Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Wikipedia as a tool to revive Aymara

9 September 2012

Wikipidiya, the Aymara language version of Wikipedia, has 2273 articles, and the Aymara Wiktionary has 27.

The Ethnologue cites 2.2 million speakers of Central Aymara (ayr) and 220,000 speakers of Southern Aymara (ayc), but is losing ground to Spanish.

Most of the speakers live in Bolivia. Under the presidency of Aymara native Evo Morales, a new constitution was adopted in 2009 that made 36 indigenous languages official, along with Spanish.

As part of the movement to revitalize Aymara, the group Jaqi Aru works to update the Aymara vocabulary in such places as Wikipedia and Global Voices. To learn more about their efforts, read “Bolivians equip ancient language for digital times.” (Please note that the numbers of speakers cited there diverge greatly from the Ethnologue.)

The English language version of Wiktionary has only a few Aymara word entries, but does have quite a few tokens in the Aymara Swadesh word list.

See also Jaqi Aru, the Jaqi Aru Twitter page and the Jaqi Aru Facebook page.

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News on Indigenous Tweets blog

18 May 2011

In addition to helping people finding tweeters in lesser-used languages on Indigenous Tweets, Kevin Scannell has a blog by the same name. (A tweet is a very short message sent out instantaneously to subscribers’ cell phones and posted on the web.)

According to “Interviews Coming Soon,” Indigenous Tweets has added 11 languages, bringing the total to 82. Some of those include languages recently discussed here, namely, Adyghe (ady), Delaware (del) and Yiddish (yid).

Another exciting post is “Not dead yet: John Gillingham on the Cornish Language.” As noted, Cornish (cor) is a language spoken in southwest England, and despite being one of the first victims to the expansion of English, Cornish has nevertheless survived.

The post is primarily an interview of John Gillingham, a student of the decline of Cornish who tweets in the language. He says that there are a couple dozen children raised in Cornish and discusses how disagreements about orthography (spelling) hindered the Cornish revitalization movement in the past.

Another topic discussed is the modernization of Cornish. In order to maintain the interest of particularly younger people, words have been developed for modern technology, and are spread through various media such as books, dictionaries, magazines and radio.

Internship with Video Dictionary Project – US

11 May 2011

SAIVUS and VizLingo have announced an internship on the VizLingo project. The internship will be unpaid, but college credit is possible.

Not many details on the VizLingo project have been released, but it appears it will offer a way to create online video/picture dictionaries. According to the internship announcement, VizLingo will go live soon, and this internship will be for the summer months.

The project is located in New York City, though telecommuting may be possible.

The deadline is May 22, 2011. See also the announcement on the SAIVUS blog.

Promoting Klingon

1 May 2011

As per the announcement “qep’a’ wa’maH chorghDIch,” the eighteenth annual meeting of the non-profit Klingon Language Institute will meet in Reno, Nevada, US from August 14 to 18, 2011.

Klingon (tlh) is a conlang, or constructed language, first created for “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” by actor James Doohan (Scotty) and subsequently developed for other “Star Trek” movies and shows by Marc Okrand. Other examples of constructed languages are Esperanto (epo) and Ido (ido). Esperanto is the only constructed language listed in the current version of the Ethnologue.

Readers may wonder whether a fantasy language such as Klingon has a place on this blog. There are aspects of the Klingon movement that relate to endangered languages and may be of interest to language planners and learners.

Klingon has no native speakers—though linguist d’Armond Speers spoke exclusively to his son in Klingon until he was three, his son does not speak the language today—and therefore Klingon resembles natural languages that are sleeping (also referred to as being dormant or extinct). In such situations, revitalizers rely on written or recorded materials to resuscitate the language into a spoken, living form.

Probably the most common written materials of endangered and dormant languages are Bibles and word lists or dictionaries. These are critical for language revitalization, even in cases where there are native speakers. For Klingon, canonical or official references include the books “The Klingon Dictionary (Star Trek),”  “The Klingon Way: A Warrior’s Guide (Star Trek: The Klingon Book of Virtues)” and “Klingon for the Galactic Traveler (Star Trek)” as well as audio tapes and other materials.

In many cases, a language may be spoken over a large area, such as in multiple villages, and the language varieties may differ. If each variety of language is considered valid, it is difficult to construct learning materials and dictionaries, as so many variants must be included. Doing so may also lead to confusion among learners. On the other side of the coin, selecting one variety may cause discord among those whose variety is not chosen.

