Find most common words in a corpus

This little sample demonstrates several basic text processing steps with a corpus of text files stored in a local directory. 

  • First, we read the corpus of text files into a list
  • Second, we knock out unwanted stuff, like things that aren't actually words and words that only consist of a single character
  • Third, we use standard NLTK stopwords and a list of custom stopwords, to strip out noise from the corpus
  • Finally, we use NLTK to calculate the most common words in each file in the corpus
from __future__ import division
import glob
from nltk.corpus import stopwords
from nltk import *
import re

# Bring in the default English NLTK stop words
stoplist = stopwords.words('english')

# Define additional stopwords in a string
additional_stopwords = """case law lawful judge judgment court mr justice would evidence mr order 
defendant act decision make two london appeal section lord one applicant mr. may could said also application whether 
made time first r miss give appellant november give fact within point sentence question upon matter 
leave part given must notice public state taken course cannot circumstances j that, offence set 
behalf however plaintiff see set say secretary regard - v claim right appeared second put e way material
view relation effect take might particular however, present court) october b reasons basis far 
referred trial found lord, land consider authority subject necessary considered 0171 see,s 
council think legal shall respect ground three case, crown without 2 relevant and, special business told clear
paragraph person account letter therefore jury th solicitor use years mrs mr provision discretion
matters respondent concerned cases defence reason issue well count argument facts gave proceedings 
position period needs approved used power us limited even either exercise counsel applicants submission
although counsel submitted st need appellants plaintiffs policy thomas making tribunal action entitled affadavit
december strand daniel transcript smith purpose refused offence offences general counts terms grounds conclusion number reasonable 
prosecution home hearing seems defendants educational clarke solicitors criminal following accept place come
already accepted required words local l;ater january provided stage report street september day sought greenwood
rather service accounts page hobhouse courts march third wilcock mind result months came learned appropriate date instructed
form division notes july went bernal official review principle consideration affidavit held lordship another dr different
notes quite royal possible instructed shorthand development amount has months wc respondents took clearly since find
satisfied members later fleet took interest parties name change information co sum ec done provisions party hd paid

# Split the the additional stopwords string on each word and then add
# those words to the NLTK stopwords list
stoplist += additional_stopwords.split()

# Define the files that make up the corpus to be modelled

file_list = glob.glob(os.path.join(os.getcwd(), '/Users/danielhoadley/PycharmProjects/topicvis', '*.txt'))

# Construct an empty list into which the content of each file will be stored as a item

corpus = []

# Read the files

for file_path in file_list:
    with open(file_path) as f_input:
        content =
        only_words = re.sub("[^a-zA-Z]", " ", content) # Remove anything that isn't a 'word'
        no_single = re.sub(r'(?:^| )\w(?:$| )', ' ', only_words).strip() # Remove any words consisting of a single character

# Remove stopwords

texts = [[word for word in document.lower().split() if word not in stoplist] for document in corpus]

# Get the most common words in each text

for text in texts:
    fdist = FreqDist(text)
    print (fdist.most_common(2))