D-Lib Magazine
January 1996
ISSN 1082-9873

Project Briefings and Updates

The ARTFL Project

An Introduction

Contributed by:

Andrea Doane
The University of Chicago
[email protected]

The American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL), a cooperative project between the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and The University of Chicago, is a textual database which includes over 2,000 texts from the 13th through the 20th century. This project, which began in 1981, grew out of the French government's desire to create a new dictionary in 1957. This dictionary, the Trésor de la Langue Française, required that a copious number of texts be transcribed for use with a computer. The realization that such a corpus of texts could be useful to other humanists and social scientists involved in French studies is what inspired the collaboration between the CNRS and the University of Chicago.

Access to the ARTFL database, available in the United States and Canada by subscription, is made easy via the World Wide Web (http://humanities.uchicago.edu/ARTFL/ARTFL.html). Users are able to perform a variety of searches on the texts selected for analysis. A search can be done for a single word, a word root, prefixes, suffixes or a list of words provided by the user. One can also search a genre, texts written during a certain period, or all texts written by one or more authors. The possibilities are endless and are almost custom made to accommodate the user's research needs. In addition, a user can access Jean Nicot's Thresor de la langue française, Roget's Thesaurus, and French, English, German and Latin Bibles. In terms of reference material, there is also a French-English Dictionary and a Verb Conjugator.

The ARTFL Project, whose goals are versatility, accessibility and effectiveness, continues to grow on a daily basis. This project is now expanding to include a greater number of Medieval and Renaissance texts as well as a greater variety, including novels, verse, theater, journalism, essays, correspondence, and treaties. Subjects include literary criticism, biology, history, economics, and philosophy. (In most cases standard scholarly editions were used.) More recently the Project has expanded to include Italian projects, more notably the Renaissance Dante in Print project, created in collaboration with The University of Notre Dame. The Provençal poetry database is also a critical part of new development. ARTFL is also giving technical support to the newly created Romance Language Resource Page, a page created to provide instructors with a plethora of teaching resources. For use by both students and instructors, this page offers a variety of tools ranging from authentic material to information about travel abroad. As always, more texts are currently being added to the ever-expansive database: these additions will include new Renaissance text such as Rabelais' Pantagruel and Scève's Delie as well as new selections from Baudelaire, Mallarme, Nerval, and Apollinaire, just to name a few.

The Encyclopédie Project, whose goal is not only to incorporate text and images into the database but also to provide efficient means of navigating through the complex structure, is making great progress. The pilot project will incorporate plate images as well as images of the original text pages and will develop search structures to follow the system of cross-references and categories of knowledge. It is expected that this project's pilot will be running some time this spring.

As the ARTFL Project grows, scholars in all disciplines become more aware of the research possibilities that are available at their fingertips. The goals of accessibility, versatility and effectiveness have certainly been attained, as scholars now have the ability to access an incredible number and variety of texts without leaving their office or even their home. From French to Italian, from linguistics to theology, from text to image, the ARTFL Project encompasses the domains that are prevalent in academia today, and more remarkably tomorrow.

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