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Dates in natural language

Hi all,

I am currently planning to import some 300 items into my Tropy project with JSON-LD, but the dates of these items (taken from a database) have been prepared in natural language like “before 1438”, “probably about 1475–6”, or “about 1348/50-5”. As I have read in a few threads here that further support of the Extended Date/Time Format (EDTF) is already in the working, I would be willing to manually convert them into EDTF though the task seems huge given the sheer amount of items.

So I’d like to ask if there’s any plan in the future to convert existing dates from natural language to EDTF with the date widget currently in development, or at least to identify the dates in natural language (i.e. that don’t validate) so that the user could change them manually?

My apologies if the matter sounds rather up in the air, but since Tropy is such a powerful and promising tool I really cannot wait to get my hands on a larger set of data for my study of art history. Many thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

It’s possible that we’ll add tooling to help with the conversion, but I can’t really make any promises. Could you share the full list of dates exported from the database with us? I’d be curious to take a look at it. I imagine it’s going to be difficult to come up with generalizations, since there are different ways sentences like “before 1438” could be expressed. For example, you could decide that you want to convert it to just “1438~” (i.e., approximately 1438) or to “…/1438” (i.e., an open start time interval ending in 1438) or “/1438” (i.e., an interval with an unknown start) or even to either “[…1438]” or “{…1438}” (i.e., the year 1438 or an earlier year, or the year 1438 and all earlier years) – to make the right call will definitely require some context.

What’s certain is that when we add date-specific search/display features going forward, they will definitely be based on EDTF so all dates that are saved in a valid format will immediately benefit. In general, I think that EDTF dates represent either a given point in time, or, more commonly, a time range and I see most of their potential utility in Tropy to allow for some kind of time range searches.

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Many thanks for the reply and great to hear that the future updates will support EDTF fully! You are definitely right in saying that many dates in natural language require some subjective interpretation—maybe for this set of data I will do some manual refining. The database does a good job in generally distinguishing approximate dates (‘about’) from uncertain dates (‘probably’, ‘possibly’, ‘perhaps’), which would be nice for a parser. But there are certain ambiguous or tricky dates like ‘about 1348/50-5’ and ‘about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8’ that seem to require approximate dates within a set representation, which is not currently supported by EDTF.

Please find the list of dates as follows. I hope that it helps!

