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CLARIN Exchange Venice-Lisbon 2023

Submitted by Karina Berger on
Written by Jessica Puliero, PhD, Ca' Foscari University

I applied for the CLARIN Mobility Grant to enhance some aspects related to my doctoral project, which focuses on the study of the Pellestrina dialect and the development of digital tools for linguistic analysis. Thanks to the financial support from CLARIN, from 6 to 12 November, 2023, I was able to visit the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH), and connect with some of the most qualified European scholars in the field of Digital Humanities and computational linguistics.

The aim of this stay was to expand my knowledge in the use of advanced digital tools for lexical analysis and the development of domain ontologies. Indeed, these are crucial aspects for the development of OntoLagoon, a prototype ontology for the specific lexicon of traditional fishing on the island of Pellestrina, which plays a very important role in the work I am carrying out at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice, co-financed by Venice Digital and Public Humanities (VeDPH) and in collaboration with Prof. Federico Boschetti. After collecting audio material through field surveys, the past months have been dedicated to transcribing interviews conducted with the island's fishermen and organising a database, where about 500 dialectical lexical entries have been cataloged, all corresponding to specific concepts related to traditional fishing (methods, tools, environmental factors, animals, etc.). The goal is to create a digital tool that allows us to make the fishing lexicon of Pellestrina available, while simultaneously accessing the relationships between the concepts of this specific sector, thus leading to a less ambiguous representation of its domain.
Example of analysis in AntConc of the type [ˈpese] ‘fish’.
During my stay in Lisbon, I was fortunate to meet and work side by side with prof. Rute Costa, a true reference point in the field of terminology and ontologies at the European level; as well as with researcher Margarida Ramos, also an expert in ontologies, lexicography, and corpus linguistics. The exchanges with Costa and Ramos, both members of Centro Linguística da Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (CLUNL), were extremely productive for my work: on the one hand, they stimulated me to consider the results achieved from additional perspectives, enriching my work's outlook and expanding the bibliography studied so far with new valuable references; on the other hand, they allowed me to master new digital tools, for example, AntConc, an advanced software for corpus analysis that enabled me to refine the method of exploring the lexicon in my ethnographic texts, for instance, providing an overview of all the tokens present in the transcription for each type, highlighting the immediate preceding and subsequent context.

From the outset, the atmosphere appeared natural and conducive. On the first day, Costa and Ramos invited me to present the results achieved in OntoLagoon, a small and experimental project to which they approached with a professional and critical eye, but always in a constructive manner. From Prof. Costa, I received many insights on the conceptual elaboration and the applicative potential of the ontology, while the following days were dedicated to working with Prof. Ramos, particularly relevant from an operational point of view as together we identified and laid the groundwork for some important improvements to be made to the set of classes and relationships present in the conceptualisation of OntoLagoon.

Example of the representation of classes and relations in OntoLagoon.
Moreover, during Prof. Costa's terminology class, I had the opportunity to present my research project and the progress made in the domain ontology, receiving many useful indications for the continuation of my work in the coming months.

Another significant aspect of my stay in Lisbon was the opportunity to closely observe the work carried out on MORDigital, a project that involves encoding António de Morais Silva's Diccionario da Lingua Portugueza. Supported by the Portuguese FCT and led by the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, MORDigital integrates lexicography, terminology and computational linguistics, with its focus on organising and describing the levels of linguistic knowledge in the Diccionario, using Lex-0, and Ontolex-Lemon standards.

Post by prof. Rute Costa on X.
Getting an up-close look at the methodologies and tools employed in developing such a complex ontology provided me with further insights and ideas for my work on OntoLagoon. It convinced me even more that digital tools can and should have a profound impact on our real-world understanding and play a crucial role in contemporary and future humanities research.
In conclusion, I am pleased to say that my stay at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa has been a formative and stimulating experience that significantly contributed to the growth of my skills in the field of Digital Humanities and linguistics. Furthermore, I would like to highlight how the collaboration established with the research group in Lisbon represents added value not only within the scope of the doctoral project itself, but also for those dynamics of exchange that underlie the personal growth of every scholar: encouragement for listening, dialogue, openness to other perspectives and new ideas are all aspects that should always be at the heart of our professional and human relationships. It's a life lesson I won't forget.