Practical use of Cirrus in Voyant Tools

What is Cirrus and what purpose does it have in Voyant tools? It is best explained by the Voyant tools documentation on “Cirrus is a word cloud displaying the frequency of words appearing in a corpus. Words occurring more frequently appear larger”.

For the purpose of showing the practical use of Cirrus in Voyant tools I have chosen the literary master piece ‘Iliad’, supposedly written by the blind poet Homer. Since the first time I read (around the age of 9) it, I was amazed by the age of this work, the war between Greeks and Trojans and my favorite hero Achilles. Let’s see if Voyant Tools can give me some new view on the theme of this work.

After uploading the text of the ‘Iliad’ into Voyant Tools first thing that catches our eyes is Cirrus (one big word cloud). In the centre of the word cloud we can see one big ‘’â’. 

By pointing over this letter with the courser we can see the number 1124. This is the number of times that the letter ‘â’ appears in the text.. Since ‘â’ is not revelent for my interest we can remove it by clicking on the “Define options for this tool” and ad ‘â’ to the list of irrelevant words and letters (I will do same with “a”).

Now we can see that the most frequent words are “son” (369); “Greeks” (313); “spake” (247); “men” (229); “Hector” (199).

This was a really big surprise for me! My favorite hero Achilles was not in the cloud! Was not this book about him and his deeds? In the upper left corner I clicked on “Terms” determined to find “Achilles”. And there he was. After typing “Achilles” in the field below the list of words and there frequency of occurance in the text I saw that he ended up on the 42.

place, below my second favorite hero of the story “Ajax”. Sadly “Links” did not work on the word “Achilles” so I was not able to figure out with what words “Achilles” co-occurred most often so I could perhaps understand why my favorite hero was not mentioned as often as I remembered when I read the ‘Iliad‘ as a kid.

Voyant and the Cirrus made me think that this story was not about my favorite hero, but about the relationship between fathers and the sons. Maybe “Hector” is the real hero of my favorite novel.


Voyant Exploration of an Academic Writing

 Zhang Bei

I chose an English paper from The International Journal for Translation and Interpreting research. The paper is entitled “Towards understanding interpreter trainees’ (de)motivation: An exploratory study”, and this study is about profiling interpreter trainees’(de)motivation and examining the correlation of (de)motivation factors in a Chinese context. As this paper will be one of the references in my postgraduate thesis, I find it both interesting and useful to be explored by Voyant Tools.

I first transformed the file format from pdf to text and then deleted footnote, page footer and information about the author and the journal in the text. In this way, I will have a more content-focused text without interferences of irrelevant words to the Voyant Tool revelation and I saved this text as “1. Full text”. After I uploaded the file and clicked “reveal”, I found five most frequently used words—“motivation”, “trainees”, “interpreting”, “interpreter”, “self” and these words show up respectively for 106, 97, 76, 75 and 50 times.

Compared with the keywords in the paper, these five most frequent words are not so revealing. The keywords in the paper can immediately make me understand what the paper is about while the most frequent words counted by Voyant are a little confusing and redundant. Because “self” does not associate readers with anything about the topic of the paper unless they know “self” is one of internal motivators. And “trainees” and “interpreter” overlap a bit in their meanings. Hence this finding reminds me that keywords do not equal to the most frequent words in academic writings.

An interesting thing is that “(De)motivation”, “(de)motivators”, “(de)motivate” show up 20 times in total. However, I did not find these three words at the “Terms” on the top left column on Voyant interface. I think it is because Voyant cannot distinguish compound words with parentheses and automatically regard the “de” within the parentheses as one word and the “motivation” as one word. That means Voyant will automatically ignore words in the parenthesis. Although I did see terms like “demotivation” and “demotivator” which appear for 40 and 7 times separately as counted by Voyant “Terms”. But it’s because these two words are written like such (namely, without parenthesis) in the text. And I used “search” function on the adobe acrobat 9 Pro to search and counted the two words and the results proved my thought.

