On the evolution of word usage of classical Chinese poetry

by   Liang Liu, et al.

The hierarchy of classical Chinese poetry has been broadly acknowledged by a number of studies in Chinese literature. However, quantitative investigations about the evolution of classical Chinese poetry are limited. The primary goal of this study is to provide quantitative evidence of the evolutionary linkages, with emphasis on word usage, among different period genres for classical Chinese poetry. Specifically, various statistical analyses were performed to find and compare the patterns of word usage in the poems of nine period genres, including shi jing, chu ci, Han shi , Jin shi, Tang shi, Song shi, Yuan shi, Ming shi, and Qing shi. The result of analysis indicates that each of nine period genres has unique patterns of word usage, with some Chinese characters being preferably used by the poems of a particular period genre. The analysis on the general pattern of word preference implies a decreasing trend in the use of ancient Chinese characters along the timeline of dynastic types of classical Chinese poetry. The phylogenetic analysis based on the distance matrix suggests that the evolution of different types of classical Chinese poetry is congruent with their chronological order, suggesting that word frequencies contain useful phylogenetic information and thus can be used to infer evolutionary linkages among various types of classical Chinese poetry. The statistical analyses conducted in this study can be applied to the data sets of general Chinese literature. Such analyses can provide quantitative insights about the evolution of general Chinese literature.


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