QuantQual@CEDIFOR – The coexistence of quantitative and qualitative methods in
historical German philology

Institute(s): GU Frankfurt

Financed with funds from the project-executing agency: Feb. 2017 – Sep. 2017 as pilot project

Project collaborators

Prof. Dr. Christian Chiarcos, Goethe University
Dr. Ralf Plate, Goethe University and Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz
Maria Sukhareva, Goethe University
Benjamin Kosmehl, Goethe University


The relatively large, but by no means ruleless, freedom of word order in German has long been considered in the interest of philological, linguistic and, most recently, linguistic-technological disciplines. It has also had a theory-building effect in various contexts. A generally accepted, uniform theory of word order does not yet exist, but there is agreement on the necessity of a multifactorial model and on the relevance of certain factors. More recently, these factors have also been examined in their diachronic dimension using qualitative empirical methods from a philological-linguistic-historical perspective. An important methodological problem, however, is the insufficient availability of correspondingly annotated corpora, since syntax, semantic and reference annotations are hardly feasible to the required extent.
Therefore, quantitative empirical investigations are only possible with the existence of correspondingly annotated reference corpora if heuristic, automated extraction routines are used, the reliability of which, however, is still to be investigated. In particular under circumstances where quantitative heuristic findings are in line with the results of qualitative-empirical studies, the compatibility or a methodology for a closer examination and relative weighting of the results must be developed. Exactly this situation exists for the example considered here, which is why it can stand as a prototypical case for an eHumanities project in which established methodology in the humanities and empirical approaches supported by information technology seem to contradict each other in their statements.

Relevant publications

Chiarcos, Christian, Benjamin Cosmeal, Christian Fäth, Maria Sukhareva (2018). Analyzing Middle High German Syntax with RDF and SPARQL. In: Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018). European Language Resources Association (ELRA), Paris, France, Miyazaki, Japan, May 2018.

Chiarcos, Christian, Ralf Plate, Maria Sukhareva (2017). A clash of methods? Comparing quantitative and qualitative studies of word order flexibility in historical English. Poster presented at 39th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society. Poster session Computational Linguistics of the 39th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society. Saarbrücken, Germany, March .