I’ve been using the site Voyant Tools to look at the text content of runaway ads.
In a nutshell, the site pulls all the words, and finds their frequencies and trends. It displays them in a variety of ways, which I’ll show with its analysis of 550 pages of Mississippi slave ads.
Without screenshots, you can view the results through this link (one feature is the enabled url and unique ID for data sets, which allows re-linking and comparing between documents).
Features include Cirrus- a basic word cloud, numerical data for the appearances of words in the corpus, the option to see each appearance in context, and Trends- a tool that visually maps out the relative frequency of the word throughout the course of the document.
This last tool is the most interesting to me, as in chronologically ordered ad sets, it gives you an immediate look at the relative usage of the term over time. For example, the use of 1836 has one remarkable spike in usage over the course of several decades… We can use this to track usage of racial descriptive terms over time, or similar word-based information.
Through the incorporation of numerous corpuses of information, we can also compare word usage in different states and areas. I can see how this will be helpful in the future in answering some of our questions regarding how Texas runaways and situations were different from those in the rest of the south.