Anyone who has studied modernista poetry has an image of what modernista language looks like. There are certain words that one automatically associates with this movement: “cisnes,” “princesas,” “estatuas”, “céfiro” and so on. But how many of the so-called “modernista” words are also the most frequent words (MFW) employed by Darío and his followers? For example, I do not know why I always think of “nácar” as one of the quintessential modernista words. For me, it was surprising to discover that Darío does not use it in any of his poems in my database (don’t know if he uses it in his prose work).
The following is a list of twenty of Darío’s MFWs (excluding articles, prepositions and common verbs):
oh 0.2890521 vida 0.2870448 luz 0.2609499 oro 0.2288330 amor 0.2268256 alma 0.1987234 sol 0.1906941 azul 0.1666064 esperanza 0.1605845 canto 0.1565699 tierra 0.1505480 rosa 0.1485407 día 0.1465334 dios 0.1445261 gloria 0.1445261 rosas 0.1445261 sangre 0.1425188 ojos 0.1364968
And then there are those two words one usually associates with Darío’s poetry. They appear much less frequently in his texts:
cisne 0.05821189 princesa 0.04616805
I know it is not right for me take Darío’s vocabulary as representative of modernista poetry in general, but I am not sure that adding corpuses from other writers and compiling a list of their shared MFRWs would solve the problem. And, is this “gap” simply a problem between perception and reality?
I suppose that in order to contrast the public perception of modernista vocabulary with the actual MFWs in their texts, one needs to find a way to compile a list of modernista words as understood by readers and critics.