Small-time production of a big-time product: A Franco-Italian Glossary

  1. 1. Leslie Zarker Morgan

    Loyola College in Maryland

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This paper will describe the use of scanning, the
Oxford Concordance Program and CD-ROM to
solve a classic philological problem: providing a
lexical look-up in the form of an index for a
medieval literary language, Franco-Italian.
The traditional approach to creating a lexical tool
was to write index cards with citations from a
selection of texts, sort these in alphabetical order,
classify them under headwords (lemmas) and by
differing meanings (cf. The Oxford English Dictionary). The person-power expended in this enterprise is such that it can only be mustered for a
large corpus, for an overwhelmingly important
language. It also takes a long time – 77 years for
the OED.
The computer has been used to create modern
dictionaries of modern languages for some time.
Dictionary editors generally operate with two files, a citation and an entry file. The on-line database contains formatting instructions and links to
other words, such as cross-references. This extensive set of information allows modern dictionary
makers to produce multiple products from the
same set of data: the editor can search and extract
entries based on user-specified criteria (Larkin).
This too, however, lends itself best to larger enterprises because of the extensive computational
tools necessary, from large storage capacity to
powerful search tools. There is currently underway a historical attempt to produce a computerized Old French etymological dictionary (DEAF),
but since its inception it has so far produced a few
fasciscles and found itself re-inventing its format
throughout production (intro).
Franco-Italian, a fourteenth-century mixed
language found only in written texts from Northern Italy and generally texts of certain genres
(especially the chanson de geste) is little-known
outside a small group of cognoscenti. The most
recent census of Franco-Italian lists 65 texts (Holtus 1994). Four of these are not yet edited and
published; 26 others were published before 1950.
Twenty-five are chansons de geste or related material in prose; the corpus also includes several
romances, a number of religious pieces (Passions)
and various other writings (Brunetto Latini, Li
livres dou tresor; Marco Polo’s Il Milione). The
editions available present varying critical apparatuses. Unless one has a particular need to read or
work with one of these texts (there are Franco-Italian variants of well-known texts such as the
Chanson de Roland), it is unlikely that a researcher be familiar with it.
In order to read a Franco-Italian text, one must
currently rely upon in text glossaries, Old French,
Italian etymological or medieval Latin dictionaries. These are not consistent in labelling the texts
used (since manuscripts do not necessarily carry a
title as books do, and since editors have “named”
their texts differently at times) and are not necessarily all-inclusive, in the nature of dictionaries.
Thus, for example, in Ms.13, the text on which I
am currently working, the word docler appears
five times, though it is not attested in any Old
French, Italian, or dialect dictionary. It also appears in the Guerra d’Attila (which has no glossary)
three times, and qocler with a similar meaning in
the Entrée is considered a possible metathesis
(Holtus 1985: LXV, 94).
My approach, because of the constraints of a one
person project and the constant re-editing of texts,
is to limit the scope of the project and to provide
for a changeable “final” product. I have therefore
selected five manuscripts with which to begin. Ms.
Marc. 13 (also known as the Geste Francor) is
17,066 lines; V4, a version of the Chanson de
Roland, is 6,011 lines. The Entrée d’Espagne is
15,805 lines; the Guerra d’Attila is 37,535 lines;
the Continuazione dell’Entrée d’Espagne is 6,116
lines. I chose them both for their importance and
for pragmatic reasons. Two I already have in computerized form; three must be computerized. I
confine the Glossary to epic language, as the chanson de geste form is fixed, requires line-end assonance (at a minimum; many later chansons use
rhyme), and tends to certain common subjects
which limit the extent of total vocabulary. Each
has a specific importance to the field and I have
received copyright clearance for each where necessary. The length of the texts and the fact that
they are 11/25 of the Franco-Italian chanson de
geste corpus means that the Glossary at the end of
the sabbatical year will already be useful to others.
The choice of a Glossary rather than a dictionary
is also pragmatic, a choice discussed at greater
length in the final paper.
Production of the Glossary involves 3 main steps:
scanning the text not yet in computerized format;
concording all the texts and sorting/indexing; producing the CD-ROM. Each of these steps bears its
own problems. Scanning is not appropriate for
every text (CETH, 2). I tested each of the prospective editions to be used before settling on the three
final choices. The Guerra and Entrée are set in the
clearest type and therefore most easily scanned.
There are minimal footnotes (none in the Entrée)
and there is no use of italics or multiple type faces.
The type of the Continuazione dell’Entrée is a
little more difficult to scan due to the use of italics
to resolve abbreviations. But it is also shorter than
the other two texts.
The index production involves multiple processes.
To summarize, I must concord the edited texts as
scanned in; decide upon headwords; add cross-references to words not to be defined at that citation;
produce accurate and verifiable definitions for
each head-word. From the initial concordance for
each text, there will be corrections, no doubt, of
typographical inaccuracies not caught from the
scanning or from the editors themselves (in which
case, differences from the original will be annotated, of course). OCP does have certain limitations:
for example, labelling a word when it appears in
rhyme in an index is a complicated matter. Finally,
word-processing will be necessary to merge each
section as it is prepared, since it is unnecessary to
take up mainframe storage with many long files.
The last step, producing a CD- ROM, will be a new
experience. CD-ROM pressers are now available
to the general public at reasonable prices. The
original glossary file will be kept (possibly on
tape) for updating with further texts and as new
editions appear. However, the CD-ROM (which
includes search engines produced for such uses)
will offer a reasonably priced source for a small
audience to receive a necessary reference tool, as
well as leaving the possibility for future development (and cooperation with other scholars) open.
The Glossary will be useful to those working in
Franco-Italian, clearly, but also to those working
with manuscripts from Northern Italy of the same
era: Provençal texts, for example. Those working
with Old French may profit as well, since there are
many dialectal variations in Old French; the Franco- Italian forms, omitted from standard Old
French dictionaries in many cases, may exist in
other marginal Old French texts. The Glossary of
Franco-Italian will therefore serve several groups
and open a lexical field previously largely inacessible to the larger world of scholarship.
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Bergen, Norway

June 25, 1996 - June 29, 1996

147 works by 190 authors indexed

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