CHWP B.7 Kibbee, "16th-Century Bilingual Dictionaries (French-English)"

2. Database Search Desiderata

In this section I shall point out some of the common and special needs scholars from different disciplines encounter as they use the computer to analyze these texts. The specific subject areas that I shall treat are: History of Linguistics/Lexicography; Diachronic Linguistics within a specific language; Literary History and Criticism; History of Culture/Ideas. This list is not exhaustive, either of the disciplines that might find things of interest in these databases, or of the approaches possible. It is rather a starting point, and additions, subtractions, and corrections are welcome and necessary.

We can assume certain common needs of all researchers, and these needs are met to varying degrees by most of the commercial or scholarly full-text database organizers currently available. These include the preparation of an index of all words in the text, the ability to search by word or phrase (with 'wild-card' characters or words), by proximity (how many times does word X occur within 5 words of word Y), by matching strings (what is the longest pair of matching text starting with word Z), and finally the ability to combine searches (e.g., matching the set of entries in which Italian is mentioned with the set of entries in which architecture is mentioned). Beyond this base, scholars in different fields will focus on different aspects, even different parts of the text, and will seek to relate the text to different external documents.

The primary shared need of all scholars is to have an accurate rendering of the text, as it appears in the original. This means marking changes in font, page, column and line breaks, marginalia, ornamentation, and, in the case of manuscript documents, variants and changes in scribal hand. An alternative to this type of marking is hypertext linking to graphic images of the documents, by which these features could be recovered without having to insert a large number of tags, but linking to a graphic image does not in itself allow us to isolate all instances of a particular format.

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