Recently, I came across CorpBlawg, a blog maintained by Cornelius Puschmann, which seeks to explore the linguistic aspects of corporate blogging. On reading his blog, I realized that this is the first time I thought about blogging “genres” – a word which is typically associated with movies. So far, I have thought more in terms of “blog types”, “blog audience”, etc. Of course, there have always been blogs handling different issues like politics, culture, technology, etc. But I think the “genre” concept is more interesting as it talks about a style of writing blogs.
In his recent post “Visualizing blog language data“, Cornelius used the concept of an “f-score” that parses the content of a blog and derives a value based on the count of which part of speech (noun, adjective, verb, etc.) a word belongs to. Among other things, the f-score attempts to understanding the quality of formality, information, involvement and content-dependency of the content matter. He has analyzed a huge collection of public blogs, including several newspapers, popular bloggers and corporate executives so that he can do better comparison. On request, he was very kind to analyze my blog and post the contents at Many Eyes.
I am very fascinated by the analysis done. As I mentioned to Cornelius, a trivial analysis of the visualization would be that the more frequently a person posts, the lower the f-score. Since time is fixed, one has to sacrifice content for frequency. However, as Cornelius points out, this is not necessarily true. A person may have a more conversational style that results in less nouns and adjectives been thrown out.
For example, I could say one of the following things:
- “I think this is easy.“
- “The complexity of the task is relatively minor.“
Both say the same thing, but the latter has more adjectives and nouns. Corporate blogging may tend towards the latter because executives are often involved in legal matters, marketing and public relations, which is often very rehearsed and involves use of sophisticated and grandiloquent language. The more one is exposed (in the best possible sense of the word) to such environments, the more one’s own conversational style changes.
Another aspect of language is that sometimes to express the exact meaning, you have to use obscure nouns and to express a nuance, you have to use adjectives that people don’t use in day-to-day language. For example, “laugh” could mean so many things, but “laughing smile”, “giggling laugh”, “smirking laugh”, etc. all express different emotions.
The complexity of language exists not because some people are pretentious and want to sound different (maybe they do), but because life and people’s behavior is essentially complicated and has different levels of subtle variations.
I am looking forward to more of Cornelius’s research. Good luck to him.