About the Project

Language and Linguistic Evidence in the 1641 Depositions is an AHRC-funded, multidisciplinary project that aims to develop new ways of interacting with a digitized corpus of Early Modern English witness testimonies. The 1641 Depositions comprise approximately 4,000 depositions or 20,000 pages of newly-digitized and transcribed witness testimony, originally collected by government-appointed commissioners, regarding the rebellion by the Catholic Irish in 1641. These statements constitute the chief evidence for the sharply contested allegation that the rebellion began with a general massacre of Protestant settlers, and they have been central to protracted and bitter historical dispute.

Using a suite of innovative software designed for both linguistic analysis and visualisation of results we are interrogating the corpus about a range of linguistic issues. In cooperation with IBM we have adapted IBM’s LanguageWare natural language processing software to mine the corpus for information on the nature of the language it contains. We are also using sophisticated forensic and critical linguistic analysis to investigate how language was used in the period to serve legal, political and religious agendas, and seeking to understand the language of conflict encountered in the corpus.

The 1641 CLRLE

This website - the 1641 Collaborative Linguistic Research and Learning Environment - is a significant outcome of the project and has been designed to achieve the following objectives:

  1. It makes the entirety of the 1641 corpus available in a format that facilitates collaborative linguistic research on this unique resource. It provides a variety of ways to organize and interrogate the material, and interact with other users of the interface, allowing scholars considerable flexibility in using the material to support both personal and collaborative research.
  2. It assembles a range of tools for computer-assisted corpus analysis. These include visualisations powered by IBM ManyEyes, which allow textual structure and intra-textual relationships to be explored in new ways, and an embedded Voyeur Tools implementation, which allows for a full range of corpus linguistics investigations of the data.
  3. It provides a platform for showcasing existing research and enables interaction between researchers in the ongoing production and dissemination of new work on this corpus. In the first instance, the Exhibits on the site will present the results of the ‘Language and Linguistic Evidence in the 1641 Depositions’ project, but this range will expand as other scholars interact with the material made available by the 1641 CLRLE.

The Team

Dr Barbara Fennell, the Principal Investigator, is Senior Lecturer in Language and Linguistics at the University of Aberdeen. She is the author of Language, Literature and the Negotiation of Identity (UNC Press) and A History of English: A Sociolinguistic Approach (Blackwell).

Dr Mark Sweetnam read English and Mathematics at Trinity College Dublin, where he also completed his Ph.D thesis, which examined the construction of religious authority in the work of John Donne. Since then he has published research in a variety of areas, including Reformation literature in England and Scotland, missionary writing, and evangelical popular culture and millennialism. He is a Digital Humanities specialist, with a particular interest in the possibilities of applying DH methodologies to the study of intertextuality and influence. He has just completed a new edition of the manuscript minutes of the Antrim Ministers' Meetings, 1654-1658.

Dr Nicola Macleod holds a B.A. in English Language from Bangor University, and an M.A. (Distinction) in Forensic Linguistics from Cardiff University, where she was also awarded the Dell Hymes Commendation for Sociolinguistics. She moved to Aston University in Birmingham in 2006 after being awarded the Phill Newbury Studentship, where she completed her Ph.D entitled 'Police Interviews with Women Reporting Rape: A Critical Discourse Analysis'. Her research interests lie in the language of violence and the manifestation of power through linguistic and discursive structures, particularly in legal contexts.

Dr Deirdre O'Regan is from Dublin, Ireland. She obtained a degree in Computer Engineering from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in 2005. Following that, she joined the Sigmedia research group of TCD, and obtained a Ph.D in Content-Based Media Processing in 2010. Her Ph.D research was concerned with Digital Signal Processing in media applications (i.e. image, video and audio), hinging on aspects of automatic content recognition. Working closely with the Knowledge and Data Engineering Group (KDEG) of TCD, she is primarily involved with the development of this 1641 CLRLE web interface, which she created for the project. Her research interests include Digital Humanities, Human-Computer Interaction, web technologies, and Signal Processing.

Dr Elaine Murphy completed her Ph.D at Trinity College Dublin on the war at sea in Ireland in the 1640s. She has been working with the 1641 Depositions Project since October 2007. She has been involved in the transcription and mark-up of the depositions for the online edition, and is currently working on the normalisation of personal and place names in the depositions.

Dr Séamus Lawless is a Research Fellow and Lecturer in the Intelligent Systems Laboratory in the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity College Dublin. Having worked in the IT industry for two major multinational financial institutions, he returned to academia and completed a Ph.D in the use of Open Corpus Sources for Technology Enhanced Learning. His research interests are primarily in the areas of Digital Humanities, Information Retrieval and Adaptivity with a particular focus on Personalisation. He is a workpackage leader in the EU FP7 CULTURA Project and is on the Management Board for the 1641 Depositions Project. He is a member of the Organising Committee for the 36th Annual ACM SIGIR Conference to be held in Trinity College Dublin.

Senara Naismith holds a B.A. (Hons) in Education and English, and completed a Masters in English Linguistics (with distinction) at the University of Aberdeen. Her Masters thesis investigated the 'Comprehensibility of Idiom', considering the effects of transparency and contextualisation on non-native speaker interpretations, which was based on her interest in the psycho-linguistic aspects of language-processing. Her other research interests include discourse analysis and language variation.

Ms Eve McGill is the project secretary. She is based in the School of Language and Literature at the University of Aberdeen where she also works 50% as a secretary in the school office.