SIL representative participates in Oxford Global Languages Symposium

SIL’s Verna Stutzman facilitated the case studies session of the Oxford Global Languages Symposium.

(October 2015) A select group of experts recently gathered in Oxford, UK, to explore language and technology topics at an event organized by Oxford University Press (OUP). SIL’s Verna Stutzman, Dictionary and Lexicography Services Coordinator, was among the seventy leaders from various fields invited to participate in the Oxford Global Languages Symposium.

Symposium topics included:

  • Semantic networks in language
  • Crowdsourcing and citizen science
  • Digital access and minority languages
  • Supporting and promoting minority languages
  • Case studies from Māori, Iwaidja and Hawaiian

The event was organized in connection with the publisher’s Oxford Global Languages initiative:

For the first time, large quantities of quality lexical information for 100 of the world’s languages will be systematically created, collected, linked as part of a networked structure, hosted and managed in a single interlinked repository.

Many languages continue to be under-represented on the Internet. The Oxford Global Languages initiative aims to change that. The project will focus on languages with 1,000,000+ speakers, beginning with the sixty languages for which OUP has already published bi-lingual dictionaries from language data in their online, integrated platform.

During the first two years of the project, OUP plans to publish lexical content in eleven languages: isiZulu, Northern Sotho, Hindi, Urdu, Romanian, Slovene, Malay, Kiswahili, Indonesian, Setswana and Latvian. The project is using crowd-sourcing to collect words for the dictionaries—websites for isiZulu and Northern Sotho are now live. Crowd-sourcing may seem like an innovation that’s new to the digital age, but in a video introduction to the project, Judy Pearsall, OUP Editorial Director for Dictionaries, points out that contributions from the public have been a key element of the revered Oxford English Dictionary since the 19th century. Pearsall comments further:

If you fast-forward to the modern day and you think about everybody in the world who knows their own language and is an expert in their own language, harnessing that energy, that community… is something that is very special. It’s also something that communities and individuals identify with, and they want to be able to tell others about their language.

Following the symposium, Stutzman was invited to introduce the Rapid Word Collection method to an OUP team in a 90-minute online presentation.

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