The result of years of hard work documenting and recording Aboriginal languages, an Aboriginal e-dictionary will be published online next month as part of the first phase of a language database project, the Council of Indigenous Peoples said.
The e-dictionary will cover seven of Taiwan’s Aboriginal languages: Bunun, Saisiyat, Tsou (of the Alishan region), Truku, Thao, Kanakanavu and Tao (also known as Yami, from Orchid Island [Lanyu, 蘭嶼]), said Chen Kun-sheng (陳坤昇), head of the Education and Cultural Affairs section at the council.
“It took us seven years to get to this stage. Compiling a database of Aboriginal words and phrases has involved the efforts of more than 1,000 tribal elders, Aboriginal-language speakers and linguistic researchers working to record and document words and phrase,” he said.
Chen said that each Aboriginal group was allotted about NT$3 million (US$100,250) for the first two years of the project.
“We relied on the help of Aborigines to complete a large part of the project, many of whom see the work as a personal mission because they feel a responsibility to preserve their language,” he said.
The online dictionary can be accessed at http://e-dictionary.apc.gov.tw. The site enables people to listen to or learn Aboriginal languages in classrooms or at home.
Chen said the database, which is to be made available next month, contains about 350,000 Aboriginal phrases. The project’s goal is to document all 14 council-recognized Aboriginal languages and put 16 e-dictionaries online by 2015, he added.
There are three living languages of the Lowland Plains Indigenous Peoples (also known as Pingpu Aborigine groups, 平埔族群) that are still spoken in Taiwan: Pazeh, Kaxabu and Siraya.
The Pingpu groups are not officially recognized by the council, but they are recognized by the international community and by UN-related Aborigine forums.