Gesta Danorum

Language technology, a shortcut to scientific evidence

This case is provided by Claus Povlsen as an example of how language technology can be exploited in research within the humanities. The resource that this case is based on is Gesta Danorum written about 1200 by the Danish historian, Saxo. Gesta Danorum is written in High Latin and describes in 16 books the period of time from King Dan to Canute VI of Denmark. Traditionally, the work is divided into two main sections, one consisting of books 1-9 which deals with Norse mythology and a historical second part of the books 10-16 describing the introduction of Christianity in Denmark. In 1969, a competing thesis was launched cf. Skovgaard-Petersen (1969).

In this analysis the composition of Gesta Danorum is split up into books 1-8 and books 9-16. These two competing interpretations can be paraphrased into the question: Is it book 9 or book 10 that represents the transition from the heathen to the Christian period in Gesta Danorum? In order to find evidence for the answer to this question, the platform with embedded linguistic information and advanced search facilities was exploited to identify subject area specific elements in the various books of Gesta Danorum and to display the search results in a manageable way.

The procedure

The procedure was to take a translation of Gesta Danorum, compute PoS and lemma information automatically. To give example of the outcome of the automatic processing: The sentence“Kongen blev kronet på slottet” (“the king was crowned at the castle”) is represented as follows (The overall structure is word(form)/lemma/PoS tag):

Kongen/konge/NN_COM_SING_DEF blev/blive/V_INDIC_PAST kronet/krone/V_PARTC_PAST på/på/PREP slottet/slot/NN_NEUT_SING_DEF

The next step was to upload the annotated version of Gesta Danorum into a search platform. This platform made it possible to make queries that exploit both the linguistic information and the Corpus Query Processing (CQP) search facilities.

Keywords: compositional and literary analysis, language technology, digital humanities, advanced search platform,   POS-tagging.



Digital Humanities Lab Denmark

Aarhus University
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DK-8000 Aarhus C