I also checked the “Correlation” on the right bottom of the Voyant interface. And I found although those terms are highly correlated, they do not represent anything because these words are just statistically correlated but not meaningfully.

In conclusion, I read all the tutorials on Voyant tools and tried all the tools on different panels at the Voyant interface. I also made adjustments to the text by cutting it into several new files according to its sections. This way allowed me to learn more specifically about how the author composed different sections and integrated these sections into one paper. (Due to words limit, I will not discuss those findings.)  Every time I adjusted the file, the revelation on Voyant would change. I found it interesting but in the meantime I think convenient as Voyant is, it is still just a tool. Users should not completely believe the statistical results and try all means to interpret those results which would sometimes lead to far-fetching explanations. After all, words sometimes do not mean their literal meanings because sometimes authors say something while means another, especially in literature. Therefore, it is better to interpret Voyant revelations with a grain of salt.



Sinclar, S. & G. Rockwell. (2018). Voyant Tools. Retrieved Febuary 11, 2018, from http://voyant-tools. org.

Sinclar, S. & G. Rockwell. (2018). Voyant Tools. Retrieved Febuary 11, 2018, from,reader,trends,summary,contexts.

Wu, Z. (2016). Towards understanding interpreter trainee’s (de)motivation: An explanatory study. The international journal for translation and interpreting research. 8(2): 13-25.

analyzing a word-cloud

I have run the text “Text und Werk – zwei Begriffe auf dem Prüfstand” written by Johnny Kondrup, translated from Danish by Frederik Moche and published in Internationales Jahrbuch für Editionswissenschaft, 01/2013, Vol. 27(1), pp. 1-14 – through the digital online-tool “Voyant Tools”. Although short, the text, analyzing the word-cloud shows somehow a couple of remarkable things, which help when reading the article for the first time.
I’m pretty sure that martens (with 19 hits), shillingsburg (15), reusz (15), duriez (11) are names of researchers upon whom Kondrup bases his argumentation, and would for sure start in the reference-list looking for the probably four titles (perhaps 3 if shillingsburg writes together with reusz) and from these titles also build an impression of the context of Kondrups article.
Further on the words lediglich (12 hits), mehr (11) and etwa (11) tell me both that Kondrup (probably) tries to be balanced – lediglich (eng. although) indicates that he’s doing pro et contra – and that he are weighing either arguments, views or utterings against each other, graduating them – mehr (eng. more) – and etwa (eng. like) – tell that he for certain are doing humanistics, and that sort where a high niveau of precicion have to be counterbalanced by this kind of unprecise word in order not to say too much.
One distinction, whose precise definition I would look out for and anticipating when reading the text would be realtext – idealtext (resp. 19 hits and 10).
What my results don’t show are first and foremost the line of argumentation or any conclusion. I have no clue of the structure of the text/article. The title coincides with the major hits (text and werk), it only tells me that he sticks to his them, what’s no surprise.
When startin the close-reading – the text is divided in 28 numbered paragraphs, so no headings are visible before Abstract show up in the end – I quite quicly discover the expected reflection over realtext and idealtext. The ideal-text is a platonic idea, who only by increased grades of similarity never can be reaches… and a real-text is also in a way immaterial… So this distinciton turns out to be rahter philosophical.
I jump to the abstract and am surprised by being told about the connection between critical editing and literary criticism … by second thought it’s not surprising at all, it only didn’t show up at the analysis of the word-cloud. The abstract furthermore sum up the termes real- and ideal- text: ” With regard to the term ‘text’, the concept is separated into the ‘ideal text’, the ‘real text’, and the ‘material text’ – which are again distinguished from the ‘document’.” (p.14).

