Armenian Language in the Digital Age
The Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation launched an open call for proposals in 2016 pertaining to information technologies and the Armenian language. More specifically, it sought to fund three types of projects: to create a Western Armenian National Corpus (WANC), along with a universal Armenian spellchecker; to develop various digital and interactive resources for teaching purposes, specifically in the diasporan context; and to generate online content by encouraging literary production in both Western and Eastern Armenian.
In total 17 proposals from 13 entities were submitted and reviewed by an expert selection committee comprised of three members from the Armenian Communities Department and two independent experts from the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon. The submitted initiatives were evaluated on multiple levels: technology, content, budget and human resources.
The selection process was demanding given the high quality of the proposals received. The expert committee had to make some difficult decisions. Unfortunately, only a handful of projects could be supported. The Armenian Communities Department would like to thank all the individuals and organizations who submitted projects.
Below are the four initiatives selected by the expert committee which are being funded by the Armenian Communities Department.
A. Spell-checker and Western Armenian Text Corpus – Support is being provided for the development of a universal Armenian spellchecking programme, in both Western and Eastern Armenian, which will work with all major computer programmes and mobile apps. A Western Armenian text corpus will also be developed, modelled after current state-of-the-art corpora. Submitted jointly by HySpell and Nayiri.com.
B. Parastan.fr – A free online bilingual thematic dictionary (French-Western Armenian) designed to provide up-to-date lexical information on all domains. Support is being provided to include more words, expressions, a morphological engine and the possibility to filter the lexicon according to language level. Submitted by INALCO.
C. Calfa.fr – A free online digital Armenian platform focusing on classical Armenian. Support is being provided to increase the lexical database, create new features such as an automatic translator and, importantly, to develop an OCR specialized for Armenian manuscripts. Submitted by Chahan Vidal-Gorène (Association pour l’Arménien Classique).
D. “Young Mash project” – A graphic novel to be written with the input of young Armenians from around the world. Support is being provided for the creation and publication of an online serialized participative graphic novel which will recount the fictional youthful adventures of Mesrop Mashots, the inventor of the Armenian Alphabet in the 5th century AD. Submitted by Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.
The implementation of these projects started in late 2016. The current IT initiatives are in addition to the other language and technology related projects supported by the Armenian Communities Department during the past several years.