Institute of Ancient History

In 2024, the Emmy Noether Research Group "Religious Conflict and Mobility, 700-900" signed an agreement with the Center for Arab Christian Research and Documentation (CEDRAC) at Saint Joseph University of Beirut with the main goal of finalizing the e-Cheikho database of Christian Arabic texts. 

Since 2019, CEDRAC has been diligently working on the development of a comprehensive database to safeguard the rich cultural legacy of Christian Arabic Literature, from its beginnings in the eighth to the nineteenth century. Named e-Cheikho in honor of one the pioneers of Eastern Christian studies in Beirut, Louis Cheikho (1859-1927), this platform builds on the grounbreaking work of G. Graf, J. Nasrallah, D. Thomas and C. Hechaime amoing others. It is designed to offer scholars and enthusiasts insights into this vital field of study, offering, besides a digitized, fully searchable text, up-to-date information on atuhors, works and manuscripts.

Over the past four years, the project team has invested substantial efforts in researching and rigorously testing the database. The first phase involved cataloging a diverse group of 150 authors and 450 texts spanning various confessions, totaling 8.5 million words. It has also successfully established a platform for querying the database, providing insights into authors, their works, and the relevant bibliography. Now, scholars have access to a robust tool that enhances their exploration of Christian Arabic Literature.

As the project progresses, the team is moving on to a new phase, which focuses on parsing all words within the database. This crucial step aims to improve usability, especially for linguists interested in the nuances of Arabic language usage. Parsing involves dissecting linguistic components, facilitating deeper analysis and comprehension of Christian Arabic Literature. This is where Tübingen comes into play! Achieving this goal involves harnessing cutting-edge technology, notably Artificial Intelligence (AI), to digitize and parse Arabic texts, with collaboration extending to the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve. The integration of AI holds immense promise, given the substantial corpus available for training AI models.

This collaboration underscores CEDRAC's and the University of Tübingen's commitment to embracing technological advancements, ensuring the preservation and accessibility of cultural heritage while advancing contemporary research methodologies. The expected outcomes have the potential not only to significantly contribute to the understanding and appreciation of Christian Arabic Literature but to revolutionize linguistic research as a whole. In anticipation of these results, the joint project team plans to introduce audiences to this innovative technology through informative presentations and practical demonstrations.