Whether a word or form is considered official is referred to as canonicity. In the case of Klingon, this is an important concept. All languages change over time, and the degree to which people may coin new phrases is not set in stone. For now, anyway, adherence to the Klingon canons is a major concern in the Klingon community (culture).

Klingon is remarkable in the dedication of devotees. Its appeal to people may be of reference to language planners. Why does an invented conlang with no economic value and nearly no communicative use continue to attract learners when so many natural languages struggle with dwindling numbers? Surely, the shock value and quirky nature of learning Klingon are factors in Klingon’s popularity. The continuing popularity of “Star Trek” is doubtlessly a factor as well.

Also, the warrior culture of Klingons, perhaps tapping into the popularity of Japanese samurai, may be attractive in a way similar to how fencing, sword fighting and jousting are popular among Renaissance fair devotees. The brusque nature of Klingons—the expression “nuqneH” for hello literally means “What do you want?”—gives Klingon another unique characteristic.

A mailing list provides a way for people interested in Klingon to interact and ask questions. Since January 1, there have been a little over 300 messages on the list, averaging out to about 900 messages a year. Also, members of the Klingon Language Institute can download Klingon fonts as well as gain access to members-only materials about Klingon. (Membership is only USD 10 per year.)

Facebook has pages on Klingons and a page was started with the goal of getting Facebook to add Klingon as one of the Facebook interface languages. The request was granted, and nearly 7000 phrases have been translated. If you have a Facebook account (membership is free), go to account settings > language and select “tlhIngan Hol” for a Klingon interface. (Beware: Make sure you can set your language back again!) You can also help translate the remaining 32,000 phrases at the translation project page.

People are also tweeting in Klingon. Daily Klingon Word is active and klingons provides a list of Klingon tweeters.

Another aspect of Klingon that makes it attractive is that it has a literature. Translating children’s stories and other literature into an endangered language may provide a means of drawing people to the language. “Winnie Ille Pu (Latin Edition)” (the Latin version of “Winnie the Pooh”) and “Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Latin edition)” (the first “Harry Potter” book) are just two examples. Similarly, “Gilgamesh:: A Klingon Translation” (Gilgamesh) and “The Klingon Hamlet” are available, making it enjoyable to learn Klingon while reading something familiar.

And then is the conference, mentioned at the start of this post. Introductory lessons will be provided and Klingon grammarians will be on hand to assist those learning the language. Other activities include socializing, language games and performances.

Together, these activities and resources provide a community and an infrastructure for learning and using Klingon in a fun way. Perhaps some of these ideas may be of help in the revitalization of natural languages.

See also “taH pagh taHbe‘” on Talking Alaska on Klingon and endangered languages.

Nuu-chah-nulth Facebook page providing lots of short lessons

29 April 2011

As reported in “New Technology Used to Restore Ancestral Language” on the Ha-Shilth-Sa website, Naomi Fraser has a Facebook page dedicated to Nuu-chah-nulth (noo).

Created in July 2010, the Facebook page has a little more than one post per day on average, generally a very short video demonstrating how to pronounce words and phrases. Often the videos contrast two words or syllables that are similar. Tuesday’s lesson, for example has the goal of learning the word “ʔuuʔumḥisa” (just the right amount), and provides the building blocks of ʔuu, ʔu, ʔuum, ʔum, ḥii, ḥi, saa, and sa to help you pronounce the target word correctly.

The Facebook page also has a YouTube companion, the Nuuchahnulth Language channel, with Katherine Fraser pronouncing words and phrases.

In both the Facebook and YouTube videos, the words are written as well, aiding in people learning how the complex sounds of Nuuchahnulth are written.

Tweets meet digital billboard meets Native cultures

5 April 2011

Clint Burnham has teamed up with Lorna Brown to create public art on the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. On the south end of the bridge is an electronic billboard—the sort you see announcing traffic delays on the highway—located on Squamish Nation land.

The title of this art project is “Digital Natives,” and its form is short messages displayed on the billboard. Through April, Digital Natives is inviting North American artists and writers (Native or not) to send short messages up to 140 characters in length, or Tweets, through their Twitter account @diginativ. They will select up to 30 for display on the bulletin board beginning mid-April.

Part of the project appears to be translating Tweets into First Nations languages. Some of the difficulties and successes of translation to Kwak’wala (kwk) are discussed in “Learning through translation” on the Digital Natives site. Other languages of the project include Squamish (squ)—the language of the Squamish Nation—and hǝn’q’ǝmin’ǝm’—the Downriver dialect of Halkomelem (hur).

