Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Complex Systems

First Advisor

Peter S. Dodds


Proverbs are an essential component of language and culture, and though much attention has been paid to their history and currency, there has been comparatively little quantitative work on the frequency with which they are used, and the dynamics of their use over time. With wider availability of large corpora reflecting many diverse genres of documents, it is now possible to take a wider view of the importance of the proverb. Can a corpus linguistic approach to phraseology support existing histories, and what further insight can be gained from a quantitative approach? This study measures temporal changes in the relevance of proverbs using millions of books, hundreds of millions of news articles, and billions of tweets. We find that proverbs are widely used throughout, and popular proverbs remain in use over long periods of time. We also observe the emergence of more recent proverbs, validating previous scholarship. Far from fading into disuse in contemporary language, proverbs are popular on social media.



Number of Pages

64 p.