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TraCES Report Summary

Project ID: 338756
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - TRACES (From Translation to Creation: Changes in Ethiopic Style and Lexicon from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages)

The main scope of the TraCES project ( is a new approach to the study of a written heritage: a literary history in its connection to language history as well as material transmission history. During its five-year run time, the project aspires to analyze in detail the lexical, morphological and stylistic features of Ethiopic texts depending on their origins. To this end, the traditional linguistic and philological methodologies shall be enriched by the application of the advances of digital humanities.
The basis of research is formed by a digital text corpus of critically established texts. Important texts from different periods of Ethiopic literature have been morphologically annotated with the help of a complex multi-level annotation tool specifically developed for the project. For that, a project specific extensive morphological tag set has been created. The tool offers synchronization between the Ethiopic script and automatically generated but manually correctable transcription and allows various tokenization, lemmatization and annotating possibilities.
The annotated corpus is currently being exported to the ANNIS web-based visualization and search tool ( that shall offer a possibility of frequency and collocation analysis that may reveal significant changes in grammatical and lexical choices across centuries. It can then be attempted to explain whether these variations are due to the source language (in case of translated texts), regional features, influences of local languages, or similar. The resulting understanding of the history of the Geez language and of the Ethiopian creativity and literary activity will help us establish features and criteria that may facilitate determining the origins of texts when the direct ‘Vorlage’ is missing as well as evaluate the innovations when approaching critical text editions. The literary transmission and dissemination processes will be analyzed by contrasting and connecting Ethiopian late antique and medieval heritage with its parallels and antecedents in Near East and Mediterranean, contributing to our understanding of the cultural networks of the Christian Orient.
At the same time, an innovative digital lexicon of the Ethiopic language is being developed. The fundamental Lexicon by A. Dillmann has been processed and subjected to data mining to create the basic database of roots and dependent lexemes. The data have been augmented by the graphic variants automatically generated within the root tool on the basis of the graphic interchangeability data, the word list mined from the dictionary by W. Leslau, as well as lexemes and named entities encountered in the annotated corpus.
Metadata in TEI-XML format for the texts and named entities has been created and deposited on an external web resource (currently GitHub repository, open access: that shall be linked to the texts and personal and place names.
As an additional research tool and a by-product, the project offers the service of managing a web portal collecting information on all Ethiopic texts available in digital format, whether in Hamburg or elsewhere in the world ( A comprehensive bibliography on Ethiopic linguistics and related fields, with searchable tags, references to related publications and reviews, as well as online repositories (wherever applicable) has been additionally developed and placed at the general disposal at
With 5 conferences and workshops organized and over 30 papers and talks presented, the project has widely disseminated its research results. In addition, cooperation with other projects in Hamburg and beyond has significantly enriched the team.

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