Gervers, Michael; Tilahun, Gelila: “Statistical Methods for Dating Collections of Medieval Documents”

Posted by GV in Linguistical Statistics, Paper, Proposals, Thursday |

Only 5% of English private charters from 1066 to 1307 are dated. Researchers at the DEEDS Project (University of Toronto) have developed a database of over 10,000 dated charters from the period and used it to recognize chronological differences in word order and vocabulary which, through the application of statistical methodology, enabled them to establish a temporal ‘footprint’ for undated charter sources. With a recently awarded 3-year Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (within the priority area of Digital Media), historical research will now be directed towards identifying the cultural and social derivation of the 12th– and 13th-century English charter, while research in Statistics will concentrate on 1) improving previously established dating algorithms and 2) developing entirely new algorithms for sequencing a collection of undated documents into their correct chronological order when ‘distances’ between them are available. Related objectives of this undertaking are to: a) expand substantially the present corpus of Latin legal documents, b) test the new algorithms against the content of this enlarged database, c) develop tools to query the database for evidence of linguistic and diplomatic continuity from Anglo-Saxon and Norman/French precedents, d) localize charters and their diplomatic parts so as to identify regional differences and their rate of change and direction under the influence of royal government and justice, e) improve computerized techniques for identifying charters composed by the same author, f) link the enlarged, distributed database to the British TEXTvre and German-sponsored TextGrid, thereby providing free international access to its content, and e) facilitate closer collaboration between scholars and technical specialists from North America and Europe.

Michael Gervers, PhD,
Director, DEEDS Project,
Professor of History,
University of Toronto

Gelila Tilahun, PhD,
Department of Statistics,
University of Toronto,

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