Re: A syntactical database of the NT

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Thu Nov 26 1998 - 10:53:58 EST

On: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 09:14:03 -0500
Randy LEEDY wrote:
>I may have posted about this idea a couple of years ago, but some
>things are happening that weren't happening then, and I want to try
>again. If I have my way about it (and a recent response to my efforts
>shows a little gleam of hope), there will be in coming years some
>attempt to compile a NT database that, along with parsing data for
>each word, will include at least some basic syntactical links. This
>database will enable one to specify as search criteria syntactical
>connections between words (an adjective modifies a noun, a substantive
>is the subject of a verb, etc.)....


Such a project is already underway for both the Hebrew OT and the Greek
NT. Those of you who also subscribe to bhebrew will no doubt remember
discussions of the "Syntax Encoding Initiative" being done by Vince
DeCaen (UofToronto) and Kirk Lowery (Westminster Seminary). It was
announced at this most recent SBL (Al Groves of Westminster the
first co-editor of the WTS MorphBHS, I, the other co-editor
of the WTS, and Kirk Lowery, discussed it in our separate presentations
of various aspects of the WTS and related maters) that the Werkgroep
syntax information (Eep Taalstra's team in the Netherlands) would be
the first to be incorporated into the MorphBHS (Kirk is primarily
working on that) in the next year or two, and then Kirk and Vince
will begin to incorporate the next, higher level of syntax information
into the MorphBHS. I have already initiated a similar project for the
GRAMCORD MorphGNT text. One of the problems that we run into (and
Kirk Lowery and I are the [only] members of the "Parsing/Syntax
Encoding" committee of the SBL Electronic Standards Seminar, and thus
we are the ones wrestling with this...with Kirk doing the bulk of the
wrestling up to this point) is the actual encoding scheme. What
Kirk and Vince have been working with up to this point is the
SGML (Standard Graphics Markup Langauage) subset of the TEI
(Text Encoding Initiative) markup language. With the advent of
HTML and XML we have been toying with the idea of using one of
those (probably XML if it will support the necessary feature set), so
that such documents are web-publishable. Kirk and Vince (and others)
are currently discussing on bhebrew 1Ki 1:40, and Kirk proposed
several examples of a TEI markup for that passage at the SBL
Standards Seminar. Here's what a couple of elements would look
like (omitting the @25 lines of document type declarations, etc):

    <!--Example of syntactic parsing using Chapter 15 elements and
    <seg type="clause" subtype="wayyiqtol">
     <seg type="phrase" function='predicate" subtype="verb">
      <m id='1k1.40-1.1' baseform='W' type='Pc'>WA</m>
      <m id='1k1.40-1.2' baseform='(LH' type='vqw3mp'>Y.A(:AL^W.</m>


One of the major problems with this entire project of course is the fact
that people disagree about what relates to what and how in any clause/sentence
(cf., the discussion on 1Ki 1:40 on bhebrew !!); a simple example:


Sometimes its not contextually obvious which noun TOU QEOU goes with. We are
currently wrestling with the whole "Alternates" issues just on the
tagging level right now (eg., we have just added the verb material from Todd
Beall's _OT Parsing Guide_, which should be released after the first of the
year, after we have a chance to check it) and are trying to think thru how we
are going to handle this on the syntax encoding level (TEI doesn't have an
obvious way of doing this).

That's all for now...


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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