Research Projects in Languages
Recent decades have witnessed remarkable advances in the availability and variety of online resources for research into the pre-Modern world. We often think that this will make research easier, faster and more efficient, but there is a recognition that it has also changed the nature of scholarly research and the ways in which the public can interact with it. This network will focus on the impact of digitisation on research into medieval Ireland and Scotland. We hope that a better understanding of how we currently use digital resources will lead to improved applications of technology in future research and more intelligent, innovative use of resources.
Gaelic is the native language spoken in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man for the best part of the last two thousand years. Despite its longevity, the language has been marginalised over recent centuries and has become a largely hidden heritage. However, it contains the most extensive early literature in a native language in Europe outside of Greek and Latin, stretching from the 7th century to the present day, including a vast body of tales, history, laws, and poetry which is wholly unparalleled anywhere in the world. Digitisation has the potential to open up the resources for Gaelic literature and history to a much wider audience and to transform the nature of research in the field.
This network is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Irish Research Council.
The electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL) is a digital dictionary of medieval Irish. It is based on the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials (1913-1976) which covers the period c.700-c.1700 but incorporates corrections and additions to thousands of entries. It has had more than a million downloads since its launch in Novermber 2015.
This Fellowship (Principal Investigator Janice Carruthers) involves both underpinning research on Language Policy in the UK and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders including researchers, universities, schools, business, government departments and other policy makers. The overall aim is to demonstrate the value of languages, to identify and analyse the policy challenges, and to impact positively on policies where languages have an important role to play.
Carruthers, J. and Nandi, A. (2020). Supporting Speakers of Community Languages: a Case Study of Policy and Practice in Primary Schools
This project was funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, through a Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship (now University of Poitiers) held by Marianne Vergez-Couret. It explores temporality and orality in French and Occitan, looking at how key phenomena such as tense, frames and connectors are used in oral narratives drawn from different types of source (e.g. oral tradition versus published text) and performance contexts (e.g. traditional storytelling versus ‘new storytelling’). The project has involved comparative work across the French and Occitan languages as well as the creation of a digitised and annotated corpus of Occitan narratives from several historical periods, with speakers of different dialects, particularly Gascon and Languedocien. Public engagement included two storytelling events at the Maison de L’Occitanie in Toulouse and a multilingual storytelling event at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
Ongoing outputs include
- Carruthers, J. and Vergez-Couret, M. (Forthcoming 2021). Temporal Structures in Occitan and French Oral Narrative: the Role of Frames and Connectives. Forthcoming in Lingvisticae Investigationes.
- Carruthers, J. and Vergez-Couret, M. (2018). Méthodologie pour la constitution d’un corpus comparatif de narration orale en Occitan: objectifs, défis, solutions. Corpus 18: Méthodologie pour la constitution d’un corpus comparatif de narration orale en Occitan : objectifs, défis, solutions (openedition.org)
- Vergez-Couret, M. and Carruthers, J. (2018). OcOr: a Corpus of Occitan Oral Narratives: OcOr: A Corpus of Occitan Oral Narratives — Queen's University Belfast (qub.ac.uk)
The LexiChron project is exploring methods for determining the chronology of otherwise undated ancient and medieval texts. In the pre-Modern period, we are often reliant on attributions to known authors to establish a text’s historical timeframe, but in many cultures texts may lack any authentic attribution or other internal indication of their date. Accurate dating is essential because historical and literary texts that lack an agreed and precise chronology cannot be situated within their correct social, political, historical and intellectual context.
Scholars working in these areas are often almost wholly reliant on linguistic dating, particularly where works survive only in later manuscripts. Traditional linguistic methods for dating texts are enormously time consuming and often lead to substantially varying results. The LexiChron project is exploring the potential of computer-assisted document dating to provide a chronology for large numbers of texts. Quite apart from the increased capacity and speed of these methods, electronic dating can provide scholars with verifiable levels of confidence in the dates supplied.
The task, known variously as Text Dating, Diachronic Text Evaluation, Temporal Text Classification, and Document Dating, is both theoretically and practically very interesting. Automated text dating systems are trained from a corpus of texts annotated with time stamps. Ordinal regression and multi-class classification are the popular algorithms in current use, and these are being developed further by the LexiChron project to improve performance for the dating of ancient and medieval texts.
The project has potential to impact on dating methodologies across a wide range of ancient and medieval cultures, and more generally on historical linguistics. Emergent fields, such as computational forensics and computational journalism, and more traditional tasks, such as discourse similarity, sense shifting, readability and narrative frameworks, may also benefit from a system capable of dating texts automatically.
LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
- QUB at SemEval-2017 Task 6: Cascaded Imbalanced Classification for Humor Analysis in Twitter
- Dating medieval texts by classification with flexible time intervals
- Language and Chronology: Text dating by machine learning
For further information contact Professor Greg Toner
MEITS is one of the Open World Research Initiative projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016-2020). It was led by Cambridge University (PI Wendy Ayres-Bennett), with teams in Cambridge, Queen’s Belfast, Nottingham and Edinburgh. MEITS is a £4 million interdisciplinary project which embraces literary studies, the history of ideas, sociolinguistics, education, linguistics and neuroscience and involving a vast range of languages including major world languages as well as minoritized languages. Janice Carruthers led the Queen’s team which specialised in sociolinguistics, looking at questions of Language and Identity in France and Ireland and working in collaboration with partners such as the Department of Communities, Co-operation Ireland and the East Belfast Mission. The six researchers in Queen’s were: Janice Carruthers, Daniel McAuley and Merryn Davies-Deacon (working on regional languages and urban vernaculars in France) and Mícheál Ó Mainnín, Deirdre Dunlevy and Robbie Hannan (working on identity, policy and practice in relation to Irish in Ireland, north and south). To find out more about the project, including ongoing Publications, see: www.meits.org
The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, directed from Irish & Celtic Studies at Queen’s and led by Professor Mícheál Ó Mainnín, was established in 1987 to research the origins of over 30,000 names of settlements and physical features, the earliest of which can be traced back to the first millenium. The majority of names originated in the Irish language (e.g. Belfast < Béal Feirste); however, the corpus also includes names which were coined in the languages of more recent settlers, particularly Norse (e.g. Strangford), English (e.g. Draperstown) and Scots (e.g. Glarryford). The corpus of names is of immense historical and cultural significance; cherished by local communities, and providing a sense of rootedness in a society which is divided in many respects, local place-names afford the opportunity to encounter linguistic diversity in the shared virtual space that is the project’s research database and website (www.placenamesni.org). The project also impacts on the public through the work of the Ulster Place-Name society (www.ulsterplacename.org), which is also led from Irish and Celtic Studies at Queen’s, and through its twitter account (@placenamesni).
This British Academy-funded project examines the role that modern languages and translation studies can play in revealing new ways of thinking about and communicating Covid-19. Exploring the language used in multilingual healthcare settings and international public health campaigns across the globe, the project is formed of three connecting strands. Strand 1 focuses on Covid-19 healthcare delivery in non-anglophone medical settings in the UK and overseas. Drawing on the experience of practitioners and academic research, it asks how translation and interpreting, far from leading to a “loss” of information, may generate new epistemes on Covid-19. Strand 2 examines the language used by politicians and policy makers from across the world to articulate Covid-19. It discusses the prophylactic language used in governmental public health messages (including those in signed languages) and campaigns by cultural figures, while Strand 3 considers non-Anglophone cultural (literary, graphic art, music, poetry) responses to Covid-19, analysing what light these shed on understandings of the pandemic.