annotext is a web-based application that was developed at Dartmouth College to assist students in tackling difficult texts.1 It offers an alternative to such traditional reading aids as word lists, footnotes, or even standard German-English dictionaries. In essence, students access an especially-prepared work on-line and then click on any word or phrase to receive its meaning instantly. The result is a kind of pony, but one that supplies only the information that has been requested.

It is important to keep in mind that the glosses provided here intend to help the reader to understand the original, not to furnish a finished translation. A particular gloss may offer several meanings, which may not always be in the same part of speech as the original. In other words, readers will need to bring some knowledge to bear. That being said, the developer, Bruce Duncan, would be grateful to receive suggestions or corrections.

Directions for using annotext can be found by clicking on "Help" on the home page at If you are using a smaller-screen device - one of the benefits of the new version - the button for accessing such things is the conventional square with 3 horizontal stripes. Your browser window will display the text itself in scrollable form. Note that you can resize the window or enlarge the font.

Bookmarking: Because annotext is completely open to all users without login, cookies, etc., it does not record any aspect of use. That means that it does not keep track of where you last stopped reading a text. In lieu of a bookmark, you should note a unique word or phrase at your stopping place and then use your browser's "find" function to return to it later. With Faust you can of course note line numbers.

The presently available texts are listed here. More are on the way. The works chosen are necessarily in the public domain. They also reflect the developer's personal preferences.

Georg Büchner   Dantons Tod
Der hessische Landbote
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff   Die Judenbuche
Josef Freiherr von Eichendorff   Das Marmorbild
Theodor Fontane   Effi Briest
J. W. v. Goethe   Faust I
Die Leiden des jungen Werther
Brüder Grimm   Drei Märchen: Rotkäppchen, Rumpelstilzchen, Froschkönig
Gerhart Hauptmann   Bahnwärter Thiel
E. T. A. Hoffmann   Rat Krespel
Der goldne Topf
Hugo von Hofmannsthal   Reitergeschichte
Friedrich Hölderlin   Hyperion (2. Bd., 2. Buch)
Franz Kafka   Das Urteil
Ein Bericht für eine Akademie
Ein Hungerkünstler
Ein Landarzt
Die Verwandlung
Gottfried Keller   Kleider machen Leute
Heinrich von Kleist   Das Erdbeben in Chili
Der zerbrochene Krug
Über das Marionettentheater
J. M. R. Lenz   Die Soldaten
G. E. Lessing   Minna von Barnhelm
Emilia Galotti
Nathan der Weise
Thomas Mann Der Tod in Venedig
Tonio Kröger
Jean Paul Rede des toten Christus vom Weltgebäude herab, dass kein Gott sei
Friedrich Schiller Maria Stuart
Ludwig Tieck   Der blonde Eckbert
Frank Wedekind Frühlingserwachen

screen shot 1

annotext stores vocabulary items in three different ways. The following examples are taken from Faust I.

  • A majority of the items are entered into a glossary as single words, as they might be in a standard dictionary. If you want to see the definition of "Zueignung," for example, you simply click on that word and receive the definition in the box on the upper left:

    screen shot 2

    If "Zueignung" appeared anywhere else in the text, you could also click on it there and get the same definition. You can achieve the same result by typing "Zueignung" into the "Word lookup" box and clicking on "look up." This function allows you to process words that are not necessarily visible at the time. It has limited use, however, because it accesses only those words that are stored as generic items in the glossary, not as part of phrases (see below).

    Even such "generic" listings confine themselves to those meanings present in this particular text. Thus "Menge" is glossed only as "crowd; mob," since Faust does not use it in the mathematical sense (i.e., "set"). On the other hand, certain words will cause several possibilities to appear. Clicking on "liebe" will produce:

       lieb adj dear; precious
       die Liebe n love
       lieben v to love

    Note that not just key words are glossed. Clicking on "und" (assuming that it is not part of a set phrase [see below]) will produce "und conjunction and"

  • annotext also lemmatizes glossary entries; that is, it reconciles specific forms with a main entry. In line 1198 ("Vernunft fängt wieder an zu sprechen"), for example, a click on either "fängt" or "an" will call up "anfangen." Likewise, in the stage direction before line 460 ("Schlägt unwillig das Buch um"), clicking on either "Schlägt" or "um" will bring up "umschlagen":

    screen shot 3

    Note that in the above figure, the parts of the separable verb are colored purple. The same is true in the next line for "einwirken auf." If you wish to see where such lemmatizations are found in the prepared text, you can choose the color display under "Options":

    screen shot 4

  • annotext can also gloss unique phrases, which are marked in blue when the color option is in effect:

    screen shot 5

    Here "nicht einmal dir" is treated as a unique occurrence. For obvious reasons, Faust employs this option more often than do the other available texts, resulting almost in line-by-line translations. One point: there is considerable overlap between the "purple" and "blue" functions that deal with phrases. The reader who selects the "display colors" option will soon conclude that the distinctions between the color markings are not always obvious (or important). Most readers will consider them a distraction and choose to turn the option off.

All glossary entries of whatever type have been shaped by pedagogical considerations, i.e. they are based on an estimation of what students might find problematic. At the same time, however, there was an attempt to cover every possible item, so that no inquiry might go unanswered.

  • Most glosses are only linguistic, but occasionally more interpretive information is added. When Mephisto refers to Naples in line 2982, for example, the gloss points to that city's connection with syphillis. And in the case of Werther's Ossian translation, each paragraph is glossed by Macpherson's original. This information is also sometimes contained in a separate note (see the clickable icon in the first screen shot above).
  • In the near future, information in other media will also be possible - a picture of the Dornenauszieher to accompany Kleist's Über das Marionettentheater, for example.

    1 For a description of the issues involved, as well as of an older version of annotext developed only for the Macintosh, see Bruce Duncan and Otmar K. E. Foelsche, "'Doch ein Begriff muss bei dem Worte sein': Some Thoughts on Electronically Annotated Literary Texts." Die Unterrichtspraxis 28, (1995): 46-51.

    Todor G. Kalaydjiev and Alex Iliev programmed annotext 3.0 under the direction of Otmar K. E. Foelsche and Bruce Duncan. Phil Fazio later added improvements under the direction of Anthony Helm. The current version, annotext 4.0 was completely reconfigured by Robert Eastman under the direction of Bruce Duncan and the Dartmouth ITS team.

    The developer, Bruce Duncan, would be grateful to receive suggestions or corrections.
    back to text 1

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