Discussions about a markup language for the genetic encoding of manuscripts have reached a crucial point. The endeavours undertaken by a couple of notable projects over the last years promise to yield a new encoding standard for the description of the genesis of texts. In our talk we will survey the past and current states of affairs and outline some problems of genetic encoding within and without the framework of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI).
Early conceptions of a computer-aided genetic edition trace back to the 1970s (Gabler 1998). The absence of any established standard for projects that aim to record revised manuscripts and genetic relations across numerous witnesses was still felt at the end of the 20th century. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the then available TEI guidelines did not meet the requirements of genetic textual criticism, for genetic manuscripts often lack textual structure in a more conventional sense and show complicated series of revisions. This incompletenesses gave rise to the construction of the HyperNietzsche Markup Language (Saller 2003, esp. note 3) which was a kind of spin-off, but no sustainable alternative.1Some of the problems that led to HNML resolved themselves with the previous version of the Guidelines (Burnard et al. 2008: 72-78, 335-374). Other expectations, however (Vanhoutte 2002; Pierazzo 2009), remained unfulfilled:
The ‘Encoding Model for Genetic Editions’ (Workgroup on Genetic Editions, 2010) was to satisfy both requests. Now that it has been largely incorporated in chapter 11 of the second version of ‘Proposal 5’ (Burnard et al. 2011), successes and shortcomings can be discussed. As for the documentary transcription, a way of encoding has been made possible which could not be thought of in former versions of the TEI Guidelines up to the first version of P5 (Burnard et al. 2008). However, the suggested approach to transcribe texts, taking into account the spatial distribution of the inscription falls short of completion (Brüning et al., forthcoming). The conceptual tension between the documentary and the textual perspective which gave rise to the proposed encoding model has become even more pronounced. As for the markup of textual alterations, it is not always clear how the newly introduced elements relate to well-established practice.2 The former stringency of chapter 11 of the Guidelines corresponded to the limited goal of providing ‘methods for encoding as broad a variety of textual features as the consensus of the community permits’ (Sperberg-McQueen et al. 1993). This consensus came to be known under the name of an ‘agnostic’ view on the issue of textuality. However, when chapter 11 was revised for the actual version, this consensus was tacitly and perhaps unawares abandoned. for the sake of much specific needs that parts of the new version of the chapter try to fulfill. Many of the needs which the newly introduced parts of the chapter try to fulfill are not covered by a broad consensus, but are based on very specific aims. Therefore the conceptional problems inherent in the genetic module cannot any longer be solved with reference to an alleged ‘agnostic’ basis. A discussion on the nature of text is not only of theoretical interest but also inevitable for practical reasons.
We would like to submit as a basic principle that any written text is, by virtue of being a linguistic entity, of a double-sided nature: First, it is by virtue of being a written text, a physical object that can be identified in space and time as a document or an inscription (the material or documentary dimension). Second, it is – by virtue of being a written text – an abstract object (the textual dimension), which has to be materialized in some way, not necessarily in one specific material form (Goodman 1977; Genette 1997). As can be learned from the epistemology of general linguistics (Saussure 1916: introduction, ch. 3; cf. Bouquet 1997), it is imperative for sound methodology to keep irreducible points of view distinct, each of which allows a coherent strategy of inquiry. Any attempt to collapse two entirely different dimensions into one, will ultimately run up on a reef of methodological incoherence. Within the digital humanities, the use of the word ‘text’ is often inspired by the way texts are represented in the digital code: as an ordered hierarchy of content objects (Renear et al. 1996) or as a strictly linear sequence of characters (cf. Buzzetti & McGann 2006: 60). But the hierarchical and/or linear representation of a text in a computer file is not and cannot by principle be a text in a linguistically respectable sense of the word (Sperberg-McQueen 1991: 34).
Adherence to our basic principle will lead to some important consequences for encoding written texts and to some proposals for the application and further development of the available TEI Guidelines.
This way of encoding focuses on the textual impact of the overwriting of (a part of) one letter: the substitution of a whole word. It does not mean that the textual perspective is confined to the level of word forms. In fact, sometimes only the spelling is corrected, and the alteration can very well be recorded on the level of graphemic units alone – no matter how many letters of the word have been replaced, no matter if the complete word is rewritten for the sake of clarity in the manuscript. However, in the given case the substitution does not concern only single letters but the linguistic unit of the next level (the word), although the scribe carefully avoided to deface the manuscript more than was necessary.
How can the sediments of the writing process and the textual genesis be given their equal due?
As is clear from the above example, not only the markup is concerned by the difference of the two perspectives but also the marked up content (‘BLand’ vs. ‘BandLand’). This is one of the reasons why a split-up of the encoding which we tried to avoid for a long time finally proved inevitable. We decided to introduce two separate transcripts: a documentary and a textual one (Bohnenkamp et al., forthcoming). The separate transcripts are the source for different parts of the edition: the documentary for the diplomatic rendering and the textual for the reading text and the apparatuses. The disadvantages of the split-up will be dealt with by help of automatic collation (Brüning et al., forthcoming). Logically, it is possible to integrate both perspectives in a single transcript, under the only condition that the markup is dominated by one of the two perspectives (Renear et al. 1996). Practically, however, it is very difficult to give adequate information on the writing process and on the text with equal regard to both sides. Detailed information of one of both will inevitably get lost. Furthermore, the intermingling of both perspectives complicates the subsequent data processing.
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1.‘HyperNietzsche’ nowadays operates under the name of ‘Nietzsche Source’, where the HNML based contents are regrettably cut off. They are still available by the following address: http://www.hypernietzsche.org/surf_page.php?type=scholarly. To become affiliated with the group of ‘Source’ projects, the ‘Bergen Text Edition’ of the Wittgenstein papers was converted from the specifically developed MECS to XML-TEI (P5) (http://www.wittgensteinsource.org/; Huitfeldt 1998). There are other ways to mark up transcriptions of modern manuscripts (see ‘Les manuscrits de Madame Bovary’, http://www.bovary.fr/; ‘Les Manuscrits de Stendhal’, http://manuscrits-de-stendhal.org/). But the set of tools provided by the TEI is clearly the one that is likely to become standard.
2.See esp. sect. 188.8.131.52 of the second version of P5 (Burnard et al. 367 sq.).
3.In fact, we do not use <subst> to record overwritings. Especially in the case of discarded starts overwriting letters do not positively substitute their predecessors. But we will not address this issue here.
4.he terminology of position-in-structure and of items-occupying-positions are very common in various schools of linguistics (cf. Owens 1988: 31-35) and in the computer sciences as well.
5.It is doubtful, therefore, if items which occupy ‘different positions’ (ibid., 352) can enter such a relation, as is, perhaps inadvertently, implied in the name of the newly introduced <substJoin> (ibid., 351 sq.).
6.For an example of the further, see sect. 184.108.40.206 of the TEI Guidelines (Burnard et al. 2011: 369). The suggested encoding (ibid., 370) neglects the symmetrical relation between the items ‘before’ and ‘beside’. From a textual point of view, the latter can be considered added only insofar as the former is considered deleted.