Grants awarded for digital repository of spoken Hawaiian language

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.

Emerson Odango (PhD, 2015) Awarded 3 Million Dollar Grant from NSF for Geo-literacy Education in Micronesia

It is with great pleasure and pride that we announce that Emerson Odango has just been awarded a three million dollar grant from NSF for a project in the Freely Associated States (FAS) in geographic Micronesia: the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. A description of the project—Geo-literacy Education in Micronesia (GEM)—can be found here: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1612848&HistoricalAwards=false

(The dollar amount given in it is for the first two years of a five-year project.) Moreover, Ken Rehg (his then-supervisor) tells us that he got the award on his first try.

This project uses a community-based participation research framework to collaborate with communities in the FAS to explore geo-literacy—how one reads the skies, the lands, and the waters so as to make informed decisions that have positive impacts on the local community. GEM will create spaces for communities to investigate how Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems co-exist with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The linguistic connections to GEM include documenting how language encodes the connections among these domains of knowledge and worldviews, and leveraging language—from the lexical to the ethnopoetic—with informal STEM learning.

Please stay tuned for an official press release from Pacific Resources for Education and Learning [prel.org]. Many, many congratulations to Emerson!