Integration of the GDR-press corpus into the CLARIN-D infrastructure

The portal „GDR Press“ is the result of a DFG funded project. The project itself is a cooperation between the Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam and the Staatsbibliothek Berlin together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) as the supporting service institution. The aim of the project was a full text digitalization and online presentation of three major daily newspapers of the German Democratic Republic, including the “Neues Deutschland”, the “Berliner Zeitung” and the “Neue Zeit”. The internet portal of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin now provides around four million articles of over 40 years of GDR-press reaching from the postwar era to the early years after the fall of the Berlin wall. The resources can be accessed freely after a small registration.

The planned curation project of the F-AG 10 „Contemporary History“ will implement the GDR-press corpus into the infrastructure of the CLARIN-D resource “Digital Dictionary of the German Language” (DWDS) with the help of the CLARIN-D centre BBAW. For this purpose the existing files in the format of METS/ALTO are to be converted into the DTABf format, a TEI-P5 profile for historic corpora of printed documents. After the automatic conversion from the DTABf format into the TCF format the texts can be directly implemented into the analytic systems (e.g. the Weblicht-Toolchain) of CLARIN-D. The project will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Hohls of Humboldt-University and will be executed by his colleague, Daniel Burckhardt, with the support of the coordinator of the F-AG 10.

The aim of the exemplary integration is an examination, to which extent the research in Historical Semantics, like in projects of the Historical Semantics of politics in the 20th century at the Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) can receive new impulses in methodology, modes of operation and source analysis, when working with digital sources, tools and corpora. To reach that goal the curation project will evalute the needs and requirements as well as the conception and possible enhancement of CLARIN-D analysis tools and infrastructure. It will hopefully also mark a first step to a methodological reflection.

Focus of interest/overarching questions

The curation project pursuies also a historical aim. The tools and resources of CLARIN-D will be used to focus on the last years of the GDR and possible signs of the collapse of the SED dictatorship in the language of the GDR press. Therefore we have collected four main considerations, concerning the last years of the GDR.

1. Changes of value in the language

Can we validate the hypothesis, that the Socialism in the GDR gets into the defensive during the 1970ies, by analysing the change of language in the GDR press. And if we can observe such a change, how does it develop? Example: the vanishing of the ideological peace paradigm, trends of militarization and the rediscovery of the Prussians in history politics.

2. The end of utopias

What happened to the “Year 2000” and other ideological drafts describing the future of Socialism. How have future and time concepts developed since the 1970ies.

3. Transfer of language

As a third approach the project also wants to identify possible transfers of language from the west to the east of Germany and vice versa. There are mutual processes of adaptation in the focus. At what time distinct new concepts like “weiße Flecken” and “Bürgernähe” are emerging? When are they vanishing again, and why (e.g. the concept “Westblock”? Background to this transfer stands a hypothesis, that the change of 1989 was also foreshadowed by a change and transfer of language in the GDR.

4. Language as a political agent

The particular linguistic strategies of the GDR Agitprop language will also be part of an analysis of the GDR press. This includes euphemisms (“unzerbrüchliche Freundschaft mit der Sowjetunion”), obloquies (“Boykotthetze”, “Abweichler”, “Bummelanten”), and taboos. Taboos means a conscious avoidance of particular topics and concepts (e.g. the term “Western Union”).

Project period

01.09.2015 - 31.03.2016