Global Philology Project

The Global Philology Project Planning – (GPhil-0)

Director, Prof. Dr. Gregory Crane
Project Coordinator, Dr. Matt Munson (munson(at)

Steering Committee

Prof. Dr. Heike Behlmer, Göttingen Universität
Prof. Dr. Stephanie Dipper, Bochum Universität
Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert, Leipzig Universität
Director Dr. Reinhard Foertsch, German Archaeological Institute
Prof. Dr. Beatrice Gründler, Freie Universität, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Anke Lüdeling, Humboldt Universität, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Karen Radner, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich
Prof. Dr. Tonio Sebastian Richter,  Freie Universität, Berlin
Director Dr. Dagmar Schäfer, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Charlotte Schubert, Universität Leipzig

External Advisory Committee

Prof. Dr. Christopher Blackwell, Furman University
Prof. Dr. Neven Jovanovic, University of Zagreb
Prof. Dr. David Mimno, Cornell University
Prof. Dr. Gregory Nagy, Harvard University
Prof. Dr. Eleanor Robson, University College London
Prof. Dr. Sarah Savant, Aga Khan University
Prof. Dr. Carrie Schroeder, University of the Pacific
Prof. Dr. David A. Smith, Northeastern University
Prof. Dr. Steve Tinney, University of Pennsylvania
Prof. Dr. Jean Winand, Université de Liège
Prof. Dr. Amir Zeldes, Georgetown University


This project addresses two complementary tasks. On the one hand, it outlines questions, the answers to which provide a path forward for the infrastructure necessary to advance those “small disciplines” (kleine Fächer) that work with ancient languages and cultures in Germany as well as historical languages embedded within larger disciplines (e.g., Classical Arabic, Middle High and other forms of Pre-modern German). Work on these languages continues to play a disproportionately large and strategic role in defining the standing of German-language scholarship outside the German speaking world. At the same time, this document frames, for both intellectual and practical reasons, the proposed German effort within a larger international context, drawing upon the best available work from elsewhere in Europe and beyond. This project also builds upon the resurgence of discussion in anglophone scholarship of philology, both as a central foundation for the modern humanities in Western culture and as a global phenomenon. On the one hand, philology consists of deeply traditional practices that have been historically fundamental to the humanities. At the same time, the methods by which we interact with textual and linguistic data, and the roles that research on textual and linguistic data can play in the intellectual life of society as a whole, are subject to scrutiny, revision and even reinvention in light of the opportunities and challenges posed by an increasingly digital society. Our goal is to enable German scholarship on historical languages to play a central role in this emerging global transformation of how we engage with the human record.

While the disciplines listed under ancient languages and cultures focus primarily upon European and Mediterranean traditions and while these disciplines may provide, for pragmatic reasons, an initial focus to initial work, the realities of 21st century economics, politics, and culture demand that we frame Euro-centric activities within a global context. Given not only the realities of 21st century immigration within Germany and Europe, but also the historical development of European culture, Classical Arabic as well as pre-modern forms of Persian play a central role in this planning from the start, while languages such as Classical Chinese and Sanskrit also need to be considered.

This document will use the term philology to describe the object of study for ancient languages and cultures, as defined by the Small Disciplines study. This usage falls within the broad understanding of philology as the study of the past as broadly and deeply as possible through the use of the textual record, a tradition articulated within Germany by figures such as Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824) and August Boeckh (1785-1867). The usage of philology in this document generally reflects, however, anglophone semantics, which associate philology with the study of ancient languages and cultures. The Global Philology Project treats philology as the study of the textual and linguistic record where native speakers are not available (as in the case of historical languages by definition) or where the judgments of native speakers are not by themselves sufficient. Historical languages include not only ancient but also pre-modern forms of modern languages (such as Middle High German, Anglo-Saxon and Old French).

While German Language and Literature (Germanistik) and History are, respectively, the largest and third largest disciplines in German higher education (with English Language and Literature occupying second place), available data suggests that the humanities disciplines where German language publication still plays a regularly significant role in English-language publications are Art History, Music History, Religion and Greco-Roman studies. Greco-Roman studies remains the field where German plays the most significant role, but available data also suggests that this position has deteriorated significantly (citations to German language scholarship declining from c. 30% in the 1950s to less than 10% in the 21st century). Although figures are not immediately available, knowledge of German-language scholarship continues to be essential in the smaller fields that work with historical languages (e.g., Assyriology, Egyptology, and Indo-European).

In developing an infrastructure to advance the study of ancient languages, we begin by focusing upon the domains of Ancient Greek and Latin, Assyriology, Egyptology, Classical Arabic and Classical Persian, Byzantine Greek, Post-classical Latin, and pre-modern forms of German. In addition, we focus particularly upon research and development within fields such as corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, data mining and visualization, personalization, human computation and (of course) archaeology and art history.

The Workshops