ATE: ARTFL Text Encoding

  1. 1. Mark Wolff

    Electronic Text Services - University of Chicago

  2. 2. Leonid Andreev

    Department of Mathematics - Harvard University

  3. 3. Mark Olsen

    ARTFL Project - University of Chicago

Work text
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ATE: ARTFL Text Encoding

Electronic Text Services University of

Department of Mathematics Harvard

ARTFL Project University of Chicago


University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA





The ATE (ARTFL Text Encoding) specification is the encoding scheme for the
current generation of textual databases running under PhiloLogic, a full-text
search engine developed by ARTFL. The advantage of using ATE is that electronic
text centers (such as the University of Chicago Library's Electronic Text
Services) can provide sophisticated access to full-text databases without the
costs and overhead of encoding document structure that current software cannot
easily process. For those who wish to continue using full SGML (such as the TEI
and the EAD), PhiloLogic can provide access to their electronic texts right now
through data conversion.
PhiloLogic offers users the ability to define a corpus of documents by multiple
criteria (such as author, title, and date) and allows them to search for words,
phrases, and UNIX regular expressions in that corpus. Search results are
displayed in concordance and KWIC formats as well as frequency by title
listings. From the concordance and KWIC displays users can expand the context
surrounding their search terms by viewing the page or content object (paragraph,
poem, chapter, etc.) containing the terms. Users can also navigate a document
from a table of contents which lists major document objects.
SGML in general and the TEI in particular make reporting search results over the
web difficult for commercial full-text software because most browsers cannot
handle anything other than HTML. XML promises a way for future browsers to
handle document structure, but that functionality has yet to become a reality
and will require not only a host of new or modified DTDs but also new browser
software to process XML-encoded documents, all of which will require specialized
skills and staff that may be beyond the resources of most humanities computing
organizations.1. Jon Bosak and Tim Bray, "XML and the
Second-Generation Web," Scientific American (May
1999). <> We agree with one of the authors of the TEI who observes
that HTML is currently the most effective delivery vehicle for SGML documents to
web browsers.2. Lou Burnard, "SGML on the Web: Too Little Too Soon,
or Too Much Too Late," Computers & Texts,
15 (August 1997). <> As he notes, SGML-to-HTML conversion on the fly is
complex, costly, and CPU-intensive. Commercial applications such as DynaWeb
provide a means to search SGML-encoded documents and send results over the Web,
but these applications are often cumbersome and require extensive postprocessing
of search reports.3. Toby Burrows, "Using DynaWeb to Deliver Large
Full-Text Databases in the Humanities," Computers &
Texts, 13 (December 1996). <>
Searching ATE-encoded documents with PhiloLogic over the web avoids many of the
problems of commercial SGML search engines because the source files are already
in a format web browsers can handle. ATE uses Dublin Core headers for metadata
as well as a few optional extensions to HTML. The following header from our
general specification is in use for both ARTFL data creation projects, most
notably our French Women Writer's project, and for loading databases from other
sources with SGML DTDs.
<meta name="DC.title" content="TITLE GOES HERE">
<meta name="DC.creator" content="AUTHOR GOES HERE">
<meta name="DC.publisher" content="PUBLISHER INFO HERE">
<meta name="" content="YEAR FIRST PUB">
<meta name="DC.type" content="GENRE OR TYPE">
<meta name="DC.identifier" content="SHORT CITATION">
<meta name="DC.contributor" content="Editor or other">
<meta name="DC.subject" content="TO BE DETERMINED">
<meta name="DC.format" content="ATE">
<meta name="DC.language" content="fr">
<meta name="DC.description" content="TO BE DETERMINED">
<meta name="DC.relation" content="TO BE DETERMINED">
<meta name="DC.coverage" content="TO BE DETERMINED">
<meta name="DC.source" content="ARTFL:WW:1999">
<meta name="DC.rights" content="ARTFL:1999">
ATE uses HTML to represent text as an ordered hierarchy of content objects.See Steven J. DeRose, David Durand, Elli Mylonas, and Allen H. Renear,
"What is Text, Really?", Journal of Computing in Higher
Education, 1:2 (1990), 3-26. The top level of the
hierarchy is the document itself, as described in the DC header. Lower text
levels are encoded with the older HTML tags <H1>,
<H2>, etc., instead of nested <DIV>s:
... some text and tags ...
<H1>Book One </H1>
<H2>Part One</H2>
<H3>Chapter 1</H3>
... some text and tags ...
<H3>Chapter 2</H3>
... some text and tags ...
A document need not contain all these divisions. The three level hierarchy can
reflect any number of possible structures, such as Book-Chapter-Verse, or
Act-Scene (leaving <H3> blank).
Further object levels which descend from the lowest division level are as
<p> = paragraph/stanza
sentence = which are defined by a set of rules or optional tags (<sent>)
word = delimited by white space and punctuation
Pages constitute optional objects. They do not fit into the structural hierarchy
outlined above, but they form a parallel structure for display
<page n="[ANY STRING]"> where [ANY STRING] is a page object identifier (e.g. page
number) from the source edition (page tags occur at the beginning of pages).
ATE is therefore a specific implementation of HTML 3.2 with a few optional tags.
PhiloLogic completely ignores SGML encoding that it does not recognize, simply
passing such encoding through the system, to be delivered to the browser or
modified by a database specific formatting module on output. Not only does ATE
facilitate the use of well known systems (such as HTML editors, WWW browsers,
etc.) for creating and modifying documents for PhiloLogic databases, but it also
provides an experimental infrastructure for intelligent indexing of WWW document
In order to import SGML-encoded data into a PhiloLogic database, the SGML must be
flattened to ATE. Any SGML data set can be converted to ATE using James Clark's
nsgmls parser and David Megginson's Perl module We have found that
despite the inconsistencies in text markup from one etext shop to another and
even within a single etext shop (such as Chadwyck-Healey, arguably the largest
and most consistent producer of encoded text), the ATE specification can be
applied to any set of SGML data through parsing and conversion. We have already
loaded many databases based on a variety of SGML DTDs, including a many
Chadwyck-Healey products (Patrologia Latina, Voltaire électronique, Goethes
Werke, English Poetry, and many others), TEI documents (such the Oxford Text
Archive's First Folio Shakespeare and documents from Indiana University's
Victorian Women Writer's Project), and sample Encoded Archival Descriptions
We plan to add extensions to PhiloLogic, but we are not developing encoding
elements for which we not have an application or planned application. Extensions
to the tag set and PhiloLogic functionality include database internal
cross-references, of which notes are an important subclass, and full UNICODE
support. We are particularly interested in hearing from users and text encoding
experts regarding critical functional/tag set deficiencies.
We believe that we have built an effective search engine with a general data
encoding specification that provides sophisticated capabilities at low cost.
PhiloLogic is in full production at ARTFL and the University of Chicago Library.
We are currently exploring several avenues for release of PhiloLogic and are
beginning to work with some collaborating institutions to build a release
version of PhiloLogic.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

June 9, 1999 - June 13, 1999

102 works by 157 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ICCH (19), ALLC/EADH (26), ACH/ALLC (11)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None