13th November 2020

Katarzyna Anna Kapitan, H.M. Queen Margrethe II Distinguished Research Fellow at the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages, University of Iceland, National Museum of Iceland and Museum of National History, Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark

Computer-assisted methods of revealing relationships among manuscript-transmitted texts

In my talk I will present some perspectives on the application of computer-assisted methods, originating from phylogenetics, to answer questions of textual criticism. Building trees of relationships between texts, known as stemmatology or stemmatics, plays an important role in facilitating our understanding of texts’ origins and their transmissions. Using a case study of a single Old Norse-Icelandic text preserved in almost forty manuscripts, I will discuss possibilities and challenges of using computers to reveal the relationships among texts and understand their manuscripts’ filiations. It has been recognized in the literature, that there are clear similarities between theoretical assumptions of cladistics and stemmatics and the computer-assisted methods have been successfully applied to various literary traditions. Recently, Hall and Parsons (2013) presented a method of data sampling and tree-generating using PHYLIP-package, which gained some followers among Old Norse philologists (Zeevaert et al. 2013, Kapitan 2017). This method of data collection is, however, time consuming as it requires a remarkable amount of manual collation and annotation of texts. In my presentation I will introduce my take on the partial automatization of this process by using XML-based transcriptions and applying Python scripts to convert the data from XML-encoded text to numeric input file for PHYLIP-package (Felsenstein).


The meeting will take place live at Zoom at 1 pm:

The first part of the meeting (the lecture) will be recorded to be later uploaded to our YouTube channel. While we will only be recording the slides and speaker’s audio, we kindly ask that those of you who do not want to risk accidental sharing of your personal image turn off the cameras and turn them back on in the second part of the meeting, a discussion, which will not be recorded.