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ResearchInterests-Lang06 | ... in the spirit of service


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Research Interests Related to Language & Technology
February 2006

The following is a list of research interests relating more specifically to language and technology than the main Research Interests list. It is due for an update. (Some personal names have been removed.)

  1. Online dictionary work: Making the Fulfulde lexicon available on a website.
    1. I plan to put the work done on the Fulfulde lexicon online. Currently Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxx of xxxx and the xxxxx project is working with colleagues in Mali to convert this to XML (the format RIFAL works in for translating materials in legacy encoding to Unicode). I hope this can be a step towards weblishing this work.
    2. I am also keeping up with developments re Fulfulde lexicography, and have learned recently that Xxxx Xx xxxx is seeking funding for an online Pulaar dictionary. Naturally I am seeking more information and possible avenues for collaboration.
    3. I also have an interest in the area of monolingual dictionaries. Among other ideas is one to build a simple machine translation program into a “living” monolingual online dictionary, facilitating access by learners and non-fluent speakers while permitting dictionary compilation and revision to continue in the language's own terms. This idea would build on work Xxxxxx Xxxxxxxx has done on a simple online Pulaar translator.
  2. Connections between language and development are underappreciated and need to be further explored
    1. For example, agricultural services and development projects tend to use English or French until activities reach the field at which time translations into local languages are done, generally on an ad hoc basis, by extension agents or project workers. There is a need to understand exactly what the practices actually are, how they work or lead to less than satisfactory communication, and what might be done to enhance use of local languages in the overall processes.
    2. Other issues such as whether educational systems that produce school leavers with inadequate skills in their first language and the school language and thus less able to advance themselves or contribute to national development
  3. Networking on various information and communication technology (ICT) and African language projects:
    1. Software localization in African languages (strategies, on-the-ground projects), including basic “office” software and specialized applications like geographic information systems (GIS)
    2. Basic issues like orthographies, fonts, keyboard layouts, locales and internationalized domain names
    3. Cutting-edge multilingual applications like machine translation, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, mobile tech
    4. African language online content. This is another side of localization, and my interests here range from the African Language Materials Archives (ALMA, of which I am a board member) and the AODL (about which I have been in contact with Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx over the years), to monitoring popular African language content
  4. Multilingualism is a fundamental feature of most African societies, but arguably remains inadequately understood and appreciated. Yet it may be one of the most important considerations in language policy, teaching, etc.
    1. One notes that donors and agencies involved in African development by and large view multilingualism as a hindrance to socio-economic development. How can research better inform thinking on this important topic?
    2. Language training for functional ability in multilingual contexts might require some new paradigms. Is it possible to effectively teach several languages in a particular socio-cultural setting instead of one at a time?
    3. I am exploring aspects of multilingual literacy through an e-mail forum I founded (mirrored on Linguist list)
  5. Role of Africans abroad in use of and enhancing opportunities for use of African languages. My initial interest came from the point of view of African expatriates' contributions to use of their languages on the web and in software localization, but this view needs to be expanded. This year's African Language Teachers' Association (ALTA) meeting, for instance, highlights the importance of communities of Africans using their languages in the US. Also through a professional contact in Australia, I understand that there is a similar dynamic among African communities there, which in some cases has received assistance to produce online content.
  6. African language literatures. I mentioned above my involvement with ALMA. I am increasingly cognizant of the role of expression in African languages as part of creativity generally, whether for art, education, organization, or innovation. And in the context of African language instruction, literatures in the languages are a very valuable tool. With this understanding, I recently took the initiative of introducing Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxx, who among other things was a co-organizer of a conference on African languages and literatures, and Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxx, xxxxx, who is organizing this year's ALTA conference, and the outcome may be a meeting at ALTA where literature – language instruction connections can be further discussed.
  7. I have begun work, including a conference paper, on the ways that ICT, and Unicode in particular, are and are not used by specialists in African languages and linguistics at universities in the Northern countries.
  8. I am working to set up a new H-Net list on African languages, linguistics and culture.
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