A few days ago this post appeared highlighting a new feature for Logos users, at least those on the subscription Logos Now model (which I am not).
As a big advocate of reader’s editions for students to move into more fluent and extended reading, I was pleased to see this step taken. A reader’s edition, well designed, rapidly aids a reader of an original-language text by providing helps (usually vocabulary glosses) for parts of the text that are odd, unusual, low frequency, etc., that would slow down comprehension to the point where the reader couldn’t understand and thus the benefits of attempting to read fluently are lost because the percentage of ‘unknowns’ becomes too high to process.
The post says, “Ideally, there would be multiple levels of reader’s editions”, tailored to individual learners’ levels. This would indeed be ideal, and digital texts with tagging and a reader’s edition feature would be an ideal solution for this. Printed volumes, or even static digital texts, have to guestimate the level of help a reader will need, and cannot adjust that level with any degree of ease.
Watching the video though, a number of limitations of what Logos is offering become apparent.
1) The texts available are only those for which an Interlinear exists. This is problematic because the number of those texts is really quite limited – Greek NT and LXX, Hebrew OT, and Greek Apostolic Fathers are the main ones; I am not sure if there are other interlinear texts on Logos because frankly I have no use for interlinears and wouldn’t recommend them as a tool for anybody, even in a digital format. This is a fairly considerable restriction of reader’s editions to a small corpus of texts.
Because it’s built on interlinears, it’s less useful. If it were built simply on morphologically tagged texts, that would (a) open up so many more texts that exist within the Logos datasphere, (b) in theory be infinitely expandable by user effort (even crowdsourced effort) to morphologically tag new texts.
2) The display is built upon the interlinear, so unlike the very fine reader’s editions published for the NT and OT, with footnoted vocab helps at the bottom, these digital reader’s editions suffer from the same problem that print interlinears do – they’re interlinears! They stick the gloss directly on a line underneath the main text. This is distracting and unhelpful. I would warrant a guess that anytime you see text in two or more languages, your eyes are usually drawn to the language you read more readily (your native language, if that’s an option) and away from the one you’re learning. I can’t see how this helps a learner to read more fluently and comprehend more directly.
The solution would require running the reading text with some kind of annotation in a side window or footer bar. I don’t know how Logos software is programmed or how their interlinears are encoded, so I don’t know how that would work.
3) The choice of words displayed/not displayed is based either on a pre-existing frequency list for the whole corpus (i.e., all the NT, not just the book you’re reading) or else a pre-existing word list. You can generate word lists, but this is not the fastest process. What is really lacking is a ‘personalised, dynamic word list’, to which you could add and subtract words ‘on the fly’, representing your own personal, internalised lexicon. That is the level of individual tailoring that is needed.
4) Vocab helps, but not grammar helps. In my view, unfamiliar or difficult grammar can also be tackled in a good reader’s edition, which is one more feature lacking here. Much more difficult to implement and to scale to individual readers, but a desideratum nonetheless.
Is it a good idea? Yes. But it will need some development I suspect.
With the issue of grammar help within texts, that would require a shift in how the language of biblical texts are understood, as in my experience most tools (including logos) and translations are built on the premise that words are the primary semantic components in language (which also related to your post above re “translates as” vs “means”, but I digress). I’m hoping this will be something that we will see change over time within NT scholarship. As it stands, I think we’re stuck with “word for word” and interlinear concepts for the present.
I do find that logos is fairly well intergrated with its linguistic analysis tools, but they require some getting used to.
I wonder if some of it (the focus on word-for-word) is the long-enduring legacy of Strong.