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Multilingual Thesaurus for Medieval Studies

This was a project of Patricia Cossard, the first UMD Libraries Faculty Fellow, in 2005-06. The goal was the creation of a Medieval Studies electronic resource in a thesaurus structure, plus a structure for classifying historical persons and locations for a multinational, multilingual public.

The stated need for this was based on Cossard’s argument that previous electronic resources in Medieval Studies had been closed source, using closed systems, local standards, unstable access, and irregular archiving. She argued that this closed environment had not served the medieval studies community well, in that the field had traditionally been based on networking and shared sources. The thesaurus attempted to use best-practice from publishing and library sciences to create an open tool for medievalists and associated professionals, such as librarians.

Imagine the ability to search across web-resources using your native modern European language and find appropriate primary and secondary sources in Latin, French, Italian, German, Spanish, English, etc., based upon the meaning rather than the form of the search term. Imagine having a tool that would enable you to search for a concept and be able to construct the forms it has taken historically as well as the ability to link outward for both evidence and argument. Imagine a tool that would enable you to study the slippage of concept which is beyond naming. Imagine having a tool that can deconstruct ontological orders asking for different kinds of readings.

The Multilingual Thesaurus for Medieval Studies (MLTMS) is that tool. MLTMS links terms, i.e. word-forms, with the same meaning, i.e. concept, in the core languages of contemporary studies of the Middle Ages. MLTMS enables scholars to search a variety of electronic resources in different languages at a conceptual level whilst being based on both common and technical word-forms in the major languages used by scholars and other interested parties. Cross-language retrieval of search-results is therefore possible from a number of query-languages. MLTMS is an open source reference tool available to producers of reference works in medieval studies, both large and small.

Participating People

  • Patricia Cossard