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Engineering LibreTexts

13.3: Word histogram

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  • You should attempt the previous exercises before you go on. You can download my solution from You will also need

    Here is a program that reads a file and builds a histogram of the words in the file:

    import string
    def process_file(filename):
        hist = dict()
        fp = open(filename)
        for line in fp:
            process_line(line, hist)
        return hist
    def process_line(line, hist):
        line = line.replace('-', ' ')
        for word in line.split():
            word = word.strip(string.punctuation + string.whitespace)
            word = word.lower()
            hist[word] = hist.get(word, 0) + 1
    hist = process_file('emma.txt')

    This program reads emma.txt, which contains the text of Emma by Jane Austen.

    process_file loops through the lines of the file, passing them one at a time to process_line. The histogram hist is being used as an accumulator.

    process_line uses the string method replace to replace hyphens with spaces before using split to break the line into a list of strings. It traverses the list of words and uses strip and lower to remove punctuation and convert to lower case. (It is a shorthand to say that strings are “converted”; remember that strings are immutable, so methods like strip and lower return new strings.)

    Finally, process_line updates the histogram by creating a new item or incrementing an existing one.

    To count the total number of words in the file, we can add up the frequencies in the histogram:

    def total_words(hist):
        return sum(hist.values())

    The number of different words is just the number of items in the dictionary:

    def different_words(hist):
        return len(hist)

    Here is some code to print the results:

    print('Total number of words:', total_words(hist))
    print('Number of different words:', different_words(hist))

    And the results:

    Total number of words: 161080
    Number of different words: 7214
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