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SEAlang: the Southeast Asian Languages Library   printer-friendly-version
Program: Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access
Award Number: P337A090006
Grant Period: 10/01/2009 - 09/30/2012
World Area: International
2009:  $379,890
2010:  $189,945
Total:  $569,835
Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Project Director: Robert Bickner
U. Wisconsin-Madison, Research and Sponsored Programs
21 N. Park Street, Suite 6401
Madison, Wisconsin 53715
Tel: 6082631755
Fax: 6082633735
Email: rbickner@wisc.edu
Web: sealang.net/library
SEAlang: the Southeast Asian Languages Library

For more than two thousand years – through the rise and fall of the Dvaravati kingdom and Angkor empire, colonization by the Netherlands, France, and England, and the ongoing struggle to form thriving, independent democracies in this century – Southeast Asia has been a global crossroads of singular geopolitical importance.

Successive waves of Indic, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and European trade, and Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic religion have each left indelible imprints. But it is the extraordinary variety of indigenous cultures, the crazy salad of Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, and Hmong-Mien languages they speak, and the dozen unique scripts they still write that make Southeast Asia a region of immense complexity. As a leading SEA Studies scholar notes:

“the range of linguistic and cultural groupings within Southeast Asia is so great that even those who have studied the region for an academic lifetime can only acquire real competence in a limited area.” (Barbara Watson Andaya, Historian, Spring 1995)

Today, regrettably, “competence in a limited area” is a luxury we can ill afford. Ten Southeast Asian languages are on the U.S. Department of Education’s list of “critical” less commonly taught languages. Five of 14 “strategic stronghold languages” designated by the Department of Defense are Southeast Asian, and additional “immediate investment languages” include Indonesian, Javanese, and China-SEA border dialects. These numbers reflect both the urgency, and the difficulty, of understanding the exquisitely varied languages of the region.

The TICFIA program’s unique emphasis on language, technology, and international cooperation provides the opportunity required to address this regional issue in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

The Southeast Asian Languages Library is an ambitious, technically innovative plan to create essential digital resources for all national and major minority Southeast Asian languages. We will build on existing US/ED initiatives to add new facilities for seventeen languages, including Acehnese, Balinese, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Indonesian, Javanese, Maguindanao, Malay, Mien, Tagalog, Tetum, Wa, and Waray, and extend existing resources for five more: Burmese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese (ten “critical” LCTLs are in italic).

These resources – a mixture of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, text and parallel bitext corpora, facilities for library search, standards for sharing data, and many software tools – target each US/ED-listed SEA language, and add six new countries to SEAlang. Along with planned collaborative projects with partners in the U.S. and abroad, they will extend our support for:

access to on-line and library resources all eleven Southeast Asian countries,

pedagogy and new teaching, study, and translation tools for Southeast Asian languages,

scholarly inquiry in linguistics, history, lexicography, and Southeast Asian Studies,

scientific research in computational linguistics and cross-language information retrieval, and

language reference often unavailable to 5.3 million Americans of Southeast Asian heritage.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Center for Research in Computational Linguistics are submitting this proposal with the endorsement of every branch of the Southeast Asian Studies community, including the eight federally funded Southeast Asia National Research Centers, the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI), the Committee on Research Materials on Southeast Asia (CORMOSEA), the Coalition of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages (COTSEAL), and the Southeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (SEAC).
Languages: Countries:
Achinese (Achenese)
Cebuano (Visayan)
Malay (Bahasa Melayu or Malaysian)
Yao (Makonde, Bulu)
East Timor
Disciplines: Subjects:
Foreign languages and literature
Global/international relations and studies
International/area studies
Library science
Area Studies
Foreign Language Programs (Domestic)
Foreign Language Programs (Overseas)
Instructional Materials
Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL)
Self-Instructional Language Programs