A report on Philology and Information Technology, the fourth Computers, Literature and Philology conference, held at the University Gerhard-Mercator in Duisburg, in December 2001.

The fourth Computers, Literature and Philology conference (CLiP) was held on the 6-9 December 2001 at the University Gerhard-Mercator, Duisburg, and organised by Dr Elisabeth Burr. As in previous years, the conference was a truly international event, attracting scholars from around Europe and the USA, and with papers presented in many languages. CLiP is emerging as one of the more important events within Europe for scholars of digital texts, both to learn about current research, and to participate in lively debates about the development of informatics in the humanities.

This year, the conference touched on two major issues in informatics in the humanities: using computers in literary and linguistic research; current approaches to teaching informatics in the humanities. As abstracts from the conference are available online,[1] only some of the papers are discussed below.

Advances in literary and linguistic computing

The conference was opened by Christiane Felbaum, one of the creators of WordNet.[2] She spoke in detail about the psycholinguistic research underlying WordNet – words within the database are organised semantically, as synonyms and antonyms. In addition, WordNet uses a hierarchical structure based on hyponyms (›a canary is a bird, which is a vertebrate, which is an animal...‹) and meronyms (›a bone is part of an arm and also part of a leg...‹). WordNets are being built for other languages, and one of the questions they are addressing is how semantic links between words work across languages. Another multilingual project introduced at the conference was C-ORAL-ROM,[3] presented by Massimo Moneglia, University of Florence. C-ORAL-ROM is a corpus of spontaneously delivered French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, containing sound recordings, acoustic analyses and transcriptions of texts, all aligned.

As is to be expected at a conference on humanities computing, several of the papers concentrated on text and speech encoding. Allen Renear, University of Illinois, argued that markup languages need to be explicit about the theoretical stance of the encoder towards the text on which they are working. While syntax for SGML/XML is well defined, it does not support encoders in making explicit their interpretation of the text. In effect, the same markup terms have been applied differently to particular features of texts. Renear suggests text encoders could borrow from speech-act theory in defining their DTD (Document Type Declaration), and document their markup so as to assist users in making good use of the digital text. Caterina Caracciolo, University of Amsterdam, presented the LoLaLi Project,[4] which is constructing architectures for scientific handbooks. This is not a genre supported by the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). The architecture is based on scientific concepts rather than a sequence of documents – users browse through the handbook following semantically related terms, borrowing from WordNet's approach of linking synonyms and meronyms. The project has recently started and will last for several years.

Current approaches to teaching informatics in the humanities

Part of the conference was devoted to discussing setting up a trans-European degree in literary and linguistic computing. In support of this work, several papers documented current teaching practices in institutions across Europe (for a detailed survey, read de Smedt et altere[5] 1999). Massimo Moneglia, University of Florence, spoke about two new three-year degree courses in Informatics for Arts at his university. These are the first new courses in humanities computing to appear within Italy, after the reorganization of the country's undergraduate degree system.[6] Manfred Thaller, University of Cologne, gave an interesting talk about the long-standing degrees in humanistic informatics (Informationsverarbeitung) available at his university. The degree courses combine applied computing and computer science, training students in programming as well as text encoding and other areas of digitisation. Jean Anderson, University of Glasgow, and Frances Condron, University of Oxford, outlined the modules in humanities computing offered at their institutions. Neither university offers a full degree in humanities computing. Michel Bernard, University of Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle, gave a review of computing in humanities disciplines in French universities, a welcome supplement to AcoHum's report. These reviews show that informatics is becoming an important subject within undergraduate and graduate humanities degree programmes across Europe, though there is great variation in the curricula offered by individual institutions.

The last day of the conference was devoted to developing a curriculum and network of institutions to deliver a Masters degree in literary and linguistic computing. This would involve collaboration between many institutions, and would give students access to specialists in institutions and businesses across Europe. A bid to the Information Society Technologies Programme of the EU has been prepared, to fund a network of excellence. Part of the work of this network of excellence will focus on education, and will prepare the ground for a common curriculum in literary and linguistic computing for the Masters degree. The network will also support research and promote collaboration between humanities computing and informatics groups in different institutions. We await the results of this bid with interest.

CLiP 2002 will be held at the University of Castille-La Mancha. Proceedings of the first CLiP conference are now available in print.[7]

Frances Condron (Oxford)

Dr. Frances Condron
Humanities Computing Unit
Oxford University Computing Services
13 Banbury Road
UK-Oxford OX 6NN HCU

(12. August 2002)
[1] Computers, Literature and Philology 2001. Gerhard-Mercator University, Duisburg. Organised by Elisabeth Burr, Romanische Sprachwissenschaft, Gerhard-Mercator University. See <> (3.3.2002).
[2] WordNet. University of Princeton. See <> (3.3.2002).
[3] C-ORAL-ROM Project, LABLITA, University of Florence. See the following site: <> (3.3.2002).
[4] LoLaLi Project, University of Amsterdam. <> (3.3.2002).
[5] Koenraad de Smedt et al.: Computing in Humanities Education: A European Perspective. Bergen: University of Bergen 1999. This book reports on the ACO*HUM survey carried out between 1996-99 to identify how computing was being used in humanities courses in European universities. Available online <> (3.3.2002).
[6] The University of Florence offers two three-year degrees in humanities computing: »Communicazione Culturale, pubblicita' e linguaggi multimediali« and »Linguaggio e communicazione«. For further details see this site: <> (3.3.2002).
[7] Domenico Fiormonte/Jonathan Usher: New Media and the Humanities: Research and Applications. Proceedings of the first seminar Computers, Literature and Philology. Edinburgh 7-9 September 1998. Oxford: Humanities Computing Unit. 2001. Order online at <> (3.3.2002).