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#21 Marco V. Fabbri

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 05:21 AM

So that's a no. We are well familiar with Accordance's features and the syntax feature does not do the job we're talking about. We completely disagree with the thought that scholars would have to agree on the syntax to make a database. We are interested in developing our own thoughts, not just using others.

Again, can anyone name a Mac program that will make language databases (and not just syntax)?


Daniel and Tonya,

I fully respect your disagreement. However, my statement was not an absolute one, and I didn't say that before anyone can do a database scholars have to agree first. That would be a long shot indeed! Id that were my thought, I would be at a difference with myself. I would myself feel that I don't want to wait, and would go ahead, just like you want to do.

As for my statement, I just said that for a database to be searchable, it must be consistent. So there is a need to set some rules that will be followed while preparing the database. If I, or you, want to do the job yourself, you will need that. Then, if the database is to be searched with an existing engine, you will have to agree about to use the mask of a specific software to enter you data. If you want a mask that is tailored to your need, you will have to compile the mask yourself, or to ask the developer to compile one for you.

It looks to me that the difference is that you prefer to go ahead and use any existing piece of software that allows to compile one's own database.

On my part, I would prefer to interact with the developers of Accordance, in order to make the most of the Accordance search engine and interface. When I choose this way, I am aware that I am starting a cooperative effort, and that I will have to negotiate and compromise.
One advantage of this is that I can concentrate on working on the Greek syntax, while others take care of writing and interface. Another advantage is that others can prepare more databases, and we can put them all together and build a library that consists of modules that are in the same format and can be used together within Accordance. The disadvantage is that I need to discuss with other people and agree on some understanding of what should be represented in a syntactical database and how.

I wish I could give you some advice on databases, by I never built databases on my own, apart from bibliographical databases, For these I used Papyrus on MacOS 9 and Bookends on MacOS X.

But you would need something more flexible. A colleague of mine built a database of his own with Syriac texts. He used a free app: mySQL. You can find it at macupdate.

I hope this helps. Then again, I respect and admire your willingness to go on and start this huge project.
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#22 Marco V. Fabbri

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 05:31 AM

Marco,

That's an interesting observation and prediction. From our conversation before I feel won over to supporting this kind of module. With this comment, I am more curious to see what the possibilities may be....


Rob,

I am glad that our conversation is opening the way for new ideas. I will need to think and answer to you later.

Marco
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#23 danzac

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 07:44 PM

I have read on some blogs that Accordance was demoing the upcoming syntactical database for version 9. I wish I could have been there! Since I wasn't, is there any chance we could see a little screencast showing this off for the rest of us?

#24 Neill

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 09:31 PM

http://michaelsheise...ost-its-status/

This is a serious critique of the charge of subjectivity with regard to syntactical databases. I'm not quite sure what to think of it. I was wondering if you guys might want to weigh in.

#25 R. Mansfield

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 12:00 AM

http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/2009/11/the-status-quo-has-lost-its-status/

This is a serious critique of the charge of subjectivity with regard to syntactical databases. I'm not quite sure what to think of it. I was wondering if you guys might want to weigh in.


Yes, we've been demoing syntactical databases at the SBL booth.

As for Michael Heiser's posting, I'd love to offer a response, but as of yet can't figure out how to leave one. Noticing that no one else has left a comment, it makes me wonder if something's not right with his blog or if he just doesn't want comments. But I'm still trying.

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#26 Rick Bennett

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 01:53 AM

http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/2009/11/the-status-quo-has-lost-its-status/

This is a serious critique of the charge of subjectivity with regard to syntactical databases. I'm not quite sure what to think of it. I was wondering if you guys might want to weigh in.


There is obviously a level of subjectivity in syntax. Neither during the "shootout" nor any of our demonstrations did any of our staff appeal to the subjectivity claim as a reason why we do not (currently) offer syntax databases of the GNT/MT. While Heiser believes that this is the cutting edge of Biblical language research, I can say that I only had one person ask about anything syntax related during the many demos I gave during SBL (and this one person was kind of an exception since she is particularly keen on this subject). This is not to say that it is unimportant, but that it represents a largely uncharted area in computer-assisted Biblical research (at least with relation to retail software). Furthermore, if we felt that it was subjective and unimportant we would not be developing these databases!

I could say more about Heiser's impressions on the shootout, and my own reflections, but that would stray beyond the topic of this thread. Stay tuned to the Accordance blog for a post on it from David.

