HALA Project

The HALA Project: Hawaii Assessment of Language Access

The HALA Project (Hawaii Assessment of Language Access) uses psycholinguistic techniques to assess language strength/activation in speakers. Its goal is to develop a series of tasks that might be used to detect early signs of language endangerment, differences in language access across communities or language cohorts, the effectiveness of language conservation programs or heritage programs, and the relative language access of individuals.The local lead investigators of the project are William O’Grady and Amy Schafer.

Mission Statement

Concern over the perilous plight of a large portion of the world’s languages has far outstripped the development of the methods needed to assess the state of their decline and to monitor the success of revitalization efforts. To date, researchers have been forced to rely on indirect and informal measures of language loss and endangerment—anecdotal reports by field workers and self-assessments by the speakers themselves in response to questionnaires, census surveys, and the like. In many cases, this information simply confirms a decline that is already firmly entrenched, perhaps irreversibly, for lack of earlier indications of endangerment.

The Hawai‘i Assessment of Language Access (HALA) project offers a simple and effective way to assess language strength in bilinguals. Based on independently established psycholinguistic principles, the HALA tests exploit the fact that the relative strength of two (or more) languages is reflected in the speed with which their words and structure-building routines are accessed in the course of speech. Test results can therefore be used to assess language attrition and revitalization in bilingual communities of many different types. The HALA tests are designed to be language-neutral; they can be used to investigate any combination of languages.

Because of their adaptability, the HALA test are currently being used to investigate a variety of phenomena in addition to language loss and revitalization, including heritage language acquisition, language attrition in children whose parents move from community to community, linguistic proficiency in monolingual autistic children, and even second language acquisition.

For more: O’Grady et al. talk to the first International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation, March 2009 (PDF)


Further reading:

O’Grady, et al. 2009. A Psycholinguistic Tool for the Assessment of Language Loss: The HALA Project. Language Documentation & Conservation 3(1):100-112.

Schafer, et al. 2009. On the Psycholinguistic Assessment of Relative Language Strength in Bilinguals: Evidence from Korean Heritage Speakers. MAPLL. (PDF) [PDF]

Tang, Apay (Ai-Yu). 2010. Baseline results from a psycholinguistic tool for the assessment of language shift in Truku Seediq. Hawaii Working Papers in Linguistics 41.5.

For access to the HALA materials and protocols, contact Amy Schafer or William O’Grady.