Polemics Visualized – Experiments in Syriac text comparison

The purpose of the Polemics Visualized pilot project is to explore the possibilities of computational linguistics and natural language processing for use in theological research of Classical Syriac texts. More specifically, we would like to answer the question whether Ephrem the Syrian, who wrote extensive polemics against Bardaisan, a theologian living two centuries earlier, was indeed discussing the same issues as Bardaisan addressed in his only remaining work.
Syriac, a language from the Aramaic family, has been the lingua franca of the Middle East for centuries. Many important theological documents from the period of the formation of the early church have been written in Syriac. These texts form a considerably large corpus, for example the published works of Ephrem the Syrian already exceed 500,000 words. The theological study of textual corpora of such size would benefit greatly from computational analysis of these texts.