Communicating the TEI Across Linguistic and Cultural Boundaries

1. Abstract

The Text Encoding Initiative [1] is one of the oldest continuously developed DH projects in existence. For many years, efforts have been made to translate the TEI Guidelines and specifications into languages other than the original English [2][3][4]. These efforts, however, have often been frustrated or eventually abandoned. Despite the TEI's ingenious infrastructural support for translation, for which much credit is due to the late Sebastian Rahtz, it is difficult for translation efforts to stay continuously up to date with the Guidelines, which change incrementally and employ terminology that is often technical and sometimes unclear. In a recent meeting as part of the Triangle Scholarly Communications Institute, a group of scholars focused on the problem of communicating the TEI and developed proposals to remedy the problems with translating the TEI documentation [5]. The conclusions and next steps that were identified in that meeting are the focus of this poster.

It is quite clear that the flow of knowledge as we try to communicate the TEI cannot simply go from English to other languages: the act of translating can highlight cases where the Guidelines and specifications are insufficiently clear or even wrong. Revisions to the original document may be required. Research groups working with different languages may discover they have problems and solutions in common. Therefore, it is important that the TEI Consortium should take active responsibility for coordinating ongoing translation efforts, foregrounding them, and ensuring that they have the tools and affordances they need for their work. Additionally, the advent of reasonably useful machine translation may prove to be an important catalyst (though not by itself sufficient) for translation efforts. A glossary of TEI technical terms must be developed, accompanied by notes and examples for translators, so that it is clear not just what a term means, but why it (or its translation) was chosen, and how it is to be used.

Further, the affordances on the TEI's website must be improved so that it is clear to beginners where to start and where useful examples may be found. As part of this, and of the translation of the specifications, it may be necessary to move the Guidelines themselves out of the foreground and to make the more easily internationalized specifications the primary point of contact for users. Although it is probably inevitable that a single language (which must probably be English for historical reasons) be used as a common basis of discourse for the TEI, a concerted effort must be made to provide introductory materials in other languages [6][2]. This poster will document the steps we are taking towards ensuring that communication between the different linguistic communities using TEI can flow in multiple directions. We intend to make the ways TEI is communicated more equitable so that it may be adopted by a more diverse user base.


[1] TEI Consortium, eds. ?TEI P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. 3.6.0. July 2019. TEI Consortium. ? (2019-10-16).

[2] Allés Torrent, Susanna / Calarco, Gabriel / Rio Riande, Gimena del. TTHub. Text Technologies Hub. Recursos sobre tecnologías del texto y edición digital: ? (2019-10-16).

[3] Stadler, Peter / Scholger, Martina (2016): Report on the TEI2German Translatathon at Vienna 2016?. ? (2019-10-17).

[4] SIG East Asian/Japanese, TEI Consortium: ? (2019-10-16).

[5] Bermúdez Sabel, Helena / Cayless, Hugh / Meneses, Luis / Nagasaki, Kiyonori / Rio Riande, Gimena del / Scholger, Martina (2019): (2019-10-16).

[6] Terras, Melissa / Van den Branden, Ron / Vanhoutte, Edward (2017): TEI by Example. (2019-10-16).

Hugh Cayless (, DC3, Duke University, Martina Scholger , Centre for Information Modeling - Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities, University of Graz, Helena Bermúdez Sabel , Université de Lausanne, Luis Meneses , Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory, University of Victoria, Gimena del Rio Riande , Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas and Kiyonori Nagasaki , International Institute for Digital Humanities

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