Practical Linguistic Annotation: The Hebrew Bible

AbstractAnnotation and research in the humanities are tightly coupled. Annotations can be seen as an expressions of research activity which can be turned into input data for subsequent research. The digital paradigm has profoundly altered the ways that we humans can handle the information content of our sources and it also affects the practice of annotation. We explore new ways of annotation that were not feasible before the digital times, and we list a few requirements for annotation to act as a reliable source of research information. Rather than conducting an academic discussion on the ontology of annotations, we highlight practical use cases for new kinds of annotations. We illustrate those in a concrete system for linguistic annotations to the Hebrew Bible, SHEBANQ.

Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), Den Haag, Netherlands

Eep Talstra Center for Bible and Computer (ETCBC), Amsterdam,




An annotation is a piece of information attached to another piece of
information. Annotations generally do not have the same authorship,
publishing workflow, and audience as the information sources they are
attached to. Annotations serve to provide comments to sources, and these
comments may involve analysis, explanation, correction, linking,
evaluation, tagging, counting and much more. In this article we focus on
the logistics of information, rather than on the meaning. While it is
useful to distinguish annotations for their type of content, our
interest lies in the patterns of information distribution. How are
annotations created, how are they published, and how do they behave in
the research data cycle?

Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible is a family of ancient texts with a complex origin. It
is recognized by several world religions and it has pervaded large
swaths of human culture. Academic research into the Bible occurs in
several disciplines: linguistics, history and theology with their
specialties such as: linguistic variation, historical linguistics,
textual criticism, literary analysis, exegesis and hermeneutics.

Religious communities have added their own sets of interpretations and
observations. The practice of Bible translation in a great many
languages of the world (Cysouw) and (Christodoulopoulos) has
sharpened people’s antennas for interpretation. There are editions of
the text of the Hebrew Bible in which the pages contain a small square
of source text, surrounded by layers and layers of annotation.