Computational and Engineering Issues in Human Computer Interaction Systems for Supporting Communication in African Languages

Computational and Engineering Issues in Human Computer Interaction Systems for Supporting Communication in African Languages

Tunji Odejobi (University College Cork, Cork, Ireland) and Tunde Adegbola (African Languages Technology Initiative (Alt-i), Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch056
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The computational and engineering issues surrounding the development of computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies for supporting African language discourse is the focus of this presentation. The thesis of this presentation is that, to obtain acceptable results, services for supporting CMC intended for use in African environment should exploit and implement language technologies developed around African languages and cultures. We discuss the key issues relevant to achieving this as well as the technicalities and strategies for its realisation. The aim of this presentation is to motivate and impel a robust, well articulated, research and development agenda on African language technologies relevant to CMC.
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In this section we discuss the state-of-the-art in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) as well as their potentials for supporting communication and discourse in the African environment. Specifically, we look into important research and development issues in the area of human language technologies and initiatives as it relates to CMC as well as their implication for African languages. The aim is to highlight the inherent values of viable communication infrastructure for social engineering. The current and relevant technologies include: Machine Translation (MT), Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), and Text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis. These technologies have found use in automatic document generation, information storage and retrieval, biometric security systems, spell checkers, grammar checkers, and digital dictionaries.

The adaptation of these technologies in CMC and learning and their potential as a communicating tool across cultural and language barriers have been identified and discussed by Pica et al. (1994). The applications of CMC in second language learning have been of particular interest in Asian language research (Cheon, 2003; Gao, 2006). For example, working with Korean language, Cheon (2003) found that learners do engage in appropriate meaning negotiation for their foreign language development through task based synchronous CMC. The majority of works on Asian and other oriental languages CMC addressed issues of application development and the impact of CMC on the local language. The symbiosis between the technology for realising CMC and the linguistic characteristics of target language as well as the salient cultural issues that have critical impact for CMC application are generally not in focus.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Machine Translation: Translation of text or speech from one language into a text or speech with similar meaning in another language.

Communication Technology: Techniques and devices used to transmit messages between two physically separated locations or entities.

Computer Mediated Communication: Exchange of ideas between two or more humans using communication technology.

Human Computer Interaction: The interactive activities in an environment that includes humans and computers, particularly the activities involved in using the computer for problem solving and message transmission.

Speech Synthesis: Generation of speech-like sound by machines that input texts and/or other commands.

Speech Recognition: Generation of automatic actions based on an input human speech sound.

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