Richelle Cohen is one of five Digital Humanities undergraduate fellows from the 2013-2014 academic year. At the time of her year-long fellowship project, she was junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst double majoring in Linguistics and Computer Science.

The Importance of Being Proverbial:

Computational Models for Generating Proverbs


Richelle’s fellowship project, The Importance of Being Proverbial, designs and builds a computer program that generates novel proverbs, which she then uses to interrogate linguistic and cultural questions provoked by proverbs. She is working on a script that generates “novel” proverbs and is looking specifically at what, in particular, makes some sound more proverbial than others.

Her focus has been on the underlying linguistic structures in proverbs that supersede a notion of grammaticality to cause a sentence to sound wiser than another. She is currently exploring imperative mood in instructional proverbs and will continue her work over the summer and as her senior thesis in the fall.

How proverbial do these novel proverbs sound?


“Enough is soon forgotten.”
“Train up its inscription.”
“Hot love is good for a beggar’s purse.”