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Sperberg-McQueen, "Text in the Electronic Age" (abstract)

  • C. M. Sperberg-McQueen. "Text in the Electronic Age: Textual Study and Text Encoding, With Examples from Medieval Texts." Literary and Linguistic Computing 6 (1991): 34-46.

In this extremely accessible article, Sperberg-McQueen uses concrete examples of medieval and early modern texts to illustrate some of the complicated problems in designing methods of encoding texts in machine-readable form for textual study. While answering the question "What constitutes an adequate representation of texts?", this article presents a good overview of the theory behind the Text Encoding Initiative, and contains many clear explanations of terms for the novice.

Sperberg-McQueen sets out a series of axioms that any markup scheme must incorporate:

  • Markup must reflect a theory of the text.
  • It must allow for expression of textual interpretation.
  • Markup must acknowledge that there are no finite sets of textual features to be marked, texts to be tagged, or uses to which texts may be put.
  • It must be able to describe linguistic organization.
  • Markup must recognize that texts are physical objects and are both linear and hierarchical, and it must be able to tag cross- and self-references within texts.
  • Finally, markup must express that texts refer to real and fictive objects and are themselves cultural and historical objects.
Many textual examples and illustrations are used to make the point that while not everyone will need to use every tag defined by the TEI, it is important that this ideal markup system allow any potential understanding of the text to be expressed. (Stephanie Hill Simione.)
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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: http://umn.edu/home/mh/ebibshs1.html

Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 6 May 1995

Last revised 17 September 1996