A pair of academics, Mary Margolies DeForest and Eric Johnson at Dakota State University, wrote a computer program to analyze the frequency of Latinate words in Jane Austen's novels.
Let's just pause here to admire how these two think and have chosen to spend their time.
They discovered that Austen used more Latin-based words - classified as Latinate, the language of Ancient Rome. As opposed to Germanic, from which the English language is derived (technically Anglo Saxon.)
Germanic - abandon, ache, allegiance, anger, beseech, beacon,
Latinate - relinquish, pain, fidelity, rage, inquire, signal
You can see a chart of the words compared here. Usually the longer the word - Latinate; the shorter - Germanic. But you can see in the chart that isn't always true.
BACK TO JANE AUSTEN:
Here's the abstract from the Oxford Journals:
"English has two main sources for words: German and Latin. Distinct from each other, they have polarized our language into high diction and low (‘diglossia’). Latinate words denote the intellectual world; Germanic words, the physical. Latinate words are indicators of status and education. Austen painted and delineated her characters by giving their speeches different densities of Latinate words. Higher densities of Latinate words sometimes indicate intelligence and moral seriousness, at other times, they expose a character's formality or hypocrisy. Lower densities indicate lesser intelligence or, in the case of sailors, humble birth. The characters whose densities are very close to the narrator are Austen's four great heroines, Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot."
So Darcy and Sir Thomas Bertram, for example, use a higher percentage of Latinate words, 28% and 29% respectively - to give a sense of their arrogance and how pompous they are.
The lower classes or people in emotional distress use less complicated sentences and smaller, often monosyllabic words. More Germanic. . For example, when Lizzy receives Jane's letter informing her of Lydia's 'elopement' with Wickham, Lizzy's percentage drops from 25% to 9%.
Marianne, during her time with Willoughby, slips almost seven percentage points. She's also at about 25%.
That's also an interesting note - Austen's narrators usually have the same percentage as the main character. In Sense and Sensibility, for example, the narrator is at 26% and so is Elinor. Lizzy Bennet is at 25% and so is the narrator. Same for Anne Elliot - 24.4%, narrator 24.3%. This was a very clever way of making the character sympathetic to the reader.
It's a fascinating project and I'm sure we all wish we'd thought of it.
Though, we didn't really need more proof that Austen was a genius.
You can read their article here: Computing Latinate Word Usage in Jane Austen's Novels.