Dialogue analysis: a case study on the New Testament

  • Chak Yan Yeung
  • John LeeEmail author
Original Paper


There has been much research on the nature of dialogues in the Bible. While the research literature abounds with qualitative analyses on these dialogues, they are rarely corroborated on statistics from the entire text. In this article, we leverage a corpus of annotated direct speech in the New Testament, as well as recent advances in automatic speaker and listener identification, to present a quantitative study on dialogue structure in the Gospels. The contributions of this article are three-fold. First, we quantify a variety of features that are widely used in characterizing dialogue structure—including dialogue length, turn length, and the initiation and conclusion of a dialogue—and show how they distinguish between different Gospels. Second, we compare our statistics with qualitative comments in the New Testament research literature, and extend them to cover the entirety of the Gospels. Most significantly, we gauge the feasibility of applying our approach to other literary works, by measuring the amount of errors that would be introduced by automatically identified dialogues, speakers and listeners.


Dialogue Automatic speaker attribution Gospels New Testament 



We gratefully acknowledge support from the CityU Internal Funds for External Grant Schemes (project #9678104).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and TranslationCity University of Hong KongKowloon TongHong Kong

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