Project to update the Algonquian dictionaries, linguistic atlas, and other learning tools for Indigenous languages

 

The NRC collaborated with Dr. Marie-Odile Junker from Carleton University to advance a common digital infrastructure for Algonquian languages in partnership with Indigenous communities. Namely, dictionaries and a linguistic atlas, as well as other software and tools. This included improvements to assisted language learning tools for Algonquian languages, with a focus on Innu and East Cree second language content, and software and content enhancement of the Algonquian language learning platform that Dr. Junker previously developed. She also collaborated with the NRC on text-to-speech alignment, verb conjugators and online pronunciation tools.

Collaborators

Dr. Marie-Odile Junker, Professor, Carleton University

Dr. Junker is a Full Professor at the University of Carleton's School of Linguistics and Language Studies, a Killam Research Fellow, and the recipient of the Governor General's Innovation Awards. She was a visiting scholar at the NRC from May 2019 to April 2020.

Dr. Junker and her team have developed several websites for languages of the Algonquian family, in partnership with Indigenous organizations. A list of Dr. Junker's partners and collaborators can be found on the website of the Algonquian linguistic atlas in the menu Credits.

Objectives

  • Update the interfaces of existing online language lessons, games, and exercises developed by Dr. Junker and her team
  • Improve the experiences of second-language learners using the platform
  • Carry out usability testing for all users of the platform
  • Hold work sessions with dictionary partners
  • Add dialects and locations to the atlas
  • Add and update verb conjugation tools for the dictionaries
  • Develop ReadAlong studio, an app to align speech to text

Deliverables

  • Updated and created new content for online language lessons in East Cree and Innu
  • Improved learning platform for Algonquian languages, compatible with contemporary web technologies

Activities

Updating and creating new content for online language lessons 2018-2020

The first aspect of the project focused on updating online language lessons developed earlier by the Carleton team, in partnership with Cree Programs and Institut Tshakapesh, aimed at supporting East Cree (2006-2011) and Innu (2009-2012) literacy. The rapid pace of change in the software industry had stranded these educational tools: many of the key functionalities no longer worked as intended. The platforms have been updated to align with current technology. The user experience of second-language learners has been improved, as these tools were originally developed with first-language speakers in mind. Language experts systematically proofread and validated the entire content, and the Cree School Board and Institut Tshakapesh conducted extensive user testing. New lesson guides have also been created and made available to teachers on the language lesson website.

Dictionaries project 2019-2020

The Algonquian Dictionaries project involves a dozen dictionaries of Algonquian languages that originally existed in various formats: plain text, tables, text-based databases such as Toolbox, FileMaker exports, and others. Project activities include collaborative language documentation, data collection, editing and distribution by active dictionary teams.

Community input is a key ingredient for shaping the development of interfaces, layouts, types of permission, information buttons, and more. Dr. Junker held work sessions in 2019 with Western language partners for the following dictionaries: Blackfoot, Plains Cree, Michif, and Nishnaabemwin and continued her regular collaborative language documentation sessions with East Cree, Innu and Atikamekw partners throughout 2020.

Atlas dialectal map 2019-2020

The Atlas dialectal map is the latest addition to the Algonquian Linguistic Atlas and the suite of language tools being developed by Dr. Junker and her team. The online, multimedia linguistic atlas of Algonquian languages allows users to listen to various phrases spoken in many different Algonquian languages like Cree, Innu, and Ojibwe, and offers many training opportunities for sound editing and linguistic description training for Indigenous students. A number of apps for iOS and Android and conversation manuals containing the text for the Atlas, as well as sound files to hear pronunciation of languages and dialects, can also be downloaded and used in combination with the Atlas.

In 2019-2020, Dr. Junker and her collaborators added new languages/dialects to 9 locations on the dialectical map:

  • Oji-Cree (Kingfisher Lake, Ontario)
  • Oji-Cree (Wunnumin Lake, Ontario)
  • Oji-Cree (Nibinamik, Ontario)
  • Oji-Cree (Kasabonika, Ontario)
  • Oji-Cree (Webequie, Ontario)
  • Anishinaabemowin (Marten Falls / Ogoki Post, Ontario)
  • Anishinaabemowin (Aroland, Ontario)
  • Nishnaabemwin (M'Chigeeng, Ontario)
  • Nishnaabemwin (Neyaashiinigmiing, Ontario)

The Atlas aims to create contacts between curriculum developers, language specialists and lexicographers of Algonquian languages, with a focus on online language resources and dictionaries. The Atlas is also an investigation of user-friendly and culturally appropriate computing interfaces and database structures. This project is a fertile ground for knowledge transfer and mutual inspiration, with all parties working in a collaborative spirit.

Verb conjugation applets for the Algonquian Dictionaries 2019-2020

Dr. Junker and her collaborators created and expanded applets to assist with verb conjugation in three languages. The applets are integrated within the Algonquian dictionaries platform.

ReadAlong Studio 2018-present

ReadAlong Studio is an app that aligns text to speech for audiobooks. It was first developed by Delasie Torkornoo in Dr. Junker’s team for books in Atimamekw, East Cree, and Innu. The NRC collaborated with Mr. Torkornoo to automate the manual alignment process and apply the technology to a wide range of languages.

Contact us

Dr. Marie-Odile Junker, Professor, Carleton University
Email: MarieOdileJunker@cunet.carleton.ca

Roland Kuhn, Project Leader
Indigenous Languages Technology Project
Telephone: 613-993-0821
Email: Roland.Kuhn@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
LinkedIn: Roland Kuhn

Related links