[openbiblio-dev] Multilingual matters in BibJSON

Christian Wittern cwittern at gmail.com
Thu Apr 5 12:39:29 UTC 2012

Dear Karen,

On 2012-04-05 20:24, Karen Coyle wrote:
> Multilingual issues and JSON-LD came up on the Open Biblio call this week 
> (which was Adrian, Jim and I). I'm interested in being able to use 
> multilingual thesauri, which are beginning to be created using linked data 
> by linking terms from thesauri in different languages, as well as thesauri 
> that were "born multilingual."
Is this within the scope of BibJSON, or is this a different project?
> Assigning languages to descriptive metadata *text* can be tricky. That 
> doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, but in some cases there may be best ways 
> to handle the issue. For example, I know that there is often an interest 
> in translated titles. You might have articles in Russian or Japanese that 
> have the title translated into English. In that case, it is probably best 
> to have a field for "translated title" so that you know that "title" is 
> the original. However, if you have a title that is:
> "Marie Antoinette"
> it's a bit hard to say what language it is in. Such a title would rarely 
> be translated, but there are examples in scientific literature where a 
> scientific term is used the same across different languages.
Names might not have a language by itself, but the spelling could still be 
different, depending on the language. JSON-LD has the concept of a default 
language, that would probably be useful here.
But I agree, having translated titles flagged separately might be useful.

> The caution is that it will not be possible to assign language to all 
> titles, and that in many cases the only language designation needed in a 
> bibliographic description is that of the text itself. In those special 
> cases where language is needed, it is good to think about the 
> circumstances, such as with titles that are translated, and seek a 
> solution that helps the user understand the context for the language 
> specification.
Absolutely right. One has to think careful about this. FWIW, I have made up 
a record from my bibtex file {which uses private fields like Author_Ja etc.} 
to what I think would be a corresponding BibJSON record:

{"type" : "book",
"id" : "yanagida_shoki-zenshu_1967",
"address" : [{"@language" : "ja",
"@value" : "京都"},
{"@language" : "en",
"@value" : "Kyoto"}],
"author" : [[{"@language" : "ja",
"@value" : "柳田聖山"},
{"@value" : "Yanagida, Seizan",
"@language": "en"}]
"booktitle" : [{"@language" : "ja", "@value" : "初期禅宗史書の研究" },
{"@language" : "en", "@value" : "Studies in the Historical Works of the 
Early Period of Chán Buddhism"},
{"@language" : "ja-Latn", "@value" : "Shoki zenshū shisho no kenkyū"}
"publisher" : [{"@language" : "ja", "@value" : "法藏館" },
{"@language" : "ja-Latn", "@value" : "Hōzōkan"}],
"year" : "1967",
"pages" : "xx, 355"

(Please bear in mind that I heard first about BibJSON only a few hours ago, 
so this might be fundamentally wrong).
This has a mixture of original script, translation and transliteration, but 
does not employ a default language.

This looks quite complicated to me, but I assume that this will usually be 
generated by a program, so I do not worry too much about that. The author 
field looks especially ugly with the nested list to allow for multiple 
authors, I wonder if this is a good approach?

Before I came across JSON-LD, I was thinking to use an extension of the 
fieldname like
author at ja and author at en, but there is some value in trying not to reinvent 
the wheel, trying to avoid ad-hoc hacks and also using an extensible system.

All the best,


Christian Wittern, Kyoto

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