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, Netherlands




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.