The show is from Other Sights for Artists’ Projects. Read also the biographies for the many contributors to this project.

The article “‘Digital Natives'” on the Tyee site provided the inspiration and much of the material for this blog entry.

Squamish Language is in the process of creating podcasts for learning Squamish. So far, four are available. Podcasts can be downloaded onto iTunes on your personal computer or onto your iPhone, iPod or iPad.

Online Cultural Heritage Tool – Mukurtu

25 March 2011

As announced on Kimberly A. Christen’s blog In Transition, the website for Mukurtu has been launched.

According to the blog entry, “Mukurtu is an open source, adaptable, digital archive and content management tool specifically aimed at the needs of indigenous communities, archives, libraries and museums globally.”

Using a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Mukurtu Development team has been reevaluating Mukurtu, toward an updated release.

Mukurtu is a Web 2.0 tool for online social interactions. Based on the programming language Drupal, Mukurtu includes the following features:

  • Tools for typing characters not found on the standard QWERTY keyboard,
  • Fine-grained security to restrict cultural properties as required,
  • Operates on Windows, Mac or Linux, and
  • On-the-fly recording

In addition to the Mukurtu website, learn about the program on BBC’s “Digital Planet” in an episode about ownership and openness. The lead-in to Kimberly Christen’s portion on Mukurtu starts at 8:10.

According to the “About” page, the word Mukurtu means dilly bag in Warumungu (wrm). A dilly bag is used to hold sacred objects.

Indigenous Language Tweets – Web 2.0 Communication

21 March 2011

In July 2006, Twitter launched its short message service (SMS), allowing people to create an account and send short messages that are transmitted to mobile phones and displayed on the Twitter site.

Celebrities, for example, send out short messages or tweets announcing their daily and special doings. Political organizations and environmental groups send out updates, and sports teams send out the latest on their players. At Twitter, a short message is known as a “tweet.”

This sort of information-sharing technology is sometimes referred to as Web 2.0, to indicate it is a step beyond the conventional Internet technologies of web pages and e-mail.

While Twitter is currently crowdsourcing (asking for volunteers) to translate its page to other languages, currently the interface is available in English and seven other major languages, and the tweets are overwhelmingly in such major languages.

People seeking information updates on a topic can go to the Twitter site and search for keywords to find someone who tweets on a subject they like. It can be difficult, however, to find tweets in lesser-used languages.

To address this issue, Kevin Scannell has set up Indigenous Tweets as a place to find people who tweet in your language. The home page shows the languages tracked—currently 39, up from the initial 35—as well as other information such as how many users tweet in each language and how many  tweets have been sent out.

To use Indigenous Tweets, click on a language to see the top tweeters in that language (up to 500), then click on a tweeter to go to Twitter.com and see that person’s tweet feed. From there, you can sign up to the feed if interested. Both Twitter and Indigenous Tweets are free services.

As a companion to Indigenous Tweets, Scannell has set up a blog with the same name, Indigenous Tweets (though at a different address).

Quick facts:

  • The total number of tweets tracked so far in the 39 languages offered on Indigenous Tweets exceeds 1.2 million.
  • The top volume language is Kreyòl Ayisyen or Haitian Creole (hat) at nearly 315,000 tweets.
  • Although less in volume, Euskara or Basque (eus) has more tweeters than any other language at 2069.
  • Among the languages on Indigenous Tweets is Cornish (kew), a language that fell asleep in England in the eighteenth century and began to be revived at the beginning of the twentieth. It now has L1 or native speakers.
  • Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwe (oji) is represented with 15 tweeters and Sámegiella or Sami (family) with 58.

Social Software with Language Revitalization

17 March 2011

According to the article “Native Tech Firm Developing Social Indigenous Language Software Platform” on the Falmouth Institute website, Osten Interactive is working on a social software platform keyed to language and culture revitalization.

Social software refers to a system like Facebook or Myspace, where people can post photos and their latest doings for friends and family members. It also allows members to cyberly “meet” new people and chat (type to each other in real time), among many other activities.

What is unique about Osten Interactive’s plan is to incorporate digital storytelling, a multi-dialect dictionary and other features geared toward language revitalization.

According to an article in the February edition of the Muscogee Nation News on Osten’s website, CEO Chris Alexander hopes to develop the software in a year and place it in schools, and once it has demonstrated its worth, request the Oklahoma state legislature to approve it as part of the available foreign language curriculum.

The software would begin with Muscogee/Muskogee or Creek (mus), the language of Alexander’s heritage.