Dementia causes lexical decline

The Research-text “Longitudinal detection of dementia through lexical and syntactic changes in writing: a case study of three British novelists”, written by the Canadian researchers Xuan Le, Ian Lancashire, Graeme Hirst and Regina Jokel and published in “Literary and Linguistic Computing, Volume 26, Issue 4, 1 December 2011, Pages 435–461” (available at:, argues on the basis of “a large-scale longitudinal study of lexical and syntactic changes in language in Alzheimer’s disease” (Abstract) run on three famous english writers, both healthy and affected, that their “results support [their] hypothesis that signs of dementia can be found in diachronic analyses of patients’ writings” (6 Conclusion). Both Iris Murdoch’s and Agatha Christie’s late writings show “a strong linguistic decline” with regard to grammatical variation or flexibility, while P.D. James’ don’t. The results are though slightly contraticted in some minor fields, and other minor fields brings a slight confusion into the results. The outcome of these discrepancies are, that the researchers are permitted to conclude, that the affected’s lexical patterns show a stronger decline than do their syntactical patterns.

Commenting on the study, I haven’t enough knowledge to match their Level – in neither statistics nor in their methodology. The quantitative evidence always are strong in its specific way, and always are open to criticism With regard to strongness – i.e. from a humanist point of view, one would say weakness – of idea, concept, or even ideology … One argument against – that admittedly lies on a quite different Level than statistics – would be that even by a writer like Christie or Murdoch, it would have to be accepted that they could grow tired or out of shape for some Shorter or longer time … a reasoning that perhaps would soften the often slightly to bombastic and harsh impact one get – not in the way conclusions are drawn, but in the way premices and methodology usually are settled – from Natural science doing research on human beings.

Scholarly communications via digital means

In the chapter 23 “Dissemination as Cultivation” of the book “Doing Digital Humanities. Practice, Training, Research”, James O’Sullivan, Christopher P. Long and Mark A. Mattson explore the underlying principles of scholarly communications and publishing in the digital age.

Web platforms, intuitive interfaces and content delivery systems have brought about shifts in the ways of communication between scholars. People now have “open access” (James O’Sullivan, Christopher P. Long & Mark A 2016: 384 ), which Martin Paul Eve notes, to online public scholarship. Against such background, scholars should think about cultivating the habits and practices of digital communication and collaborative network of research.

The great affordance of the digital humanities provides the chance of engaging the dynamic relationship between form and matter in a sophisticated way. Now there is emerging emphasis on design in the digital humanities. The advent of World Wide Web marked a great leap in performative scholarship. “Performative” here means publishing is a way of performing ideas effectively in the way that reflect on how the arguments and ideas are best set into action. And other dynamic modes of digital scholarly communications enable authors to tailor their content to the forms in which they appear in public.

New digital modes of communication also open unforeseen new opportunities for scholars to collaborate and to engage a wide public. Scholars need to cultivate abilities to accurately describe what animates the scholarship under review, and engage the community in ways that enrich the scholarship that are produced together, and have the willingness to invest expertise, experience, insight and ideas to improve the scholarship under review. These are called “hermeneutic empathy”, “transformation” and “generosity” in short respectively.

The virtues of the traditional aspects of scholarly communication, including publishing, peer-review, discovery, and professional networks, remain intact in the digital era. However, the mechanisms of scholarly publishing, such as journals, monographs, and published conference proceedings, truly have moved to the digital realm, which is the most intuitive transition into the digital world of scholarly communications. In addition, self-publishing platforms and services are readily available today. Each digital tool has its merits and demerits and no single tool can be applied as a solution for every project, so it is important to carefully choose and construct a platform. The proliferation of online digital repositories sponsored by institutions is an extra venue for self-publishing scholarly works and makes it possible to open access to traditionally published works.

There are several strategies scholars should follow for social media. Bear in mind that everything you disseminate should be a reflection of your identity as an academic. In this respect, content should be about taking control of your scholarly profile, building a network, practicing uniformity and monitoring yourself. Scholars should familiarize themselves with a variety of technologies and select a form appropriate to the content; which is also a way of recognizing the implementation potential of platforms. The chief concern on the flexible open-source platforms should be their usability and support.



Crompton, Constance, Richard J. Lane, and Ray Siemens, eds. Doing Digital Humanities. Practice, Training, Research. London, New York: Routledge, 2016.