Launch of ABAIR.ie
Nov 09, 2012
A large crowd were present in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny last Thursday when Minister of State Dinny McGinley, T.D. launched the next phase of www.abair.ie as part of the Oireachtas na Gaeilge celebrations.
The www.abair.ie project takes Irish to the heart of language technology and offers a new way for the public to access the language. It is a unique system, which turns Irish written text into the spoken word. To date, a female synthetic voice speaking with an Ulster dialect was available on www.abair.ie. An important phase in the overall development of the project is now being reached with the launch of a second voice, which is a male synthetic voice with a Connaught dialect. The preparation of a synthesised Munster voice is underway and will be launched at a future date.
The project has been developed as a result of research at the Phonetics and Speech Lab., Centre for Language and Communication Studies, Trinity College Dublin. The project developers are very pleased to have obtained funding from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which will guarantee the continuation of the project for the next three years. Credit is also due to those who have supported the project until now. These include COGG, Foras na Gaeilge and the EU (INTERREG).
Neasa Ní Chiaráin, PhD student, abair.ie; Dinny McGinley, T.D.; John Duggan, Technician, Phonetics & Speech Lab; Prof Ailbhe Ní Chasaide, Professor of Phonetics & PI of abair.ie, Harald Berthelsen, Developer, abair.ie; Séamus Mac Giolla Chomhaill, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Christoph Wendler, PhD Student, abair.ie
Up to 40,000 people have already visited the abair.ie website - many of these from North America and from various areas around the world where people have shown an interest in the Irish language. These include linguists and others, who are just curious about its sounds.
In a White Paper Series entitled ‘The Irish Language in the Digital Age’ published by META-NET recently, Irish was mentioned as one of the languages which was in danger of extinction because of its lack of support in the area of technology. www.abair.ie offers a significant underpinning for the Irish language, particularly in the area of speech technology. To date, individuals have used the system in order to hear words or phrases being pronounced through Irish. The further development of the project can now offer crucial support in areas such as access for the visually or vocally impaired as well as general Irish language education.
Some of the functions to which the new synthesised speech is being put include:
- Educational Games: Interactive language learning games for the teaching and learning of Irish
- “Interactive Talking Books” which include synthesized voices and simultaneous highlighting of text. Vitally important for those with a visual impairment; important too for learning to read, especially for those with dyslexia; enjoyable for children who are at a pre-reading stage
- Dialect-specific dictionaries that speak out words and phrases in your choice of dialect
- Screen readers incorporating synthesized voices for those with visual impairments. Up to now, the only choice was to use an English language synthesizer to speak out Irish language text – this puts people with visual impairment at a huge disadvantage when working with Irish texts
- Communication devices for those with speech & language difficulties: there is no provision for Irish language communication devices at present
- Irish Language Voices on websites to promote Ireland and the Irish language
- iPhone / Android Apps, e.g. games with Irish
* Maintenance & Preservation of the Language, Speech synthesis can play a major role in the preservation of endangered dialects. Minority languages are being lost every day. Speech technology is vital in the maintenance and preservation of minority languages.
“www.ABAIR.ie takes Irish to the heart of modern day technology. It opens up a whole new vista for teaching applications and for promoting Irish across the globe.” – Minister of State Dinny McGinley, T.D.
“Our goal is to provide linguistic and technological resources for Irish speakers. The technology is crucial in the educational sphere as well as for disability and access.” – Prof. Ailbhe Ní Chasaide
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