Parts of texts and writing by compilation

Organised by the ERC project SAW (Research Group SPHERE), in the context of the seminar History of Science, History of Text

Venue: Université Paris Diderot , Condorcet Building, room 483A
10 rue Alice Domon et Léonie Duquet 75013 Paris – map

March 10th, 2016 – 9:30 am to 5:30 pm

The session deals with themes already explored in the previous years: the parts  that can be identified in scientific writings, and what they document; the composition by compilations, and the material environment they require. We will also return to Zellig Harris’s notion of sublanguage, and its possible usefulness for the history of science.

Caspar Hirschi, Handwriting in Print: Graphological Publications during the Dreyfus Affair
Jacqueline Léon
, Harris’s sublanguages: intermediary objects for text processing
Florence Bretelle-Establet, Parts and Tables of Contents in Chinese Medical Texts

Programme  pdf version

Caspar Hirschi (Universität St.Gallen, Switzerland)
Handwriting in Print: Graphological Publications during the Dreyfus Affair
Abstract – The rise of graphology as an allegedly “exact” science in the field of handwriting analysis and forensic expertise after 1870 was closely intertwined with new print technologies that enabled the integration of handwritten parts of texts into printed documents. These parts of handwriting could range from single letters to signatures to whole manuscripts. The technology was used in scholarly books, expert reports and public posters. Its purpose was to turn readers of graphological texts into direct witnesses of handwriting analysis and thus to establish graphology as an experimental science according to the positivist ideal of the time. The Dreyfus Affair offered a great opportunity to the champions of graphology to prove the scientific reliability and public usefulness of their science. As soon as the famous «bordereau» was printed in a newspaper, graphologists used the new print technology to highlight the scientific exactitude of their analysis. However, their attempts were not crowned by success as they produced contradictory evidence regarding the authorship of the bordereau and thus added to the public confusion about Dreyfus’ guilt or innocence.

Jacqueline Léon (CNRS, Université Paris Diderot et Université Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle)
Harris’ sublanguages: intermediary objects for text processing
Abstract – Harris worked out the notion of sublanguage in the wake of the revival of interest in international auxiliary languages, machine translation interlingua, and language of sciences which prevailed in the 1950s. Harris considered that the sublanguage of a given science had an identical structure whatever the natural language in which its statements were produced, so that it could be used by all scientists, regardless of their native language. Appeared in 1968 as abstract mathematical systems, sublanguages have been  used as soon as the early 1970s as intermediary languages for machine translation (of weather bulletins). In the 1990s, Harris and his research group undertook the analysis of the sublanguage of immunology in order to define its informative grammar and determine the informative structure of the sublanguage texts. In my presentation, I will trace this evolution and show how sublanguages, as they became objects for Natural Language Processing, progressively lost their abstract character and their theoretical specificities while gaining empirical features.

Florence Bretelle Establet (ERC Project SAW & SPHERE)
Parts and Tables of Contents in Chinese Medical Texts
Abstract – Relying on a set of a twenty of medical texts written and published in China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, I will analyze the ways medical texts were cut into parts and what kinds of order account for it. Tables of contents will be at the focus of my research.