Sunzi visualizes… (Manchu acquisition?)

Randy’s recent creation of the Tiny Little Corpus (TLC™) of Manchu from the Art of War provides a fine excuse to dump the data into the mind-blowing visualization tools at Many Eyes (h/t to Ideophone) and get a new perspective on what Sunzi says.

The screenshot below doesn’t really do it justice. Click on the chart (or here) to go to the data and play around for yourself. You can type words into the textbox at the top or click on the graphic itself to zoom in and out of particular phrases.

By reading straight across the largest font, of course, you end up learning (at least in the case of this Manchu newbie) the most frequent words in the text. In the graphic above, we have

sun dz hendume. yaya cooha baitalara doro

Using Hoong Teik Toh’s English glosses, that becomes

sun dz hendume, “Sunzi says”
yaya, “any”
cooha baitalara doro, “Tao of using troops”

The “i coohai doro bithe” outlier that gracenotes the top of the graphic above is apparently the only instance of Sunzi not “hendume” (i.e. “saying”) something. It turns out to be the title, where the first “i” is the genitive for Sunzi:

sun dz i coohai doro bithe
Sunzi’s military Tao book

I don’t claim to understand the punctuation — more specifically, the periods — that chop up the text at every phrase. This probably serves some purpose that should be apparent to me, but I don’t see it, and it does interfere with a more fluid use of the visualization tool.

I’m also not sure how far the tool gets me in terms of language acquisition. But I’ll content myself for now with the gee-whiz factor, and I have no doubt that some sharp mind will put this to greater linguistic use in the not-so-distant future.

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