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The NRC welcomes visiting scholar Dr. Marie-Odile Junker, expert in information technologies for Indigenous languages

- Ottawa, Ontario

Dr. Marie-Odile Junker

Dr. Junker will contribute to the NRC's Indigenous Languages Technologies Project

The NRC's Indigenous Languages Technology Project is honoured to welcome leading Indigenous language technology expert Dr. Marie-Odile Junker as a visiting scholar to the NRC.

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 Award. She brings to the NRC 19 years of experience in investigating how information technologies can help Indigenous language (re)vitalization, as well as ongoing partnerships with several Indigenous organizations for language resource development.

During Dr. Junker's tenure at the NRC, she will advance work on a common digital infrastructure for Algonquian languages, namely dictionaries and a linguistic atlas, as well as other software and tools, in partnership with Indigenous communities. This includes 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 she developed. She will also collaborate with the NRC's Digital Technologies Research Centre on text to speech alignment, verb conjugators and online pronunciation tools.

Dr. Junker's tenure takes place during the International Year of Indigenous Languages and reflects the NRC's collaborative approach to Indigenous language technology development.

Dictionaries project

The Algonquian Dictionaries project is a collaboration involving a dozen dictionaries of Algonquian languages. One of its goals is to develop a common digital infrastructure for lexicography and language documentation that is reliable and sustainable, using mature open source software. Dictionaries that are part of the project originally existed in various formats: plain text, tables, text-based databases such as Toolbox, FileMaker exports, and others, but did not provide enough flexibility, control, or affordability. The Dictionaries project approach is based on language documentation, data collection, editing and distribution, as opposed to pure computational modelling. Most of the dictionaries are ongoing projects, with active dictionary teams. Community input is a key ingredient for shaping the development of interfaces, layouts, types of permission, information buttons, and more.

Atlas dialectal map

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, 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. 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.