Names Novels and Namescape - New Trends in eHumanities

Karina van Dalen, Huygens ING


September 20, 2012


Names, Novels, and Namescape

One of my research interests as a literary scholar is the usage and the function of proper names in literary texts. This kind of research belongs to a subdiscipline of onomastics (name studies), called literary onomastics. Scholars working in this field mostly use a qualitative approach, close reading texts, analysing one text, or describing the usage and function of one or just a couple of names. At the same time, scholars in literary onomastics wish that all names in a text or in an oeuvre, genre or time period should be analyzed together as a whole, as a kind of ‘onymic landscape’. However, this is not easy to do. The assumption would be that existing tools for named entity recognition and classification can be of great help is this. In my own research, in which I also want to analyse the names in their onymic landscape, I have experimented with NER tools and found several reasons why the applications did not speed up my data preparation and therefore were no useful tools in my analysis. I will explain how I approached the analysis in my pilot project, and how my experiences in the end proved to be a challenge for specialists in several other disciplines to design a new project in which the main drawbacks of applying a linguistic tool to literary research would be addressed. So my talk will sketch how in my life with literary names one thing lead to another, resulting in the CLARIN-project Namescape which is currently running and in which the University of Amsterdam (Maarten Marx c.s.) and the Institute for Dutch Lexicology (Katrien Depuydt c.s.) are partners. More about the project can be found at


Karina van Dalen-Oskam is a literary scholar working in the digital humanites disciplines of stylometry and authorship attribution. She is research leader of the department of Textual scholarship and literary studies of Huygens ING (KNAW) and professor of Computational Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam. More information about her projects and publications  can be found at

(Presentation slides)