Spelling checkers for Africa
POTCHEFSTROOM – The Centre for Text Technology (CTexT™) on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU) is currently developing lexical data for African languages as part of Microsoft’s Local Language Program. Lexical data consist of words from a specific language that are enriched with added information, and can be used in the development of a variety of language-technological applications such as spelling checkers.
The purpose of this initiative is to provide individuals in Africa with access to desktop computer software in their native language and therefore technology that is familiar with and respects their linguistic and cultural uniqueness. The project aims to gather lexical data for five regional languages in Africa, namely Hausa, Igbo, Kinyarwanda, Wolof and Yoruba that are used in countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Ghana, Rwanda and Mauritania.
Computational linguists from CTexT, linguists from Nigeria and the USA, and the Proofing Tools Team from Microsoft in Ireland are collaborating closely on the project. “Microsoft has an ongoing commitment to making computer software relevant for the people and countries of Africa,” said Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra, the chairman for Africa at Microsoft. “Our Local Language Programme is one of the ways we broaden our reach and empower our customers and partners. It brings the development, growth and proliferation of regional languages together with advances in information technology in a way that is complementary and vital for economic development,” he added.
CTexT has been involved in empowerment of local languages before, through the development of spelling checkers for five South African languages, namely Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa and Setswana.
For more information please contact Moira Müller at (018) 299 1541 or Moira.Muller@nwu.ac.za.