Friday, September 22, 2023

Postdoc on Ben Sira and AI

Frédérique Rey has posted an advertisement for a postdoc doing interesting work on the textual history of Ben Sira:


Before the appearance of the printing press, the only way of reproducing and spreading a text in written form was manual copying. During this process, accidents, errors and intentional modifications occurred, progressively modifying the text of each witness. The revised text, whether modified deliberately or accidentally, then served as a template for other copyists and the changes would thereby be propagated. For the philologist interested in the reconstruction of text history and the texts genealogical relations (similar to a genealogical tree, called stemma codicum), it has been imperative to study these different variants and suggest methods for the objective construction of such trees (called stemmatology methods).
Retrieving the genealogical lineage of the Hebrew manuscripts of the Ben Sira (book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach) has been one of the major focus of the laboratoire Écritures at the University of Lorraine. In this project, we suggest to improve the manual work performed in the critical edition of the Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira by applying the latest advances in applied mathematics and natural language processing to reconstruct the stemmas of the Ben Sira’s Hebrew manuscripts. This initial work will then be extended to other textual traditions. This project takes place as a partnership between the center of researchs Écriture, LORIA and IECL.
In this context, we are looking for a two years fellow for a post-doctoral position, to fulfill the objective of building the genealogical lineage of the Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira through computational stemmatology algorithms.

Fellow’s responsibilities
Over the course of the project, the fellow will be asked to lead and innovate to complete the following objectives:

Analysis, classification and typology of Hebrew manuscripts variants The postdoc’s task will be to collate, analyze and classify by typology all the variants of the Ben Sira manuscript and several Dead Sea scrolls selected for the project (1QIsa, 1QS, etc.). They will also be responsible for training automatic variant analysis models between manuscripts.

Modelization of scribal behavior In collaboration with mathematicians, the postdoc will have to provide field expertise and insights into scribal behavior according to previous observations, leading to statistical models.

Comparison of automatic stemmata to manual stemmata In collaboration with computer scientists and NLP specialists, the postdoc will analyze the automatically generated stemma and compare them to the existing "manual" stemmata, and in particular to the stemmata of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Cairo Genizah manuscripts.

Draw original conclusions regarding the Ben Sira’s manuscripts geneaology Given the finally selected stemma, the candidate will draw original conclusions regarding the Ben Sira textual tradition and discuss their results to draw new conclusions regarding manuscripts transmission.

Required skills
Hebrew skills

  • The candidate must have a PhD in Religious Sciences, Jewish Studies, Theology or Ancient Hebrew Linguistic.
  • An experience in linguistic analysis of ancient Hebrew large corpora.

Textual criticism

  • An excellent knowledge and expertise in textual criticism, philology and biblical studies.
  • A knowledge of stemmatology methods and the current state of the art.

Technical skills

  • Basic knowledge of JSON and XML TEI encoding as well as collation tools.
  • Basic knowledge of SQL and NoSQL database management would be a plus (e.g. mongodb, MariaDB).
  • Being familiar with the Python ecosystem for data manipulation and analysis (pandas, sklearn, tensorflow, Keras), would be a plus.

The candidate is expected to have a good level in English. Knowledge of French would be a plus.

Terms and tenure
This two-year position will be based at the centre of research Ecritures (EA3943), Ile du Saulcy, 5700 Metz. The duration can not exceed 24 months.

The target start date for the position is 1st November 2023, with some flexibility on the exact start date.

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