probably about 1438-40
1433
about 1365-70
about 1475
about 1544-5
about 1395-9
1476
1425
apparently dated 1465
1505
about 1478
about 1496
about 1480-5
about 1496
probably about 1480-90
1518
about 1516
about 1369-70
1497
1511
probably early 1480s
about 1520
mid-1520s
about 1556-60
about 1423-4
1434
about 1572
probably 1470-80
possibly 1325-8
about 1480
probably about 1491-4
about 1485
1510-15
probably about 1263-4
about 1265-8
about 1450
1437-44
probably 1485-90
1468
1515-23
about 1478
early 16th century
about 1524
about 1530-2
about 1510-12
after 1490
1500-2
1455-60
about 1500
1565-7
about 1527-9
1307/8-11
about 1460
about 1458-60
about 1517-18
about 1525
1370-1
possibly 1325-8
about 1480
about 1485
about 1575
1455-60
1510-1515
about 1500-5
about 1485-1500
1475
1476
possibly 1325-8
about 1500
early 16th century
about 1500-10
1564
about 1515-20
about 1465
1517-19
probably about 1310-18
about 1435-41
1556-9
probably about 1460-75
about 1490-1500
about 1535-40
about 1490-5
1506-10
about 1545
about 1495-1506
about 1312-15 (?)
1455-60
about 1475
about 1515-16
about 1500
about 1500-1
about 1420
about 1510
about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8
about 1575
probably 1480-90
1374
about 1480
about 1515
about 1517-18
about 1440-50
1455-60
1307/8-11
1370-1
1551
1506-7
about 1560-8 (perhaps begun in the 1540s)
about 1365-80
about 1475-6
1486
1455-60
1407-9
about 1523
about 1515
about 1515
about 1520
perhaps about 1475
about 1255-60
about 1494
about 1490-1505
1370-1
possibly 1325-8
about 1480 - 1500
about 1470-5
1510-12
1437-44
1520-3
1523
about 1510
1505
about 1540
1307/8-11
about 1512
1454
probably about 1480-90
probably 1485-90
about 1460
about 1410
about 1500-10
1476
about 1464-88
about 1510-11
about 1527-31
about 1515-20
1426
about 1495-1506
1335-42
probably 1470-80
probably about 1540
about 1423-4
1454
before 1438
1524-6
1450-60
about 1488-90
probably 1505-10
1510-12
1407-9
about 1363-5
about 1498-1502
about 1460-9
before 1432
about 1496-1500
after 1437
about 1500-5
about 1490-5
about 1470-5
1370-1
about 1500
1432
1533
1370-1
about 1476-78
1455-60
about 1366-70
probably 1500-15
about 1440-50
1407-9
1370-1
about 1510
1370-1
1437-44
about 1348/50-5
about 1514
about 1560
about 1472-3
about 1555
about 1340
1462
about 1495
before 1432
probably 1455-60
probably about 1575
probably about 1333-40
1455-60
about 1520
about 1385-1400
about 1515
about 1506-7
1562
1454
probably about 1470
1469-91
1500
possibly 1325-8
about 1470
about 1520
probably about 1409
about 1490-1
about 1575
about 1423-4
about 1493-5
probably 1515
about 1465
about 1455-6
1504-5
probably 1565-70
possibly 1325-8
probably about 1510
probably 1490s
1370-1
probably 1490s
1510
1370-1
about 1450
1476
about 1495-9
1407-9
about 1310-15 (?)
about 1600
about 1562-3
probably about 1470-5
about 1420-30
about 1428-9
possibly 1325-8
about 1440-4
1455-60
perhaps about 1500-10
about 1540
1517
about 1515
1447
about 1450-5
about 1490-9
about 1500
probably 1330s-40s
probably 1470-80
about 1505-7
possibly 1325-8
about 1540-5
about 1467-9
possibly 1325-8
about 1305
about 1570
about 1423-4
after 1490
1455-60
about 1450-3
about 1525-30
possibly 1325-8
about 1499-1500
about 1532
about 1530-3
about 1440-4
1437-44
1370-1
probably about 1473-5
probably 1460s
about 1340-5
1476
1476
mid-1470s
about 1423-4
about 1548
probably 1450s
about 1559-75
about 1470
1476
about 1536-7
probably 1550-5
probably 1518
about 1450-3
possibly 1325-8
about 1515-20
about 1500-5
probably 1470-80
about 1470-5
about 1475-80
probably 1470-80
1505-6
about 1255-60
late 1480s
about 1510
about 1310-15
probably 1470-80
1437-44
about 1530-2
1556-9
probably about 1490
about 1515-20
probably about 1480-5
mid 1470s
about 1280-5
about 1540-45
early 16th century
about 1501-2
probably about 1490-5
probably about 1491-4
about 1490-5
about 1480
early 16th century
1370-1
about 1490-5
1461-2
about 1525-30
about 1478
about 1470
about 1499-1500
about 1500
about 1575-80
about 1490
probably about 1447
probably about 1489
about 1507
after 1501
1476
1407-9
about 1485
about 1460-70
about 1550
about 1265-70
about 1440
possibly about 1336-40
about 1465
about 1380
completed 1469
probably about 1475-80
possibly about 1490
about 1480
1370-1
about 1575
about 1575
1454
about 1428-9
probably 1515
1437-44
about 1496-1500
1437-44
1476
mid-15th century
about 1496-1500
about 1495
1446
probably about 1496-9
probably about 1470-5
1383
probably 1475-1500
about 1490
about 1423-4
1538
about 1520
about 1438-42
about 1521
early 16th century
1573
about 1475
probably 1470-80