Project to develop Mohawk verb conjugator and related technologies for Indigenous languages

 

The Kawennón:nis verb conjugator is the first language technology developed by the NRC project team and collaborators at the Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa Language School. It displays verb conjugations for the Western dialect of Kanyen'kéha (the Mohawk language). The team is now working to extend the technologies that power Kawennón:nis to other Mohawk dialects and Iroquoian languages such as Wendat. In principle, a similar approach could be applied to other polysynthetic Indigenous languages in Canada.

Collaborators

Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa Mohawk-language immersion school

Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa is an immersion school for teaching Kanyen'kéha to adult learners. It is located on the Six Nations of Grand River reserve in southwestern Ontario. Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa was established in 1999 by Owennatekha Brian Maracle and Onekiyohstha Audrey Maracle. Owennatekha is the lead instructor at the school. Many of the school's 100 graduates have gone on to teach the Kanyen'kéha language at the pre-school, elementary, secondary, university, or community level.

Objectives

  • Build Kawennón:nis, a Mohawk verb conjugator for the western dialect
  • Extend the Mohawk verb conjugator to the eastern dialect, using Wordweaver
  • Extend the Mohawk verb conjugation tool to other Iroquian languages, using Wordweaver

Deliverables

  • Technology transfer of the Kawennón:nis verb conjugator (Western dialect) to the Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa Mohawk-language immersion school, who has made it available online
  • Technology transfer of a version of the Kawennón:nis verb conjugator adapted to the Eastern dialect to educational institutions associated with the Kahnawà꞉ke community
  • WordWeaver: Source code and graphic user interface to create verb conjugators for Iroquoian languages, made available on the NRC's Github account with an open-source licence
Long Description follows.
Long description

The Kawennón:nis verb conjugator was developed by the NRC and collaborators at the Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa Language School. It displays verb conjugations for Ohswé:ken, the western dialect of Mohawk.

Activities

The focus of the NRC's collaboration with Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa is Kawennón:nis, meaning 'wordmaker' in Kanyen'kéha. Kawennón:nis is a verb conjugator meant to assist learners and educators at the school as well as students of the language, wherever they might be. The idea for the tool was suggested by Owennatekha.

The creation and extension of this tool involves a number of researchers at the NRC, Owennatekha, and two other educators from Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa. The Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa experts supplied the linguistic knowledge incorporated in Kawennón:nis, and provided crucial advice on designing it to meet the needs of adult immersion learners. The language model that powers Kawennón:nis is the first of its kind for any Iroquoian language. It is based on a finite-state transducer incorporating manually encoded rules; this language model Kawennón:nis interfaces with web and mobile front-ends.

Kawennón:nis's user interface is closely linked to the school's curriculum and was designed by students, educators, and NRC researchers. Kawennón:nis is hosted online by the school. Language-independent technology developed for the tool, called WordWeaver, has been released on the NRC's Github account with an open-source licence.

The next step in the project is to extend the technologies that power Kawennón:nis to other dialects of Mohawk and to other Iroquoian languages such as Wendat.

Project team

Anna Kazantseva

Anna Kazantseva, PhD

Computational linguistics of literature (novels and stories); modelling discourse structure of long informal documents; computational linguistics of Iroquoian languages.

 Aidan Pine

Aidan Pine

Development of software for supporting Indigenous languages; he has developed tools in collaboration with Gitksan & Heiltsuk communities.

Contact us

Owennatekha Brian Maracle
Founder and Head, Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa

Telephone: 519-445-1250
Email: onkwawenna@gmail.com

Roland Kuhn,
Project Leader, Indigenous Languages Technology Project, NRC

Telephone: 613-993-0821
Email: Roland.Kuhn@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
LinkedIn: Roland Kuhn

Related links

Publications