An Inuktitut "Living Dictionary"
Jack Cain - Multilingual E-Data Solutions
Inuktitut is the name of the language spoken by the aboriginal Inuit population of Canada's Arctic territory of Nunavut, a territory that came into existence on April 1st, 1999.
The term "Living Dictionary" has been devised in order to describe the collaborative nature of this web-based product.
The "Inuktitut Living Dictionary" was conceived in December of 1999 and was developed over the following months culminating in a product launch ceremony on October 20, 2000 in Iqaluit, Baffin Island. A base store of dictionary data was loaded from already existing glossary and dictionary files representing printed publications. More batch loading of this type is continuing as other dictionary files continue to be loaded - some from machine files; some from scanned and OCR'ed originals. Extensive and detailed analyses of these files are required before database loading can take place.
A unique feature of this dictionary is that it is capable of being used either with a number of "legacy", mutually incompatible, one-byte fonts (Mac or PC) or with Unicode fonts. Data is stored in Unicode and translated back and forth on the fly as it is used. In addition, it should be noted that this type of functionality is being expanded into a "portal concept" for the territory.
An open standards-based software package called "Syndeo" from Macadamian Technologies in Ottawa, Canada provides the basis for both the multilingual aspects of the system (using JavaServer PagesT) as well as the collaborative aspects that allow users to submit suggestions for additions and changes. A further feature of this collaboration is the monitoring function that allows an administrator to review and take appropriate action on the suggestions that have been submitted.
Details the linguistic nature of the Inuktitut language and the structure of the "Inuktitut Living Dictionary" will be elaborated in the presentation.
In the 2 million square kilometer area of Nunavut there are 28 communities that vary in size from around 100 to about 5000 and total only 26,000 people. Given these statistics, Internet-based electronic communications is an extremely important component in communicating with citizens and delivering information-based services to them. Nunavut is in fact planning to rely on Internet and Intranet solutions to solve many issues of Arctic life but in particular telecommunications, education, and health care. Nunavut could be termed an epitome of "Global Connection".
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12 December 2000, Webmaster