Inviting NLP Researchers to Discuss Digital Epigraphy and Early Medieval Irish Inscriptions

The Cardamom Seminar Series consists of monthly guest seminars on aspects of low-resource NLP. This series is part of the Cardamom Project funded by the Irish Research Council under the Consolidator Laureate Award scheme. The seminars connect researchers who are working to alleviate challenges around language resources and technologies for minority, historical, indigenous and lesser-resourced languages across the globe.

The next Cardamom seminar will take place on Monday 26th September at 5pm Irish Time. This edition will feature Nora White from Maynooth University talking about “Digital Epigraphy and Early Mediaeval Irish Inscriptions”.

Two digital humanities projects, based in the Department of Early Irish at Maynooth University, bring Irish epigraphy (in both Ogham and Latin scripts) into the largely classics-dominated digital epigraphy field. In this presentation, she will introduce the projects, their aims and methodologies. Firstly, OG(H)AM (Harnessing digital technologies to transform understanding of Ogham writing, from the 4th century to the 21st), a collaboration with Glasgow University, co-funded by the IRC and AHRC and secondly, EMILI (A Digital Corpus of Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions), funded by an RIA Nowlan Digitisation Grant 2021.

Digital tools from epigraphy, archaeology and linguistics, including 3D modelling, are being used to transform scholarly and popular understanding of Ogham—a script unique to Ireland and Britain. The OG(H)AM project aims to digitise all c.640 examples of Ogham, from its appearance in the fourth century AD. These inscriptions are significant to historical linguists as the earliest evidence of the Irish language, but are also of particular interest to other disciplines, such as early medieval archaeology and history. The project builds on the digital corpus of Irish Ogham-inscribed stones begun by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies Ogham in the 3D project (2012-15), which uses XML and EpiDoc (a subset of TEI) guidelines to encode the inscriptions and to support multidisciplinary information, as well as providing photographs and 3D models.

The new project is upgrading its data and metadata, enhancing searchability and interoperability, and expanding the thematic, chronological, and geographical scope by including Oghams from the whole island of Ireland (i.e., including Northern Ireland) and from outside Ireland. The latter compromise almost a third of the total from Scotland, Wales, Man, England, and Continental libraries. The OG(H)AM project also moves beyond stone monuments to include portable objects, graffiti, and manuscripts.

The EMILI (Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions) project applies similar tools and recording techniques to early Irish inscriptions (7th-12th centuries AD) in the Latin or Roman alphabet (including occasional examples in other languages, mainly Latin). It is estimated that approximately 600 such inscriptions exist, which have not been collected in their entirety. The soon-to-be-launched online corpus will be demonstrated with a small sample of inscriptions. This is the first step towards a complete digital corpus of all early Irish epigraphical sources in the Latin script.

About the Speaker:

Nora White holds a PhD in Early Irish (2006) from Maynooth University. She subsequently carried out postdoctoral work (2006-2009) as an O’Donovan Scholar in the School of Celtic Studies at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and as a research assistant on the IRC funded Monasticon Hibernicum project. From 2010 to 2017, she held the position of Principal Investigator on the Ogham in 3D project at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. She returned to Maynooth University and the Department of Early Irish in 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher on the Chronologicon Hibernicum project funded by the European Research Council. In 2021, she was Co-Investigator (with PI Prof. David Stifter) on a project (EMILI, A Digital Corpus of Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions) funded by an RIA Nowlan Digitisation Grant. She currently holds the position of Irish Postdoctoral Researcher on the UK-Ireland, AHRC/IRC funded project OG(H)AM: Harnessing digital technologies to transform understanding of ogham writing, from the 4th century to the 21st.

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See recordings from the previous Cardamom Seminars.