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Te Reo Technology

A three-year FRST Tuapapa Putaiao Maori Fellowship has allowed Mark Laws to investigate Maori language-based computer systems and new ways to learn and articulate the Maori language.

"Long term, the system could be used as a teaching aid and maybe as a commercial product," says Laws. "I have termed this to be the beginnings of a kaupapa Maori thread' running through the technology fabric."

Speech technology was used to develop this system, which requires human voices as input, to convert the speech signal into either computer commands or text. It will also produce computer-generated speech in Maori.

One of the problems Laws found was the limited ability of these speech systems to recognise New Zealand English.

"Generally, linguists have said that New Zealand pronunciation is too distant from the American and English standards to be effective with such systems. It is linguistically associated with Australian and South African English," says Laws. "The local solution was to model a speech system using both New Zealand English and Maori speakers."

This speech system has allowed the creation of an online Internet word translator to test its functionality and usage. Currently the database holds over 13,000 English and Maori words.

It also has over 500 Maori pronunciations, which can be played on the browser's computer. Development of the online Maori Speech Synthesiser should be completed by the end of the year.

See the translator at

Te Reo  Technology Figure A (248KB)
Mark Laws. Photograph taken by Denis Page, courtesy of University of Otago External Relations.