The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature
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ETCSL: current work, 2001-2006

Funding and personnel

The current phase of the ETCSL project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, runs for five years from March 2001. The team continues to be led by Jeremy Black with Graham Cunningham, Esther Flückiger-Hawker (March-August 2001), and Jon Taylor (September 2001- ) as full-time researchers. Eleanor Robson and Gábor Zólyomi remain closely associated with the project.

While we aim to expand the corpus further and to develop the website, the main thrust of the next few years will be to analyse the corpus in the following ways:

Corpus-based analysis of Sumerian literature

We plan four interconnected strategies of research, whose overall goal is to create chronological horizons and to clarify internal variation within the mass of the Sumerian literary corpus.

Stylometric analysis and chronology

For a literature that is largely anonymous, statistical study is the most obvious way forward to define genres and diachronic or personal styles, as a precondition to the more advanced reconstruction of approximately 450 years of Sumerian literary history.

Lexical and cognitive analysis

For cultural and historical research, an electronic corpus enables comparison of, for example, all the contexts where a particular word or phrase occurs, as an aid to exploration of the semantic content of basic social concepts. Such study of the conceptual structures of Sumerian culture is in its infancy, again principally because of difficulty of access to much of the literary material.

Grammatical research

Sumerian is a language isolate, with an ergative and agglutinative structure, and a great deal still remains to be understood about its grammar. For grammatical research, collection and analysis of examples, most feasible hitherto to those who happen to have access to most material, can be greatly speeded by electronic means.

Register: the case of Emesal

While the dual functions of Emesal as a "women's language" (a dialect used by women) and a specialised literary register have been described, a detailed analysis of its incidence, and its assumed correlation with certain genres, are still lacking. The relationship between Emesal and main dialect Sumerian needs defining more closely.

Planned additions to the corpus

Planned developments on the website

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Page created on 7.ix.2001 by ER. Last revised on 7,ix.2001 by ER.