The research project Diccionario del Español Medieval electrónico (DEMel), which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), aims at offering a broad, international public free and efficient access to a comprehensive data archive of medieval Spanish, based on in-depth research and organized according to semantic structure.
The archive is based on the extensive and hitherto unpublished data compiled during the preliminary work on the Diccionario del español medieval (DEM). The DEM project, which produced 26 published fascicles, came to an end in 2007 due to financial reasons. The lexicographic repertory of the DEM draws on a broad range of more than 600 books or collections of texts and documents dating from the 10th to the beginning of the 15th century, and contains about 865,000 index cards. Approximately 650,000 of them record lexical items and the corresponding documentation (authentic examples of usage illustrating a meaning in a specific context in which a term occurs) as well as information, for example, on sources, date, word class, meaning and etymology. As more than one documented word form may be listed on a single index card, the documented word examples grouped under 33,000 lemmata far exceed a total of one million. The remaining “secondary” cards contain etymological or bibliographical references or information about specialized literature.
Since the archive now only exists in paper form (index cards), the project will greatly facilitate public access to its database, an achievement of paramount importance given the absence of a complete historical dictionary of medieval Spanish. By digitalizing the data and publishing them online, the project will both guarantee their long-term preservation and make the archive accessible to the international research community. For this purpose it will be necessary to scan the index cards, design a database structure, record the information on the cards, and to provide a web-based user interface.
The resulting digital archive DEMel will make it easier and more efficient to search for entries, and it will grant direct access not only to an enormous range of documented instances of word use in medieval Spanish but also to a wealth of linguistic information concerning, for example, part of speech, semantic acceptations, and the date of the documented forms.
The great diversity of genres and registers covered by the underlying corpus (literary texts, religious and legal documents, technical and scientific treatises on astronomy, mineralogy, medicine, pharmacy, botany, agriculture etc.) will make the digital archive a highly valuable and productive basis for research in a broad variety of fields – not only romance linguistics and literary studies, but also cultural studies, history and sociology, theology, Islamic and Jewish studies, medieval studies and the history of law. Moreover, its comprehensive coverage will enable a whole range of interested researchers – Hispanists as well as others – to investigate unexplored fields of the Spanish medieval lexicon, thus furthering interdisciplinary research. For this reason it is essential to publish the entire material (from A – Z).