Cognitive Underpinnings of Reading Handwritten Scripts: Investigating Variations for Applications in Digital Palaeography (CURHSIVA-DP)

Project Description:

This interdisciplinary proof-of-concept project brings together research in Classics, in Cognitive Neuroscience, and in the Computer Sciences through the study of ancient cursive handwriting. For Classics, this research aims to understand how various expert strategies are called upon in palaeography, i.e., in the expert study of handwritten letter shapes (beyond the ability to read and understand ancient documents – e.g. papyri -, palaeographical analyses provide insights into the circulation of people, cultures, and ideas) – eventually aiming to facilitate teaching in palaeography. For the Cognitive Neurosciences, this research aims to investigate how cursive scripts are read, thereby complementing knowledge of the processes involved in reading, with the incorporation of handwriting variability (most studies on reading are conducted with printed text) – with possible applications in education. For the Computer Sciences, this research aims to derive a better understanding of which particular aspects of the reading of handwritten scripts can be delegated to computational tools – eventually to investigate ways to develop such tools -, and which are those that are best left to human experts. To that effect, we will undertake studies where participants will be presented with letters and/or words in a script unknown to them. The script of choice will be Demotic, a (mostly) alphabetic form of Ancient Egyptian. These studies will evaluate the role played by knowledge of pure shapes and of the sounds associated with these shapes in the cognitive process of reading words as a combined act of visual perception and attribution of meaning.