Quantitative Research into Narrative: Statistical Analysis of “The Tale of Genji”

Quantitative Research into Narrative: Statistical Analysis of “The Tale of Genji”

Gen Tsuchiyama (Doshisha University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0432-0.ch010


Stylometry is the application of quantitative analysis, primarily to written language, to identify variations in style. Statistical analysis of linguistic characteristics is applied to identify authorship, creation period, and creation order. This study involves stylometric research into “The Tale of Genji,” which is a Japanese classical literary work. “The Tale of Genji” is a long story consisting of 54 volumes. However, in the last 13 volumes, the content is different from that in the other volumes, and the writing quality differs from that of the previous 41 volumes; thus, it has long been theorized that the 13 volumes was written by a different author. The result of an analysis using the word frequency for auxiliary verbs found no evidence that positively support the theory of separate authorship. Therefore, the results indicate that the possibility that there are multiple authors of “The Tale of Genji” is low.
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This study involves quantitative research into the formation process of “The Tale of Genji” using a stylometric method, which involves multivariate analysis. We clarified the quantitative characteristics and trends in the main text using a statistical method. In this study, we present the analysis results with a level of transparency capable of withstanding quantitative debate. Based on these results, the first objective was to quantitatively investigate the different author theory and then to investigate the formation process.

In addition, although, as mentioned previously, there have been quantitative investigations into the research of multivariate analysis, which has not commonly been used to study “The Tale of Genji.” In particular, to the best of our knowledge, no study has investigated author identification using multivariate analysis. Therefore, the originality of this study is that it is based on the quantitative method.

“The Tale of Genji” is a classic work from the Heian period, which has been widely read throughout the ages. The work describes the customs and culture of the aristocratic society of the era. It is one of the oldest known long stories thought to be penned by Murasaki Shikibu—a prominent female author in the Heian period. At that time, the ability to write using Chinese logograms was considered an important cultural accomplishment. However, the tale was probably written entirely in Japanese kana (phonograms) because it was written for female readers. In this respect, it is a significant work in the history of Japanese literature.

The main theme in the first part of the story is the romantic life of the main character, Hikaru Genji, who is the son of an ancient Japanese emperor. Hikaru’s mother dies when he is an infant, and he is brought up in the imperial court by his young stepmother. When he grows older, Hikaru and his stepmother fall in love. However, Hikaru recognizes that their love is forbidden and he tries to forget this love affair.

When he visits a rural town, he encounters his “ideal” girl. Although he has already married for political reasons, the girl (Murasaki no Ue), eventually becomes his beloved partner.

His legitimate wife gives birth to a son; unfortunately, the child dies in infancy. Then, because of his scandalous relationship with Murasaki no Ue, the Emperor forces Hikaru to move to a distant land.

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