Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reader Editions of Patristic Texts: some thoughts

My genuine excitement about Steadman's editions of various Greek texts got me thinking about how one might do something similar for Patristic texts. I asked Geoffrey a little about his working process and he helpfully obliged with some details.

As I reflect, it seems to me that the greatest obstacle for Patristic texts is that there are a number of tools that fall just short of automating some important processes. For example The Perseus Project is a phenomenal resource, but deals primarily in Classical texts. Yet built into the Perseus project is a power word-look-up tool for Greek, that essentially parses a word and provides a definition for the root, with a link to LSJ.

What Perseus lacks is the ability to feed in another Greek text in bulk. Which is what a site like No Dictionaries does quite well and simply for Latin (though Latin is easier), built off the back of the venerable Whitaker's Words. "NoDictionaries" also includes a fairly simple correction/disambiguation tool for those words where several possibilities exist.

So, it seems to me that the digital tools fall just short of what would be needed, in order particularly to do the bulk-processing of words in a text to analyse and list vocabulary and frequency. If we could get across that hurdle, it would only be the hard work of reading and commentating on the text. I say "only" facietiously, since the process of preparing a commentary even for reading purposes is still a very considerable task (so by no means take anything away from Mr. Steadman!). If I could work out a means for that bulk-processing, I'd seriously think about working on Gregory Nazianzus' Theological Orations. That would be an excellent text to commence with.

Alternatively, perhaps some Latin Father would be an easier place to start.


mapoulos said...

I would LOVE reader's editions for patristic texts. It seems like it wouldn't be *quite* so difficult for texts that have already been morphologically tagged. I have the apostolic fathers with morphology in accordance. It wouldn't be trivial, but it would be easier than otherwise.

Hopefully we'll some someday. I'd also be willing to work on a project like that once my language skills progressed enough.

Seumas Macdonald said...

Yes, the apostolic fathers would be easier, especially with a morphologically tagged text. I would think one would want to narrow it down and produce individual text-sets. The Didache is straightforward enough that if you've got a bit of NT Koine you can read it fairly easily. Others require a bit more skill.

The reason I am thinking the Theological Orations is that they are a classic patristic text, relatively short and contained, and I would imagine would garner a sizeable interest from people. So, that's where I'll probably look at starting.

There's also the issue of texts, copyright, and digitisation that needs to be thought through...

Anyway, thanks for your comment.