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Chapter 13. TEI


TEI, the Text Encoding Initiative, is a grand daddy of markup languages. Starting its life as SGML and relatively recently becoming XML compliant, TEI is most often used by the humanities community to mark up literary works such as poems and prose. Many times these communities digitally scan original documents, convert the documents into text using optical character recognition techniques, correct the errors, and mark up the resulting text in TEI. Ideally a scholar would have on hand an original copy of a book or manuscript along side a digital version in TEI. Using these two things in combination the schol- ar would be able to very thoroughly analyse the text and create new knowledge.

The TEI DTD is very rich and verbose. It contains elements for every literary figure (paragraphs, stanza, chapters, footnotes, etc.). Since TEI documents are, for the most part, intended to replicate as closely as possible original documents, the DTD contains markup to denote the location of things like page breaks and line numbers in the original text. There is markup for cross references and hyperlinks. There is even markup for editorial commentary, interpretation, and analysis. The DTD so verbose that some TEI ex- perts suggest using only parts of the DTD. In practice, many institutions using the TEI DTD use what is commonly called TEILite, a pared down version of the DTD containing the definitions of elements of use to most people.

A few elements

Providing anything more than the briefest of TEI introductions is beyond the scope of this text. This sec- tion outlines the most minimal of TEI elements and how TEI documents can be processed using XML tools.

The simplest of TEI documents contains header (teiHeader) and text sections. The teiHeader section contains a number of sub elements used to provide meta data about the document. The text section is further divided into three more sections (front, body, and back). Here is a list of the major TEI elements and brief descriptions of each:

  • TEI.2 - the root element of a TEILite document

  • teiHeader - a container for the meta data of a TEI document


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