PNAS: Lexical shifts, substantive changes, and continuity in State of the Union discourse, 1790–2014 by Alix Rule, Jean-Phillipe Cointet and Peter Barman

Project: Corpus Collection and Exploration, 2015

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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This study reveals that the entry into World War I in 1917 indexed the decisive transition to the modern period in American political consciousness, ushering in new objects of political discourse, a more rapid pace of change of those objects, and a fundamental reframing of the main tasks of governance. We develop a strategy for identifying meaningful categories in textual corpora that span long historic durées, where terms, concepts, and language use changes. Our approach is able to account for the fluidity of discursive categories over time, and to analyze their continuity by identifying the discursive stream as the object of interest.