Danny, sorry you couldn't make it out. I seriously doubt we will post anything online regarding this feature…you'll just have to hold out until it is finished! :)

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#27 Donovan R. Palmer

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 02:45 AM

As for Michael Heiser's posting, I'd love to offer a response, but as of yet can't figure out how to leave one. Noticing that no one else has left a comment, it makes me wonder if something's not right with his blog or if he just doesn't want comments. But I'm still trying.


Some blog owners turn off comments rather than deal with spam and other uglies of the internet. Some turn it off and don't realise that they did. Which it is in this case, I am not sure, but it's clear you can't leave a comment on the blog.

#28 Marco V. Fabbri

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 03:30 AM

I have read the post by Michael Heiser, too, and I have mixed feelings.
There are some points that he makes that I agree with. And there is something else that I am not impressed with.

I agree with his point that subjective choices are implied not only in syntactical databases, but also in morphological databases. And I also agree that an important limitation of morphological databases is that they are not aware of clause boundaries.

What I don't agree with is his representation of users of other software packages:

Despite the critical importance of syntax, since I’ve been with the company, I’ve actually heard some users of other software packages make light of it.

In all fairness, he does not go so far as to say that all of them make light of syntax. But he only mentions those who do. If a reader were drawn to think that "those who make light of syntax" are a representative sample of Accordance users, then a reader might draw the picture that Accordance users are simply unaware of the good reasons that he can give in support of syntactical databases.

This picture would be a fiction, as any reader of this thread can gather. It might well be that he was not aware of this very thread within Accordance forums.

Then he proceeds to refute the first charge:

The charge is that syntactical tagging is “subjective” since it gets into interpretive decisions. In a word, this charge is lame, and it isn’t hard to explain why"


Actually, I tried to explain the same on this forum. I only refrained from stating that the charge is lame, because I don't feel like criticizing the quality of other people's reasoning. I prefer to go ahead and give my reasons.

He gives his reasons, too. I will not engage with the first reason, as he picks his example out of Hebrew.

The second reason is:

Second, the subjectivity charge assumes incorrectly that morphological tagging is immune from subjectivity. This isn’t the case


Actually, I tried to refute the very same charge in post 9 in this same thread (20th of August). My argument was the same, but I felt that I needed to add a few examples.

The third reason is:

Third, morphological databases can be used subjectively. This was most apparent in the Accordance presentation. Accordance does not have syntax, and so it does not have true clause delimitation. Roy Brown was honest with the audience about this, making a note to tell the audience that a search he was constructing would approximate clause boundaries through the use of punctuation in the Greek New Testament. This is clever and resourceful. It’s also ultimately subjective.


There is something I can't agree with here, as I find fault with its logic. The blogger has already shown his own awareness of the subjectivity involved in morphological databases. He argues that scholars are also aware of this. Awareness of subjectivity prevents scholars from misjudging the results of a search. He also says that Roy was aware of this subjectivity and mentioned it, adding a way in which he can construct a search in Accordance that approximates clause boundaries. All right: but how is that ultimately subjective? Didn't we agree that awareness of the degree of subjectivity involved is in itself an antidote against misuse of search results? To me, "approximating" involves a keen awareness of the degree of subjectivity involved. Instead, I am not sure whether anything can be ultimately subjective. I would say that the very notion of ultimate subjectivity does not show a keen awareness of subjectivity involved.

There is also something that I agree with, in the same third argument. I agree to such an extent that I raised the issue of clause boundaries in posts 10 and 12 in this same thread (21st of August).

It is entirely possible that the blogger came out with the same ideas independently; but I think that I have proved that in August Accordance users were already fully aware of arguments that can be given in support of the need of a syntatical database.

Edited by Helen Brown, 25 November 2009 - 08:54 AM.
minor edits by permission

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#29 Marco V. Fabbri

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 06:53 AM

I wish to add something to the discussion about morphological vs. syntactical databases.

The blogger quoted above maintains that

The charge is that syntactical tagging is “subjective” since it gets into interpretive decisions.


He then proceeds to explain why:

First, identifying and labeling syntactical constructions are often not subjective exercises. There is nothing subjective about identifying (and tagging) a wayyiqtol followed by an expressed subject with a following accusative marker with noun. There are dozens of other such features marked in a syntax database that are not subjective. The construction is what it is, and is often crystal clear. So, in one respect, a syntax database does what a morphological database does when it identifies things. Morph databases identify words; syntax databases identify clusters of words.



In my previous post, I didn't deal with this first reason. I tend to agree with it, but I need to add that the same decisions about crystal clear constructions are often already included in morphological databases.

