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Carnegie Mellon releases data on Haitian Creole to hasten development of translation tools
Date:1/27/2010

PITTSBURGHIn response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute (LTI) have publicly released spoken and textual data they've compiled on Haitian Creole so that translation tools desperately needed by doctors, nurses and other relief workers on the earthquake-ravaged island can be rapidly developed.

Since Carnegie Mellon began to make the data publicly available last week, a team at Microsoft Research has used it to help develop an experimental, web-based system for translating between English and Haitian Creole (http://www.microsofttranslator.com/). Translators Without Borders (http://www.tsf-twb.org/), a not-for-profit association based in Paris, plans to distribute a medical triage dictionary to doctors in Haiti once that data has been converted into a readable format. LTI researchers, likewise, have begun working on their own translation system for Haitian Creole. Although French is the official language of Haiti and is spoken by elites, Haitian Creole is the most widely spoken language in Haiti, said Robert Frederking, LTI senior systems scientist. Haitian Creole is based on French, but has evolved substantially since Haitians overthrew the French colonists more than 200 years ago. Word meanings have drifted and the language incorporates some African syntax.

"French speakers can sort of puzzle through it, but Creole isn't penetrable if you don't know French," Frederking said. Few translation resources are available for the language, he added.

The Carnegie Mellon data base for Haitian Creole was created in the late 1990s for Diplomat, a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The project was headed by Jaime Carbonell, LTI director, and focused on developing portable, speech-to-speech translation devices that could be deployed rapidly for Haitian Creole and ot
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Contact: Byron Spice
bspice@cs.cmu.edu
412-268-9068
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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