Books becoming less `emotional`

Updated: Mar 23, 2013, 09:53 AM IST

Washington: The use of words depicting emotion in books has steadily declined throughout the last century, according to a new research.

The study from the Universities of Bristol, Sheffield, and Durham also found a divergence between American and British English, with the former being more ``emotional`` than the latter.

The researchers looked through a database of more than five million digitized books provided by Google to see how frequently ``mood`` words were used time in.

The list of words were divided into six categories (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise) previously used by one of the researchers, Dr Vasileios Lampos, to detect contemporary mood changes in public opinion as expressed in tweets collected in the UK over more than two years.

“This is particularly fascinating because it has recently been shown that differences in usage of content-free words are a signature of different stylistic periods in the history of western literature,” said Dr Alberto Acerbi, a Newton Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol and lead author of the paper.

In applying this technique, the researchers made some remarkable discoveries about the evolution of word usage in English books over the past century.

Firstly, the emotional content of published English has been steadily decreasing over the past century, with the exception of words associated with fear, an emotion that has resurged over the past decades.

They also found that American English and British English have undergone a distinct stylistic divergence since the 1960s. American English has become decidedly more ``emotional`` than British English in the last half-century.