I have written the Classics Reader, a prototype application which enables a user to display, translate, and gloss Greek and Latin texts. The application can:
- Work with any text available through the Perseus Digital Library
- Parse word forms either selected from the text or suggested by the user against full definitions in the Liddell-Scott-Jones and Lewis-Short dictionaries
- Exploit two different parse engines based upon the morphology files of either the Perseus Hopper or Diogenes
- Index permanently a Greek or Latin lexicon entry against any word in the text
- Permanently save the user's vocabulary notes — including principal parts, customised definitions, glosses, and commentary — against any word in the text
- Remember previously typed dictionary definitions and principal parts when the user encounters the same word in a subsequent section of text.
- Activate a keyboard at the press of a function key so that the user can type using full polytonic Greek as well as an extended set of long and short Latin vowels
- Review and revise previously entered principal parts and word definitions in a separate Classics Vocabulary application
- Perform all work in an integrated environment, in a single browser window, with no need to flip back and forth between screens and subscreens
In summary, the application emulates a student's vocabulary and notes sheet — combining a dictionary, personalised vocabulary, marginalia, and the source text itself into a single online resource.
The application remains a demonstration only: At present I have loaded personal vocabularies and glosses for several books of The Iliad and The Aeneid. I have also provided several other Greek and Latin texts as examples of prose and drama. I may add more texts if any users indicate interest.
I encourage those who are interested to test the application by clicking on words, performing word searches, selecting parsed forms, typing word definitions with the Greek and Latin keyboard, and saving their result.
I currently maintain a working version of the Classics Reader on my own computer which allows me to look up words, enter definitions, and edit textual glosses for every Latin or Greek book in the Perseus collection library. The time and finances required to make this version fully available to others as an online resource is beyond my means.
If I were to develop the application professionally, I would envision two approaches whose collaborative and pedagogic benefits seem unquestionable.
First, the application could be developed as a Wiki, in which multiple users could log onto the site and work on whatever texts they happened to be interested in. The results of their work would be visible and available to others, and emendations and additions could be applied freely by everyone to all texts. This approach would instantaneously make available comprehensive vocabularies and glosses for a large number of standard texts. New users of the site could dispense with looking up words when first engaging with a text, and commence with what is, in the end, the sine qua non of classics — actually reading the original Greek and Latin.
Second, the application could be developed as a private resource, in which multiple users could save pristine texts to a private account space where they could define, emend, and gloss the text without interference or oversight from others.
My feeling is that the best option for development would be a combination of both approaches, creating an area where common texts could be publicly accessed and edited, while also allowing users to save these same texts to a private space for more autonomous work. Such an approach would accommodate not just the bewildered high school student and undergraduate, but also the graduate and academic.
The goal of the Classics Reader application was to concentrate the student's energy where it should be focused — on reading and interpreting the text — rather than on the arid, frustrated flipping of voluminous dictionary pages. As it exists, the application provides a demonstration of an integrated workspace where a given classical text can be emended and glossed with minimal dictionary work.
I would like to make this resource properly available to others.