Capturing Chaos: Rendering Handwritten Language Documents

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ISSN: 1934-5275

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Henderson, John
handwriting, Gerhardt Laves, Noongar, southwestern Australia, XML, XSLT
article description
This paper demonstrates how the nature of a source language document, and the broad goals set for the usability of the content, can direct the process of creating digital language documentation from that source. Gerhardt Laves’s handwritten 1931 field notes on Noongar language and culture of southwestern Australia were retranscribed using an XML markup scheme and processed in various ways using XSLT. The central goals were to produce usable resources for community language activities and for linguistic and other scholarly analysis. A specific requirement for a rough facsimile representation, in recognizing that some of the graphic form of the notes was content that should be represented in the markup, contributed significantly to the specification of the markup scheme. Consultation with the Noongar community led to the recognition of Noongar families’ rights in the materials and the recognition of culturally sensitive content, which together led to a requirement for multiple versions with varying content. The general nature of these handwritten notes also raises important issues of reliability and attribution that must be handled in the markup scheme.

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