Global Philology Initial Planning Seminar

As the kickoff event for the year-long Global Philology Planning Grant from the BMBF, this event brought together 30 participants from Europe and the United States representing more than 10 different historical languages. The general purpose of this seminar, as it is in the Global Philology Project in general, was to begin the discussions of matching existing digital solutions with existing scholarly needs. In this respect, it was extremely successful and helped to set the tone for the remainder of the project.

General questions posed during the meeting included the following:

  • What digital services, collections and curricula have emerged from particular funded projects that are of such general utility that they can be adopted as part of a long-term infrastructure upon which students of a field, at every level of expertise, can depend for years and decades?
  • What infrastructure developments within larger fields (including large European infrastructure projects such as Clarin, Dariah and Europeana but also substantive efforts in the natural and life sciences) provide foundations upon which historical languages can build?
  • What digital services, collections or curricula need to be developed so that the various fields surveyed can flourish in a digital society?
  • What funding mechanisms and organizational structures are in place/need to be put in place in libraries, computing centers, and academic departments?

There was also a focus on the disciplines represented in this meeting and in the project in general. Examples of the discipline-specific question posed during the seminar include the following:

  • How big is the field at present? How many students are currently learning the language? How many faculty positions are dedicated to it? What possibilities (and/or challenges) does a new digital infrastructure open up for the development of that field?
  • What machine-actionable collections of textual data are available and under what licenses?
  • What machine-readable dictionaries and grammars are available?
  • How do members of a domain cite particular documents and particular words and phrases within documents? How stable are concepts such as author and work (e.g., works such as the Aeneid of Vergil vs. works such as the Roman de la Rose where no single authoritative version exists)?
  • What domain/language specific services exist? Do we have morphological analyzers, part of speech taggers, appropriate tag sets for syntax and/or automated syntactic analyzers? Do we have authority lists for people, places, organizations, ethnic groups etc. and do we have named entity recognizers?
  • What is the general state of digital infrastructure within a given field? Digital infrastructure includes not only collections and services but also human capital: have senior faculty emerged who are also able to exercise direct leadership in the digital transition? Have senior faculty emerged who are supporting PhD students, postdocs and/or junior faculty who are developing the skills to exercise direct leadership in the digital transition over the rest of their careers?
  • How prepared are the members of a particular domain to develop an infrastructure that is shared across different languages? Are senior researchers content to see future research move along traditional pathways or are they eager to see what new forms of scholarship will emerge as scholars become increasingly able to work with a wider range of linguistic sources?