Help with Greek texts: TLG Part 3 (Advanced Search)

So far, we’ve covered how to find various texts or words in the TLG. In these last posts, we’re going to examine how to do some things that are a bit more sophisticated: how to find combinations of words, how to find words with variant spellings, and how to save your preferred settings or results to a personal TLG account. This post will tackle just advanced searches, which I discovered was much more complicated than I remembered. So even though I promised that part 3 would be the last … it’s not.

We’ll start with finding combinations of words. This process is essentially the same as finding a single word, but uses multiple search terms. That is to say, you can still choose between the lemmatized search, the textual search, and the word index search, but you need to use multiple keyboards.

Screenshot 2015-03-16 at 10.05.40 PM

If you click on the “Advanced” search buttons, you will see two new keyboards pop up automatically. It’s okay if you only use one. These two keyboards are exactly like the top keyboard: you can type in Greek or using the buttons (again, I’ve chosen the buttons), and on the sidebar you can decide whether to use betascript or unicode and iota adscripts or subscripts (i.e., αὐτηῖ vs. αὐτῇ). But there are also a few new options: you can search for a word with (or without!) another word. The exclusion option can actually be useful: for example, maybe you’re interested in all texts that mention Antioch in Syria. You can use the “except” radio button to exclude “Pisidi-” and not have your search cluttered with the wrong Antioch. You also have the opportunity to define how closely you’d like to associate your search terms: I’ve chosen “one line”, but you can set your own parameters in terms of lines, words, or (using “or”) anywhere in the same text. So if you wanted to know if any Greek dramatist called upon both Castor and Pollux within a single play, this is how you’d do it (without reading through the plays).

TIP: Line “proximity” is based on the length of the TLG lines. Take a look at some examples of their lines before deciding how close to cut it.

As you can see, I’ve chosen to look for true causes. Because I am doing an advanced word search, this looks for all combinations of ἀληθ- and προφασει- . As you can imagine, this takes a long time (the TLG advises against doing a textual search for this very reason — “Advanced” searching is word index only). The database updates you on its progress every few minutes.

tlg, greek

If you’re impatient, you can go straight to the results; otherwise, hitting “continue” will keep you on this interstitial page while it finishes searching. Remember that “A.D. 2” is actually the second century.

I am impatient, so I hit “display results so far”:

Screenshot 2015-03-16 at 10.07.04 PM

Just like in the regular index search, you have the option of choosing your preferred form. At this point, if you’re looking for something particular, now is the time to go for it. Because we’re looking only for true causes, we can omit #6-9, for example. But maybe we want to keep the fragmentary and elided options, so we can keep #1-3.

You also have the option of realizing “Oh, I spelled something wrong.” Then you can return to the search terms using the button on the upper right to fix it.

Here’s what we get:

tlg greek advanced search results

It’s really important to note that this is NOT searching for a phrase (e.g. πρόφασις ἀληθης). It’s searching for the two words near each other, and you set this in the keyboard string before you search. As you can see in result #6, this difference means that sometimes you’ll get two hits in two different cases — so they’re not actually related. You can mitigate this problem a little by being more selective with your proximity searches, but if you make the search terms too close, you run the risk of missing a few results. Here I’m thinking especially of a poet like Pindar, whose adjectives can be very, very far away from their noun.

TIP: Review your results before drawing conclusions.

TIP 2: Think about what you’re looking for before you set your search parameters. Maybe a proximity search of one line is enough for you, because you’re looking for two words that are closely connected. But maybe you’ll need more (or less) context.

Our results above were the result of an advanced search. But you can also perform an advanced lemma search. Because the lemmatized search requires a grammatical form, I added an eta to aleth- so that it made a recognizable word:

Screenshot 2015-03-29 at 8.17.28 AM

When you hit “find forms”, you get so. many. options:

Screenshot 2015-03-29 at 8.18.22 AM

I confess that I wasn’t quite expecting that many. Don’t be overwhelmed! At this point, you have two options: you can read through your choices and search selected forms, or just search all. If you’re panicked, search them all. You’ll get a better sense of what’s out there and you can always run the search again.

Because I’m not actually looking for anything in particular, that’s what I did.

Screenshot 2015-03-29 at 8.28.01 AM

A few things to notice: because this is a lemmatized search, we’re getting forms that don’t quite match our inputs. If you’re only looking for a single case, this is not the search for you. Also, our results are arranged in categories based on our first search term. So you might find it more helpful to have the noun (or whatever word is more important to you) as your first term.

Finally, the TLG results by default display by TLG number. If you’re interested in chronological development, you should select “order by date” in the sidebar. This is a setting that you can make permanent in a user account (which I’ll cover in a later post).

This search gave us a lot of results (over 9000). If you get that many hits, you probably want to refine your search terms a little more. Chronology or author would be one way to limit your results; other possibilities are to look for the words in narrower proximity (e.g., 3 words rather than 1 line), select particular forms, or add additional terms.  As you get more used to the TLG, getting a manageable number of results will get easier. Don’t settle for thousands unless you have to (and want to)!


Please note: all images are copyright the TLG. They are used here for educational purposes. ONLY. Please don’t circulate.

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Help with Greek texts: TLG Part 3 (Advanced Search) by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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