Yesterday we published the first public version of the Coptic Universal Dependency Treebank. This resource is the first syntactically annotated corpus of Coptic, containing complete analyses of each sentence in over 4,300 words of Coptic excerpts from Shenoute, the New Testament and the Apophthegmata Patrum.
To get an idea of the kind of analysis that Treebank data gives use, compare the following examples of an English and a Coptic dependency syntax tree. In the English tree below, the subject and object of the verb ‘depend’ on the verb for their grammatical function – the nominal subject (nsubj) is “I”, and the direct object (dobj) is “cat”.
We can quickly find out what’s going on in a sentence or ‘who did what to whom’ by looking at the arrows emanating from each word. The same holds for this Coptic example, which uses the same Universal Dependencies annotation schema, allowing us to compare English and Coptic syntax.
Treebanks are an essential component for linguistic research, but they also enable a variety of Natural Language Processing technologies to be used on a language. Beyond automatically parsing text to make some more analyzed data, we can use syntax trees for information extraction and entity recognition. For example, the first tree below shows us that “the Presbyter of Scetis” is a coherent entity (a subgraph, headed by a noun); the incorrect analysis following it would suggest Scetis is not part of the same unit as the Presbyter, meaning we could be dealing with a different person.