The orthography of machine-readable Neolatin texts: A plaidoyer for minimal intervention

The role of the editor

Some changes are necessary

Every time we transcribe a text, we interfere with it. This is unavoidable (in any medium), but should be kept at a minimum. Basically, editorial interventions should make the information in a text accessible, not reduce it.

E.g., since many modern readers will not be familiar with standard abbreviations / contractions / suspensions (sm = secundum, roe = ratione, cotur = communicatur, ptas = potestas, to name but a few), these need to be expanded. If a change does not improve understanding, it need not be introduced (ex.: ferè changed to fere).

Some arbitrary decisions are unavoidable. Contractions are often ambiguous. Should nūquam be transcribed as nunquam or numquam? We try to follow examples where a given word is written in full, but these may be nonexistent or not uniform.

In some texts word breaks are not hyphenated. Establishing hyphenation means costly human intervention; in many cases, where one or both parts of a split word are meaningless (e.g. au-tem), hyphenation could be introduced automatically. Coping with hyphenation in the course of a search itself can be left to the retrieval software (see last paragraph).

Tachygraphical signs are to be expanded: æ-Ligature to ae, the ampersand to 'et', etc.

Punctuation should be respected, but often needs to be translated into modern systems, since many of the same signs (e.g. the colon, even the full stop) mean something different in earlier texts. This is a thorny issue (cost), because it needs a person with sufficient knowledge of Latin.