Re: A syntactical database of the NT

From: Randy LEEDY (
Date: Fri Nov 27 1998 - 13:55:57 EST


I don't recall your ever having referred to such a project in email
we've exchanged over the past two or three years. I'm sorry if I've
simply forgotten.

Your description sounds very much like what I have in mind, although
it sounds as if it may be years and years from realization. I don't
want to take more of your time just now (I know you're trying to
recover from SBL), so I won't pursue some of the questions I have,
which you may not be at liberty to answer anyway.

I can see the value of trying to work within a standard tagging scheme
if possible. However, though I know nothing about the schemes you're
talking about, I wonder if you're trying to pour new wine into old
wineskins. If the existing schemes don't allow for essential features
such as tagging alternative syntactical connections, then it looks to
me as if they simply won't work. Is the value of using a standard
scheme really such that it would be unwise to custom design something
new for precisely the purpose at hand? I really think that what I have
in mind should be doable for the NT within a few years' time, even
starting from scratch, if the resources can be lined up for it
(there's the rub, no doubt).

I'm torn between posting this to you privately or keeping it on the
list. My main reason for keeping it on the list is to try to gauge the
amount of interest in this idea and to gather some input about what
features such a database should have. If you're interested in hearing
more of my thinking on this topic, I'd be glad to discuss it further
with you either on- or off-list, at the time least inconvenient for

In love to God and neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC


Such a project is already underway for both the Hebrew OT and the
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
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
that people disagree about what relates to what and how in any
(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
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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