Workshop: Linked Data and Syriac Sources, Amsterdam, March 2018

Around 30 scholars from more than a dozen different countries met in Amsterdam in mid-March for two days of discussions and presentations on developments in digital humanities in Syriac language and literature.

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George Kiraz of the Beth Mardutho Institute presents an update on the SEDRA project.

Participants were welcomed to the workshop and Amsterdam by Professor Joke van Saane, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Theology at VU Amsterdam and Professor Wido van Peursen, the workshop organizer and host.

Following an overview of digital Syriac projects in the Netherlands (CALAP, Turgama, Polemics Visualized, Topic Visualizer for Syriac texts, LinkSyr: Linking Syriac Data (CLARIAH), Linked Data and Syriac Sources, Electronic Peshitta Text, e-CSCO), Professor van Peursen explained the methodology behind the projects, which aim to produce more reliable versions of Syriac texts than are currently available.

Hannes Vlaardingerbroek (Leiden/Amsterdam), presented an overview of the LinkSyr project, which is using data in the form of tagged and untagged morphological terms from existing projects and materials and collating them into one dataset, with 160,000 items already tagged of what will eventually comprise more than 1 million terms. However, there is not enough data to train reliable HMM language models: existing tagging methods for Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, use large corpora to train language models, which are not currently available for Syriac. Syromorph (BYU) claims high accuracy but is not yet compatible with the LinkSyr data. Mathias Coeckelbergs (Brussels and Leuven), discussed the nature of the data in more detail and longer-term plans, such as linking terms to the syriaca.org database, providing automatic reading tools for non-Syriac specialists and more efficient search facilities. The data has some limits, as it works by recognizing surface forms, which can have multiple translations. Eventually, it is hoped the classification of URIs will be more data-driven and searchable for specific collections of texts.

Following this, George Kiraz (Beth Mardutho) described the process for converting Syriac lexicons from image to text files, creating an on-line, searchable dictionary, as part of the SEDRA project. While SEDRA was designed specifically for Syriac, the project has the technical capability to be expanded to include other Semitic languages and is looking for funding to achieve this longer-term aim.

David A. Michelson (Vanderbilt) provided an update on the syriaca.org project, which has minted URIs for places, persons, primary source texts and citations (bibliographic items), and published them online. URIs relating to factoids (events), ontology (keyword classification) and manuscripts are available as raw data. The project is currently looking for someone to do the same for artifacts. Daniel L. Schwartz (Texas A&M) talked participants through the various features the sitee offers.

Jamie Walters (Oxford-BYU Syriac Corpus) talked participants through the structure and functions of the Oxford-BYU website and the new edition of Hugoye, to be launched this summer.

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Jamie Walters showcases the Oxford-BYU Syriac Corpus

Daniel Stökl ben Ezra (EPEH Paris), demonstrated the interface and search functions offered by the ThALES lectionary database, which includes material in Syriac and Arabic.

In the afternoon a number of breakout sessions discussed lexicography, named entities, liturgy, text corpus creation, scholars’ needs and interests, how to bridge Syriac linked data and the Syriac community and linking to other traditions such as Arabic and Ethiopic and brainstormed recommendations and suggestions for future projects.

The workshop provided a rare opportunity for face-to-face discussion and exchange amongst scholars working with Syriac in a variety of fields and it is to be hoped that the connections that were made at the workshop continue to develop to the benefit of current and future projects.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

IQSA–Defending Good Scholarship #GivingTuesday

Dear Friends,

For the past four years the International Qur’an Studies Association has made fostering Qur’anic scholarship its mission. The Qur’an is an integral part of world literature, and it has shaped and continues to shape the world in which we live. By giving to IQSA you are promoting and defending good scholarship, which in turn has positive ripple effects on high quality education, journalism, publishing and public engagement.

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IQSA is the only tax exempt 501(c)3 learned society exclusively dedicated to convening regular Qur’an conferences in North America and in Muslim majority countries around the world, as well as to publishing rigorous cutting edge scholarship on the Qur’an. Within four short years IQSA has convened five conferences (four in the USA and one in Indonesia); the first issue of the bilingual Journal of the International Qur’an Studies Association (JIQSA) is now in production; and two books are under review for publication in 2017-2018. IQSA members receive free access to JIQSA, the Review of Qur’an Research (RQR), the exclusive member directory (including world renowned Qur’an specialists) and PhD students and recent graduates gain valuable professional development experience.

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It goes without saying that the current political climate has made our task — especially critical scholarship and building bridges — more important than before. As academics, professionals and philanthropists we have a duty to support the Humanities and Social Sciences at a time when they are under threat. This also means we have the opportunity to bring about a much more intellectual discussion of the Qur’an when the public needs it most.

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© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2016. All rights reserved.

 

Online Corpora of Classical Arabic Texts

UntitledIt is a truism that the advent of the internet has made life much easier, and this is no less true for academics than other people. One particular way in which the internet could be of use to, inter alia, historians is by making the building of huge corpora of texts much simpler. Moreover, such corpora would not only be much user-friendlier, but also only a click away from us, no matter where in the world we are. The following are several online corpora of mediaeval Arabic books that could be of use to Islamicists. The works included on these websites range from qur’anic exegesis and qur’anic sciences to ḥadīth, history, adab, and fiqh.

Al-Maktaba al-Shāmila is perhaps the greatest and most widely used online library of Arabic books. Books can be searched and read online. Pagination of each book follows that of the published edition used for reproducing the text.

Al-Warāq. It is possible to run searches through both the whole corpus and individual texts on this website.

Kitābkhāna-yi Madrasa-yi Faqāhat contains over 5,000 fully searchable digitised books.

Noor Digital Library. Home to over 8,000 titles in Arabic and Persian, it is possible to run searches through the whole corpus or individual volumes. It is also possible to download a scanned version of the published texts in the members-only area of the website (needs subscription).

Al-Maktaba al-Shīʿiyya does not seem to be maintained regularly anymore, but its
contents are still accessible.

If you know of other websites and corpora that are not listed here, please kindly post the link to them in the comments section below.