The '1641 Depositions' in Trinity College Dublin (hereafter TCD) comprise some 4,000 personal statements, in which mainly Protestant men and women of all classes told of their experiences following the outbreak of the rebellion by the Catholic Irish in 1641.
Collected by government-appointed commissioners, the witness testimony runs to approximately 20,000 pages, and constitutes the chief evidence for the sharply contested allegation that the rebellion began with ageneral massacre of protestant settlers. This material has been central to protracted and bitter historical dispute.
It provides a unique source of information for the causes and events surrounding the 1641 rebellion and for the social, economic, cultural, religious, political and linguistic history of seventeenth-century Ireland, England and Scotland.
The depositions also vividly document various colonial and 'civilizing' processes, including the spread of Protestantism in one of the remotest regions of the Stuart kingdoms and the introduction of lowland agricultural and commercial practices, together with the native response to these developments.
Earlier major grants from the AHRC and the IRCHSS have sponsored the transcription and digitization of the depositions, making them available online and amenable to analysis by a variety of scholars and thereby facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration.
The current project seeks to explore how a computer environment can be created in which scholars interested in historical and corpus linguistics can work collaboratively with historians and other specialists to interrogate the 1641 Depositions, in ways not currently possible, by exploiting effective language technology developed by IBM LanguageWare.
The principal objective of the project is to create a personalised computer environment in which linguistic researchers can conduct sophisticated discovery, analysis and visualisation of the digitised 1641 Depositions, andcollaborate in real time with colleagues on these resources.
The long-term outcome of this research can help to drive a revolution in the way linguistic and historical research is conducted in the Digital Humanities. Developing a Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)-compliant corpus and following accepted international standards that address interoperability issues will enable the project to link with other crucial digital research initiatives, including DARIAH and CLARIN.
Recorded in Early Modern English, the Depositions provide evidence of linguistic variation in Ireland on the micro-level, while on the macro-level they represent (quasi-)legal discourse and the discourse of massacre. EME variability coupled with shifting voices in the Depositions present linguists (and computer analysts) with particular challenges and will require considerable interdisciplinary consultation.
Within the overall aims of the project, the specific linguistic objectives are as follows: to develop language models for seventeenth-century English in Ireland; to develop ontologies of seventeenth-century English, surnames and place names; to investigate the possibility of localizing morphological and lexical variants in mediated text; to investigate 17th century legal discourse as it is represented in the texts, with particular attention to the framing of the discourse, leading toa linguistic assessment of the quality and nature of the evidence in the Depositions; and to investigate the discourse of massacre, atrocity and grnocide presented in the witness testimony.
Extended contact between specialists in a variety of fields, from Computer Science to History, to Atrocity Studies, to Linguistics, and between industry and academia, is an outstanding feature of this proposal, which hinges upon real knowledge exchange and resource enhancement.