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© Goldwasser/Harel/Nikolaev

iClassifier is a digital research platform designed to analyze classifier systems in scripts and languages.  Through a data-mining process, we undertake relational pattern recognition to identify governing rules and document each language studied.
In this stage, we concentrate on graphemic classifiers known in various complex scripts around the globe. We currently work on Ancient Egyptian, Cuneiform scripts (Sumerian), and ancient Chinese scripts. In complex scripts, graphemic classifiers are unpronounced; they are “seen not heard.”
Classifiers are “spandrels”. They were probably born out of the necessity to create segmentation and improve reference tracking in graphic ambiguity cases. Nevertheless, they have developed into a full-fledged system of their own.
Our hypothesis is that every classifier represents a “category head” in the culture’s mind. The iClassifier research platform reveals similarities and differences between cultures. Our studies contribute significantly to a greater understanding of universal vs. culture-specific classification patterns.
We aim to achieve our goal by conducting network analysis methods. We create knowledge organization networks in which classifiers and their host lemmas are the nodes. We then apply various analysis methods, such as identifying clusters with community detection algorithms. 

Users can create their dataset using the platform. Furthermore, using iClassifier, one can tokenize an existing dataset, enrich it with classifier marking and annotation, and share the data back for re-use.

Our research addresses the following topics:

1. Identifying the category that each classifier heads and defining its structure (category axis) —
The central members and the fuzzy-edge members in each category. To compare various classifier systems, we assign labels to a category according to the emic information emerging from the scope of the words classified, e.g., [hide & tail] 𓄛.

2. Getting closer to emic lexical meanings of single lexemes (word axis) by defining the range of categories to which a lexical item is assigned.

3. Building classifier-based networks and applying network analysis methods. Tracing compatibility and incompatibility patterns (scale, diameter)and classifier combination patterns (identifying clusters/communities).

4. Creating networks according to specific metadata queries — the classifier system according to script variation (hieratic vs. hieroglyphic), time frame, geography, and other variables annotated for each token in the iClassifier digital research platform.

5. Assessing classifier centrality in culture — classifiers that head large categories versus those that head small ones. 

6. Comparative studies on parallel texts, e.g., different manuscripts of the Coffin Texts.

7. The diachrony of knowledge organization: A text in history – similar manuscripts along time, e.g., Pyramid Texts, Coffin texts, Book of the Dead.

8. Researching the longue durée (diachrony) — how do classifier categories emerge, and how do they decline? The dynamics of “successful” categories.


Drawing encompassing mind maps, and creating classifier-based networks: 

  • Drawing the mind map of the Sumerian script, In collaboration with Prof. Gebhard Selz,  University of Vienna. Based on the ePSD2 : electronic Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary

  • Drawing the mind map of  pEbers in collaboration with Prof. Tanja Pommerening,  
    Universität Marburg, based on TLA data, courtesy of the "Strukturen und Transformationen des Wortschatzes der ägyptischen Sprache" project, Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. 


  • Drawing the mind map represented in the classifiers of Egyptian literary texts in the Middle Kingdom.

  • Drawing the mind map of a defined corpus of the Warring States according to classifiers.

  • Studying verb classification and exploring how verb valency and argument structure are manifested
    by classifiers.


  • Comparative studies on Egyptian classifiers and classifiers in ancient Chinese.
    Documenting comparable categories, e.g.  𓈗 /水/氵[ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ] ,
    𓀔/子 [ᴄʜɪʟᴅ] or 𓂡/𓀜 /殳/攵/攴 [ʜᴀɴᴅ+sᴛɪᴄᴋ].

Publications and presentations of iClassifier

Soler, Susana. 2021. “Los orígenes del sincretismo Seth-Baal. Seth y la tormenta según los clasificadores de los Textos de los Sarcófagos del Reino Medio.” In Sentido de un empeño.” Homenatge a Gregorio del Olmo Lete, eds. L. Feliu, A. Millet & J. Vidal, 461-475. Barcino. Monographica Orientalia 16.


Goldwasser, Orly. 2021. “Des déterminatifs aux classifcateurs: la catégorisation dans l’écriture des anciens Égyptiens.” In Guide des écritures de l’Égypte antique, edited by S. Polis, 164-171. Le Caire: coll.Les Guides de l’Ifao, 1.

 Selz, Gebhard. 2021. “Appositive semantic classification in Sumerian Cuneiform and the implementation of iClassifier.” Ash-sharq: Bulletin of the Ancient Near East 6, 142–171.

Harel, Haleli. 2022. ‘Zooming in and out on Hoch’s Semitic word list.’ Journal of The Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 48: 57-77. 

Harel, Haleli, Orly Goldwasser and Dmitry Nikolaev. 2023. “Mapping the Ancient Mind: iClassifier, A New Platform for Systematic Analysis of Classifiers in Egyptian and Beyond,” In J. A. Roberson, R. Lucarelli & S. Vinson (eds). Ancient Egypt, New Technology: 130–158. Harvard Egyptological Studies 17. Leiden: Brill. 

