A Semantic and Syntactic Journey Through the Dylan Corpus


This article is a corpus-based exploration of Bob Dylan’s lexicon and syntactic structures based on an examination of the 400-plus songs published to date. By means of a simple concordance program, this article analyzes vocabulary frequencies for each main word class (nouns, verbs, and adjectives). A look at modal auxiliaries illustrate a definite mismatch between large corpora and our corpus, which the author interprets as a deliberate will of Dylan’s to avoid being viewed as a “prophet.” A short exploration of complex noun phrases (the 3 patterns N Ø N, N’s N, and N of N) sheds new light on the specific vehicles used by Dylan to convey his flamboyant imagery. Last but not least, a look at some syntactic idiosyncrasies (especially the use of “do” and the “a-Ving” form) shows a peculiar use of archaic syntax.

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