The perils of ngrams (was Usage Ridicule)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Mar 31 20:55:40 UTC 2012

On Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 12:18 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg wrote:
> I've been collecting eg's of just how terrible a job Google Labs did on
> this tool, and when I get around to it I'll do a LanguageLog post
> enumerating all the problems. These are not going to be fixed; Google
> Labs has entirely abandoned it after having gotten themselves a flurry
> of publicity when it was first released.

I don't think Geoff is being entirely fair here. First, it's not
correct to say that "Google Labs has entirely abandoned" the Ngram
Viewer. Google Labs was shut down last October, and at that time the
Ngram Viewer was folded into the Google Books site, where it continues
to reside. Second, despite Geoff's pessimism, there is in fact work
being done to address problems with the Ngram Viewer. Jon Orwant, an
engineering manager at Google, informs me that there will be another
release of the tool soon, perhaps in the next few months. They're
working on better OCR and metadata, and some other new features. So
stay tuned.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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