Famous Last Encodings

There are these things in the preparation of the edition that I have been postponing for a year and have to deal with now because all of the other questions are answered. I am really not the postponing type (I think I may even be the *annoyingly* not postponing type of person). I guess I was vaguely confident that with time, some answers would come naturally. It turned out to be a reasonable instinct.

One thing I did not solve by myself was the “Geminationsstrich”.

But before I get to that, another point, not so unimportant. Isn’t it annoying that my posts are full of German technical terms? That is one thing that has been bothering me for a while. Since we encode in English, all the editorial explanations (attributes such as @reason, @extent, or describing the hands, well, somehow all the editorially pertinent phenomena we encode) are given in English. In bad English, in fact. We lack the specific language of English-speaking editors. This is not a detail. It has to do with the adventurous character of this edition. Editing is not our daily bread. We are researchers. Editing is part of the game, but this is not what we are professionals in. It is only one of many ways to proceed with our research: by gaining new insight for ourselves, and  by granting access to it for a wider public. The aim is (mine at least will always be) to show what manuscripts really are, to give a sense of it, to people who might have no idea about it. Who will those be? German speakers, French speakers? Should I just assume that everyone can communicate in Global English and drop all of the other languages? I have had a rough time encoding all the information concerning the von Buch letters both in French and German (xml:lang is my friend!) and could not bring myself to writing my notes in not two, but three languages just for the sake of having it all in English too.

My inner logic ran as follows: The people who read this page understand the language of this page (hence the necessity of writing the notes in French for French corpora). But we are a German project, so the common language of the whole project should be German. On the other hand, I have had such a hard time on pages I wanted to get inspiration from and could not really see through because they were written in, say, Dutch – which is why,  for the opposite reason, the Van Gogh Letters were so inspirational – that it seems necessary to me to have some structural information given in English: presentation of the corpora, concept of the edition, editorial guidelines…

Now to the Geminationsstriche (if you know the French or the English word for it, please let me know!!). Here’s an example:

This little bar on the “n” of the word “Soliman” means it should actually read “Solimann”. There were interesting debates on the linguistic nature of this bar following the posting of the question how to encode and how to visualize it on the TEI list. I was very surprised that no clear definition of that glyph emerged from the discussion. I am still stuck in the illusion that linguistics is an exact science… but once again, we will have to find some kind of patch corresponding to “what we want to say with it” instead of applying some ready-made recipe. By the time, I should have known it would come down to that!

What do we want to say, to show, to give to read. That is the question I had to answer while writing our editorial guidelines yesterday. There, I was surprised how easily my argumentation found its own way. We have our research question. The corpora are presented in such a way that they answer this question (for scholars) and in such a way that they offer new texts to read (for a wider audience). That is it, really.


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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