Group Work: Encoding folktales

In today’s session we did a presentation of our group work: Every group of two to three people encoded a folktale into TEI. We shared our experience with encoding itself, issues that occurred while working on the stories, and problems we had with the program Studio Visual Code.

Issues while encoding

The groups used different approaches to highlight the Likpakpaln terms: some just tagged them with <term>, others additionally highlighted them as superscript. There were also struggles with placing the end-tags at the right spot, but Jana revised our TEI-documents and made us aware of and helped with our issues and mistakes.

Livia and I had problems with the Live Sharing within Studio Visual Code, but worked our way around it. Our group also highlighted the headers with <hi rend=”bold”>, but Jana reminded us of the fact that by using the <head>-tag alone around the header it will already be visualized in bold writing, so after revising we took out the <hi>-tags to not overcrowd the document unnecessarily. Jana also pointed out that there was a little inconsistency in our xml:ids, since we had a little mix-up when tagging the terms with the appropriate ID.

One way to appoint an ID in the glossary …
… and referencing it in the text.

There was a slight confusion in class about when to use the xml:id and the target attributes, since an ID must be unique within a document. Livia and I tried the solution of using the xml:id attributes within the <gloss>-tags in the glossary and referencing the IDs by using <term target=”#term-id”> around the terms within the text. As it turns out, this is working, so we were quite happy with finding a solution.

New folktale, new issues

Moving on, or rather continue practicing, the groups chose new folktales to work on. We were instructed to take on a story that contains a song, so we could practice the use of tables in a TEI-document for presenting the original Likpakpaln songtext next to its translation. The <table>-element is a tricky one, because you need to build a table with its rows and columns, which can be very hard to envision, when there is no spreadsheet in front of you, but instead something like this:

The first cell of a row always contains the line in Likpakpaln, the second the English translation.

Unfortunately (or luckily?), the folktale Livia and I chose contained a very simple song that only consisted of names and so it didn’t need a translation, ergo no table. Instead, we used the <l>-tags – l standing for ‘line’ – for each row.

The instructions in parenthesis might create a new problem:
Should they be part of the song division or outside of it?

By encoding various folktales, I think all of us realized that TEI and XML are a bit complicated, but actually very logical in their use. Although it seemed abstruse and confusing when learning about the tags and attributes in the beginning, everything makes sense when practically working with it. Encoding is definitely a practice that needs a lot of exercise and revision to understand it. And our work within the sessions really helps here by applying the universally known phrase: learning by doing!

The Homestretch of our TEI Introduction

Last week we finished our introduction to TEI and started our group work of this semester.

TEI Introduction III

For the TEI part of the class we dealt with common mishaps that occurred in our TEI documents of the folktale “Why the Python’s Skin has Dark-Brown Blotches” which we worked on the week before. None were major mishaps, but they are still parts of the code that are important for the document to come together. These mishaps included: forgetting <head type=”subTitle”> to indicate subtitles in the document, closing divisions too soon, and – which wasn’t really a mishap at all – that we don’t need to use the <q>-tag anymore if we use a division for ‘song’.

Then we talked about how best to encode notes and glossaries by using a <list>-tag.

An example for <list>.

Another thing before we started with our group work was, that we talked about the issue that XML:IDs need to be unique, meaning that they can only be used once in the whole document, which proves difficult, if we want to ID the same term throughout a folktale. The work-around we decided on for this problem is that we will only ID the first instance a term comes up in a folktale, and only that one time. This also works great with our aim to foreignize the folktale for its readers, as only having an explanation for the first time an unknown term comes up means that the reader will have to engage with a folktale on a close level to understand it completely.

Group WOrk

And lastly for last week’s class we got together in our groups, decided on a folktale to work on, and started with that. Working on our own folktales was really doable thanks to the introduction to TEI the previous three weeks, and therefore I want to thank Jana and Tasun again for providing us with so much in-class information and answering our questions!

Coding as a Humanist -Encoding a Konkomba Folktale in XML

As part of the course “Demarginalising orature – Translating minor forms into the digital age” our goal was to transcribe and digitalize some of the folktales that are shared among the Konkomba people as an oral tradition to make them available to a broader audience. That their culture is based on oral traditions, has to be kept in mind, when we digitalized their history. The dominant written language was a result of colonization, but the tradition of orality prevails. The telling of the tales is part of the Konkomba’s daily lives. They gather in the middle of their village either during communal work, to entertain each other or in the evening as a way of spending time together and bringing the tales closer to the younger generation, so that they wouldn’t be forgotten. The way these tales are told is very important. The storytellers interact with the audience through questions, gestures or emotions.
Because of changes regarding the community’s lives and work structure, these moments tend to be rather scarce now, as we were told in our introduction to the topic. Since very few tales had been written down, Tasun Tidorchibe visited the villages and recorded, transcribed and also translated the folktales into English. Our assignment was to turn the transcriptions of the folktales into a searchable PDF via TEI and produce a video with subtitles from the audio and video files given to us.

The folktale Lilli Bloch and I were working on is called “Nachiin Pays for Feasting on Unyii’s Children” and was narrated by Bilinyi Chikpaab in Kutol on 18th March 2022. The story is about a wolf, who deceives a crocodile in a vicious manner in order to eat all of her children. Since the crocodile is the guardian of the river, no one is allowed to drink from it, as a result of the actions of the wolf. But the rabbit, seen as the wisest character and trickster in Konkomba folktales, needed to drink and made a deal with the crocodile: the crocodile would get revenge on the wolf for eating all of her children and in return the rabbit would not get eaten. In order to bring the wolf to justice, the rabbit and crocodile outsmarted the wolf and built a trap which resulted in the wolf losing his testicles to the crocodile and the rabbit’s life being spared.

Since the provided audio is in Likpakpaln, the language spoken by the Konkomba people, Lilli Bloch equipped the video with English subtitles, while I worked on the PDF, using TEI and XML. I started with the Tei Header. I used the header we created in class as an orientation and adapted it to fit this particular requirement. Secondly, I copied and pasted the story into the document, to have the base covered and to work from there. I put the story in paragraphs, so it is easier to read. Then I marked the words that we wanted to use in the glossary, so an explanation is available through the glossary. Since there are some words or phrases that don’t have a suitable translation or could only be exchanged for a lengthy description or explanation, they are kept in Likpakpaln in the text, but have the explanation at the bottom of the document in a glossary. This is an easy way to display an explanation for terms that cannot be translated from foreign languages. But for readability, I put in three footnotes at the beginning with only the translation of the animals, for clarity regarding their species, so the reader can picture them and have a better understanding of the story.  We decided to put the longer explanations in a glossary at the end, so that the pages in the document would not be crowded, but we didn’t want to exclude them, since they are a way of teaching background knowledge and offering context for the reader about the Konkomba people and culture. We put the information about the footnotes also into the editorial declaration in the TEI document.

At first, I was a little bit sceptical, if it is possible to put two marks around a word, but luckily it worked out fine and it looks just like I wanted it in the PDF. The glossary and footnotes were the tricky part of the coding, since you have to think of a lot of terms, that have to be used in order to work properly in the converted file. We chose to put the explained term in a bold font and the explanation under it, so it has a tidier look to it.

In the TEI document
In the finished PDF

 After Lilli was done with the video, I inserted a link, given to us by our tutor Jana Mankau, into the document, which when clicked in the PDF leads to the repository, where the video with the subtitles is uploaded, in addition to provide a digitally readable transcription, the tale can also be listened to and the interactions of the storyteller Bilinyi Chikpaab with his audience can be observed. Once this was done, I uploaded the document on a platform called, where I converted the document into a PDF.

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