NLP for the ancient world

Due to how academic disciplines have evolved over the past 200 years, our earliest civilizations are often studied in isolation from one another. This is tragic, for today we know that the ancient world – from Rome to Mesopotamia to India to China – consisted of deeply interconnected networks of ideas, technologies, art, and beliefs.

We have developed the Classical Language Toolkit (CLTK) because we believe it will revolutionize the study of the ancient world. It will do so by removing barriers to entry for those doing natural language processing (NLP) in Classical languages (namely, the surviving literature of the entirety of Eurasia and north Africa, from roughly 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1500). As a framework for multidisciplinary research, the CLTK will help scholars of tomorrow discover the shared origins of what were once thought disparate cultures.

As software, the CLTK is a suite of NLP tools suited to the special needs of ancient languages. We have have three goals: The most basic is to offer low-level libraries for doing NLP in particular Classical languages (e.g., Ancient Greek, Sanskrit). Developed with an extensible architecture, our code is easily hacked to support new languages. Second, the CLTK offers tools for students and scholars to do reproducible scientific research. For instance, it has version–controlled linguistic corpora and a suite of functions for stylometrics. Third, it is a framework for multidisciplinary language research. With pre–trained models (such as Word2Vec for vector space models, Moses for machine translation, and LDA for topic modeling), we now provide (or will soon) easy–to–use tools to capture the transmission and evolution of knowledge, from the earliest human societies to the dawn of the modern era.

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Classical Language Toolkit 2017 Projects

  • Natasha Voake
    Adding CLTK Functionality for Old and Middle French
    Old and Middle French are hardly studied outside of a limited network of French universities. Implementing NLP functionality to these languages would...
  • Charles Pletcher
    Speaking of Comments: Annotations as a Springboard for Discussion
    I plan to build a flexible platform for teachers to annotate texts in the CLTK Archive. The purpose of the annotations is twofold: first, to guide...