Bear with me, all you Hebrew scholars: I will provide some examples out of Greek texts. Greek morphology has many endings that are homographs, but require different tags. An -A ending may be Accusative Masculine Singular (ASM), or Accusative Neuter Plural (APN), or Nominative neuter plural (NPN). When morphological databases choose among the three, they make a decision which is not based on a word in itself, but rather on careful observation of a cluster of words. The clause syntax needs to be taken into account.

So, in this sense, there already is much syntax within morphological databases. Even if in some cases decisions are subjective, in most cases the reasons are crystal clear. When the syntactical reason are crystal clear, a failure to distinguish between AMS, ANP and NNP is a mistake. It is not a subjective choice, just a plain mistake.

I have tagged Greek and Latin texts for Accordance, and I know that I can make such mistakes. This is why I carefully check my work, to remove as many mistakes as possible. Some still remain, and I am ready to remove them as soon as some user finds them. So, I am not in a condition of being intolerant of such mistakes. Whenever they occur, it is because the person who tagged the text did not think enough of the syntactical context in which a word occurs.

Now, what I find hard to swallow is the notion that Logos is far ahead of competition because of its awareness of syntax. It is, I grant, inasmuch as a syntactical module is not available in Accordance right now.
It is not if we look back at tagged text that have already been published as module of both Accordance and Logos.

Consider the works of Philo in Greek as published by Logos. They offer a sample on the web.
Posted Image

Conveniently enough, it represents the start of the first work of Philo, On the creation of World. Until they take it down, I can offer a few comments. Let's looks at -A endings.

τὰ νομισθέντα
APN ASM

ASM is clearly wrong. It was tagged without taking syntax into account.

δίκαια
DSF

Not so. It's APN, for both syntactical and morphological reasons.

If required, I could move to the second paragraph and examine a few -ON endings, like ἄσκεπτον καὶ ἀταλαίπωρον, but I don't want to take the fun away from those who are expert in Greek, and I don't want to bother those who are more interested in Hebrew.

Why is Logos missing so badly on syntax? It might be easy to blame others: the database has been tagged by the Philo Concordance project. Now, the goal of that project was to assign to each word the tag which is statistically more frequent for that word form. If in most cases -A is APN, they automatically set all instances to APN. Even so, the database is very valuable. It has gone as far as one can go if tagging is automated, that is to say, if tagging decisions ignored the syntax.

Now, the Philo Concordance Project people want the users to be aware of this, and they say so on their webpage:

In this concordance the words were organised mechanically, on the basis of the Greek alphabetic order of the text­forms ("tokens"). Two copies were printed in 1974, typed with Greek letters.

Later, some words were completely lemmatised and tagged in context and all words were automatically organised based upon this initial lemmatisation and tagging by Roald Skarsten.


When distributing this database, it is important for the user to be aware of what it includes and what it doesn't.

Later, the database was distributed by Accordance, BibleWorks and Logos. Actually, they name Logos first and add a picture. Then they mention Accordance (Mac) and Bibleworks. And they add:

These publishers also intend to complete the morphological analysis of the texts.


Doing that is hard work. I have personally helped to refine the database for Accordance. Is that work completely finished? No. Philo has more than 438,000 words, and, once TA has received the overall tag of APN, it is hard to catch all NPN and correct the tag. But we have made many thousands of corrections.

Also Logos informs its users:

Note: The morphological analysis contained in this edition is under revision. Forms that are ambiguous; particularly conjunctions, particles, pronouns and adverbs, are in the process of being revised. A rebuilt resource with the updated form of this information will be made available at no cost via download upon completion of the extended analysis.


Apart from conjunctions, particles, pronouns and adverbs, they should have added articles, nouns and verbs. I guess that interjections are all right.

So, they are honest. As I am not a Logos user, I don't know how many free upgrades they already distributed. Preparing an upgrade takes a lot of time. It is very hard work, as I said, and one that is not rewarding and easy to market. I find it as important to fix existing texts as moving to new projects. I am sure that scholars appreciate both careful revisions and new ideas.

I am aware of the efforts of Logos with syntax and I appreciate them. However, I find that there is no need to try to give the impression that only Logos is aware of the complexities of syntax, for that picture is not accurate.

[Edited: after checking, I corrected the number of words in Philo. I first entered the number by heart]

Edited by Marco, 25 November 2009 - 10:42 AM.
minor edits by permission

Marco Valerio Fabbri
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#30 Ruben Gomez

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 07:00 AM

Thank you, Marco for your excellent explanations.

Here is my take, on a more general and popular level, to a couple of the issues Michael Heiser touched upon in his post:

http://www.bsreview....ompetition.html

Best,

#31 Helen Brown

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 10:46 AM

The Accordance handout for the Shootout session is now posted for download here.
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