Google Updates Ngram Viewer With Improved Search Tools

The Google Books Ngram Viewer got a new set of features today that will make it useful for more advanced research in corpus linguistics by adding wildcards and the ability to search for inflections and multiple capitalization styles.

The tool, which launched as an experiment in 2010, allows you to search for words in the millions of books Google has digitized over the years, as well as visualize their usage over time. It quickly became popular with mainstream users interested in language and academic researchers, and it survived all of Google’s recent spring cleaning campaigns.

With the new features you can now ask the Ngram viewer which word most often follows “President” in books written in English, for instance. (The answer is President Kennedy.) You can also just use the wildcard without instructing the tools to just focus on nouns or verbs — finding adverbs and adjectives doesn’t seem to work.


The ability to search for inflections, too, is going to make it possible to analyze Google’s library in ways that were previously impossible. As Google notes, this allows you to see how the usage of different variations of phrases like “changed roles” changed over the years (with “changing roles” now being the most popular).

Finally, the Ngram Viewer now makes it much easier to look for variations in capitalization styles. Until now, users had to select these variations themselves using the + sign. Now, just entering a word and checking the new “case-insensitive” box will bring up these new results.

Image credit: nSeika