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Epic Kalevala and the Ancient Finnish Poems Database

 

  CSSN Reporter: Gloria Special Presenter: Chen Tingting

  Photo: Zhang Guochan Video Production: Li Xiaowan

Guest:Lauri Harvilahti is Director of the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society. His current activities and interests include oral tradition, problems of archiving and management of data, epics, and Finnish Kalevala poetry. He has also carried out fieldwork in Finland, Russia, the Upper Altay (Russian Federation), in Mongolia, China, India, Bangladesh, and Kenya. He is also responsible for planning seminars, colloquia, planning archival and digitization activities and giving lectures and supervision for the students at home and abroad.

Presenter:Thank you for the inspiring lectures you gave us all these days. And we have three questions. The first question is that the Finnish Literature Society has established SKVR database of epic Kalevala. Could you please make a brief introduction of the characteristics and advantages of the database?

Lauri: My pleasure. Actually the Ancient Finnish Poems database (in short SKVR), is a database containing all the original poems, a part of them was used for composing the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The database contains all material from the printed volumes of the Kalevala poetry collection. The printed volumes consist of 27000 pages, so it has been a huge project.

Presenter:Could you please give us a brief introduction of its advantages? What are the advantages of the database?

Lauri: Yes. The advantage is that you can make quick searches instead of using the printed volumes. The database enables searches by different criteria, for example, the collector and the place of collection, and so on. To give an example, by searching for a specific word, one is able to get all occurrences of that word as result.

Presenter:The database must be stable to avoid any technical failures.

Lauri: Yes, that's right. Of course there were usually some failures but now it's working very well. And there is also something we would like to change.

Presenter:What are the major difficulties during the process of building the database?

Lauri: That's also a good question, because you know, in the process when we were starting it in 1990s, the scanners were not so good as there are nowadays and we didn't have enough knowledge in Finland. And after the scanning we have to make the corpus in XML form ready in order to create a platform independent solution.

Presenter:Are there any financial difficulties or some other difficulties?

Lauri: The database is financed by the Finnish Literature Society and it works very well. But we have to find financing in order to enhance some essential features of the corpus.

Presenter:So, it is many people's contribution that makes the database a successful one. And we have another question. Do you have any plans to improve the database and can you share it with us?

Lauri: Yes. Sure we have. One of the biggest ideas I hold in my mind now is to make a semantic web version of the corpus. In that way, we could incorporate the semantic Kalevala we already have with the original poems, and we would be able to trace the original poems that Elias Lonnrot - the compiler of the epic - used in his editing process.

Presenter:So a lot of linguistic knowledge will be employed into the database.

Lauri: Sure. It is a huge project and we are now just planning to start it.

Presenter:At present it has its English version and Finnish version.

Lauri: One version of the semantic Kalevala is a limited English version. But the whole text has not yet been translated into English but in the future, of course, yes. Since our final goal is an e-edition of the epic that could be internationally used.

Presenter:We hope one day we can have its Chinese version.

Lauri: The Kalevala has been translated into Chinese, but the difficulty is translating and annotating the original poems in the poetic language - not even all the Finns understand all the words. But in the future maybe we would be able to create such a semantic version and would be able to find the right concepts in Chinese. But when will it happen, I don't know. The good thing about the technology is the fact that it develops in such a speed.

Presenter:Thank you very much.

Editor: Du Mei     Source:Chinese Social Sciences Net     2013-12-23 03:04:00

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