for different websites to discover that it was spelled ‘wordhord’, and it was right on the first site I looked at… oh well though. Anyways, that was when I found a simple site which (hopefully) explains it all… (why didn’t I find this first…)

    “Speakers of Old English referred to the words they knew as their “wordhord.” In OE poetry, a common expression meaning “He spoke” is “He unlocked his wordhord.” Those linguistic ancestors of ours saw vocabulary for the treasure that it is.”

    Now, I think, this makes it much more clear what the ‘unlocked’ means, and what the original statement on the WordHoard site means. Also, now all those other definitions make sense when they say ‘treasure’ or ‘poetic’.

    So I think you got it right when you said WordHoard (the tool) is like the ‘key’ to the ‘treasure’, as funny as it is. To me, at first it didn’t make sense, but now I can see a little clearer… but also I don’t really want to think of ‘words’ or ‘hords’ for a long while now too…. I hope this comment helped you, as much as it did for me about the ‘unlocking’ and the meaning of ‘wordhoard’. I don’t know if all this searching was really needed, but it helped me understand some things in which I didn’t know before….

    I guess, for some last actual relevance to your post and the tool, I will say lastly, what do you think WordHoard is most useful for? Searching, or comparing, or?

  2. Dayna:

    I like how you and your group looked up the meaning behind “wordhoard”. It made me curious as to what my tool, Voyeur/Voyant, means. I came up with an observer, seer, nosy, busy body, and even peeping tom. Hilarious!

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