Development of an Electronic Training System for Generating Orthographies of Unwritten Languages

Cultural history, tradition and practices in many non-Western communities are preserved and passed from one generation to the next through oral communication. However, as a result of increasing globalization and evolving patterns in human migration, many local languages and dialects are becoming increasingly scarce. Some estimates place the loss of languages worldwide at five languages per day. The majority of these languages exist only in oral form, and therefore no written artifacts of the language remain after the language is lost. In addition, the loss of these languages not only results in the loss of the language itself, but the cultures and histories associated with that language. This constitutes a severe threat to fostering human and social growth in a culturally diverse world. The United Nations Educational, Scienctific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has long attended to the need to preserve both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. In recent years it has included in that effort also the care for a linguistically diverse environment.

In this context, members of the LDI community have been contracted by UNESCO to develop a training system for teaching field workers how to develop an appropriate and accurate orthography for a non-written language. The goals of this project are to:

  1. Develop the instructional content, examples, and practice and feedback components of a Web-based and/or CD-ROM-based training system that will provide the target audience with a comprehensive set of competencies for transcribing unwritten languages into written format.
  2. Develop the user interface and structure of the training system in Web-based and/or CD-ROM based format.
  3. Implement and formatively evaluate the training system.

The instructional design and development of the training system is currently underway. It is scheduled to be completed by early 2002.

For more information on this project, please contact Ray J. Amirault or Yusra Laila Visser.