Harel, Haleli. 2023. A Network of Lexical Borrowings in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom: Organizing Knowledge according to the Classifier System. Doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

(Submitted for publication) 


Goldwasser, Orly. In press. “Classifiers as a Priming Device or ‘Classifiers Tell Us What We Already Know’.” In G. Chantrain (ed.), Language, Semantics and Cognition: Saying and Conceptualizing the World from Ancient Egypt to Modern Times: 75–108. New Haven: Yale Egyptological Studies 14.

Harel, Haleli. In press. ‘Comparing Networks of Semantic Categories: Digitizing Graphemic Classifiers in Ancient Complex Scripts Using the iClassifier Research Platform.’ In G. Chantrain (ed.), Language, Semantics and Cognition: Saying and Conceptualizing the World from Ancient Egypt to Modern Times: 109–132. New Haven: Yale Egyptological Studies 14.

Goldwasser, Orly and Zev Handel (eds.). In press. Classifiers in Ancient Scripts.

A Special volume of the Journal of Chinese Writing Systems. 

Harel, Haleli, Orly Goldwasser & Dmitry Nikolaev. In press/2024. ‘iClassifier: A digital research tool for corpus-based classifier networks.’ Journal of Chinese Writing Systems, Special Issue, Classifiers in Ancient Scripts.

20 pages.



‘Mapping the ancient Egyptian mind: Introducing iClassifier, a new platform for  systematic analysis of classifiers in Egyptian and beyond’, at: ‘Ancient Egypt and New Technology: The Present and Future of Computer Visualization, Virtual Reality and other Digital Humanities in Egyptology.’ 29-30 March 2019 at Indiana University, Bloomington. (Paper published in

iClassifier – A digital tool for systematic classifier analysis of classifier languages and scripts,’ ‘Noun categorization: from grammar to communicative interaction.’ Lyon (DDL research center) – April 18–19, 2019.

‘The classification of borrowed compound proper names in hieratic: A case study by the digital iClassifier.’ Talk at: Ägyptologische „Binsen“-Weisheiten IV - Hieratic of the New Kingdom, 11 December 2019. 

(Orly Goldwasser and Haleli Harel).


‘A comparative framework for graphemic classifier analysis (Egyptian, Sumerian (Cuneiform) and Old Chinese) using the iClassifier digital research platform’ In Language, semantics and cognition: Saying and conceptualizing the world from Ancient Egypt to modern times, Yale. (Haleli Harel). 

‘Classifiers as a Priming Device or ‘Classifiers Tell Us What We Already Know’.” In Language, semantics and cognition: Saying and conceptualizing the world from Ancient Egypt to modern times, Yale. (Orly Goldwasser).

‘A Canaanite mind map in Ancient Egypt,’ in the conference Between the self and the Other, identity, belonging and foreign in cultural and political spaces. The Honors Doctoral Students Annual Conference, at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School, Hebrew University. (Haleli Harel).


'Knowledge organization in Sumer and Ancient Egypt — Network Analysis by iClassifier.' The Israeli association of Assyriology annual conference. (Haleli Harel).


‘Vocabulary as a network.’ The 47th Annual Archaeology Congress of Israel. Hosted by Tel Aviv University department of Archaeology, 12.4.2022. (Haleli Harel, co-authored by Orly Goldwasser and Dmitry Nikolaev).

The ArchaeoMind Lab.’ Presentation on the lab day of the Institute of Archaeology, Wednesday 25.5.22, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem. (Haleli Harel). 


‘Vocabularies as Landscapes: Applying Network Analysis Methods to Ancient, Complex Writing Systems.’ Invited talk at the Digital Humanities Lab HUJI research seminar, May 2023. (Haleli Harel). 

‘The rise of blooming: On concepts of botanical growth in ancient Egyptian love poetry.’  Invited talk at the Annual Ecology and Religion seminar in The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters (CSoC) at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, May 2023. (Haleli Harel). 

'Ancient Chinese and Ancient Egyptian Scripts – New Comparative Interdisciplinary Research.' Paper presented in the XIIIth International Congress of Egyptologists, August, Leiden. (Orly Goldwasser and Yanru Xu).  

'New Vista on ‘The Story of Sinuhe’: A Corpus-Based Study of the Classifier System by the Digital Research Platform iClassifier.' Paper presented in the XIIIth International Congress of Egyptologists, August, Leiden. (Susana Soler). 

‘Categories of Lexical Acculturation in New Kingdom Egypt: A Categorical Semantic Network.’ Paper presented in the XIIIth International Congress of Egyptologists, August, Leiden. (Haleli Harel). 

e(bers)Classifier - digital analysis of papyrus Ebers. Poster presented in the XIIIth International Congress of Egyptologists, August, Leiden. (Svenja Stern and Tanja Pommerening). 

Digitizing Seth: digital studies of Sethian hieroglyphs in the Coffin Texts. Poster presented in the XIIIth International Congress of Egyptologists, August, Leiden. (Jorke Grotenhuis).

‘Semantic topographies: Creating networks of ancient, innate semantic categories with iClassifier’ The Connected Past, Digital Methods For Studying Networks and Complexity in the Humanities. University of Helsinki, September 12 - 15, 2023.  (Haleli Harel). 

For information regarding past projects dealing with classifier studies
and led by Prof. Orly Goldwasser, visit:

iClassifier, a collaborative digital research platform 
Memories from our first iClassifier international workshop (2019) 

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