The National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have collectively awarded grants totaling $448,464 over a three-year period to fund a project involving multiple University of Hawaiʻi campuses to build a digital online repository of spoken Hawaiian language, or ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.
The NSF grant is for $283,464, while the NEH portion totals $165,000. The awards are effective August 1, 2017 and will be managed by Principal Investigator Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani (KHUOK) College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, along with co-Principal Investigators Larry Kimura, associate professor at KHUOK, and Andrea Berez-Kroeker, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics at UH Mānoa.
The project, entitled “Building a Hawaiian Spoken Language Repository,” will create Kaniʻāina, a digital corpus of recordings and transcripts of Native Hawaiian language. Kaniʻāina will feature hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, fully searchable transcripts in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, catalog information in both English and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, and a unique crowd-sourcing feature for soliciting enhanced transcription and content-tagging of the recordings from the public.
The recordings and transcripts will be accessible online at Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, beginning with Phase 1 of the first two collections: Ka Leo Hawaiʻi and Ku i ka Manaleo, later this year. The content will be archived for long-term preservation in Kaipuleohone, the University of Hawaiʻi Digital Language Archive, which is part of ScholarSpace, the UH institutional repository.
Kawaiʻaeʻa says the awards also include funding for undergraduate research opportunities and for a cross-campus graduate educational exchange in language documentation and revitalization, which is especially timely.
“We are elated that we can now move toward building a larger public repository of audio and visual native speaker collections to support the growing population of Hawaiian speakers,” Kawaiʻaeʻa said. “Kaniʻāina comes at a crucial time when the number of Hawaiian speakers is increasing as the last of the native speaking elders is rapidly dwindling. We now estimate the number of elder native speakers outside of the Niʻihau community to total between 20 and 30.”
Data from an April 2016 report by the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism on Hawaiʻi’s non- English speaking population found the number of persons aged 5 and older who spoke Hawaiian at home statewide totaled 18,400. Kawaiʻaeʻa also noted that more than 3,000 students are presently enrolled in Hawaiian-immersion schools P-12, while 13,500 are enrolled in Hawaiian language coursework in public and private educational institutions, and 2,000 students are enrolled in similar coursework at UH campuses.
Kawaiʻaeʻa says the broader impacts of Kaniʻāina will include its integration into immersion-based language education from pre- school to the university level, Hawaiian knowledge in the natural and social sciences, and beyond. The project will also engage underrepresented groups as citizen scientists through its creation of a publicly available corpus of an endangered U.S. language.