Languages- we all speak them. A lot of us speak more than one. We read it, write it, speak it. Many of the planet’s smartest people are convinced that the languages we speak inherently alter our perception of the world around us.

Given how important languages are it’s little surprise, then, that we have been studying them for a long time. We’ve classified, codified and put them in dictionaries and with all of that work, of course, comes a lot of data.

Using data to study language, whether it’s spoken or written, has picked up speed in recent years and we’ve gathered some of the best ways we’ve found to gain insight into the languages we speak.


The first data visualization we’ve come across to help us understand language is arguably one of the most in-depth, visually impressive sites we’ve ever visited: visuwords.

Type in a word, any word, and you can see through different colored lines and maps just where that word came from, how it’s used, what other words are like it and pretty much anything else you’d care to know.

Language data visualization
a visualization of the word visualization

What do we love about this visualization in particular? Not only does it give the user an almost limitless representation of linguistic data but it present it in such a way that anyone, with minimal training, can understand. How do they accomplish such a feat?

Look at the legend on the left. It’s shapes and colors that you can easily recognize and are easily distinguishable. That’s the exact same visual technique VisualCue uses to draw your eye to cues that need your immediate attention.

Successful Plots

Visuwords is impressive because it is an intuitive way to visualize individual words and connect them to other, related words.

Writers do this every day, and occasionally they do it so well that they get an award. The Booker Prize is a highly coveted literary award that, naturally, has spawned a lot of data visualizations around it, such as this summary of plots that have netted the prize-

BOOKER PRIZE INFOGRAPHIC from Delayed Gratification, the Slow Journalism magazine.
Click here for zoomable version.

What these brilliant data analysts have done is essentially take the winners of the Booker Prize and broken them down by plot lines and themes within the work.

Rather than diving into any one particular book in great detail (though you will notice, upon closer inspection, that there are multiple themes for every book: as there should be), this visualization helped us gain a high-level overview of what it is, as a reading people, we are interested in.

A cursory glance at the infographic tells us that undoubtedly the two most popular themes are death and love.

Makes sense- we all go experience them at one time or another.

Until next time,

The VisualCrew