The international, interdisciplinary and multilingual
LICHEN project focuses on the languages and cultures
of the northern circumpolar region, that is the region north of
the 55th parallel. Its underlying assumption is that language
and culture are as important to the survival and well-being of
populations as more obvious ecological, social and health issues.
We believe that the creation of a digital portal giving access to
written and spoken texts in the languages of the region will
further its well-being.
Faced with minority languages, governments in the recent past
have pursued policies of assimilation. This has applied to
indigenous languages in Canada, to Gaelic and Scots in
Scotland, and to Finnic minority languages in the Circumpolar
region: Meänkieli and Swedish Finnish in Sweden; the Kven
language in Norway; Viena Karelian, Olonets Karelian and
Vepsian in Russia; the Võro and Seto languages in Estonia;
and Livonian in Latvia.
LICHEN aims to collect and disseminate information about
the languages spoken in the circumpolar region in order to
promote the linguistic confidence and self-image of their
speakers. It will promote cultural awareness among the peoples
of the North, facilitating cross-cultural communication between
them in an age of rapid global change. LICHEN will create
communication between research units in order to promote
discussion on the common needs of research on the minority
languages of the North. We are doing this by: • creating an electronic framework for the collection,
management, online display, and exploitation of corpora of
the languages of the circumpolar regions;
• creating a website with information on these languages and
the peoples speaking them (the LICHEN website will be
launched in January 2005);
• creating a virtual learning environment for teaching the
linguistic and cultural heritage of the circumpolar region;
• carrying out a pilot project on the Meänkieli and Kven
• identifying research on topics of immediate importance and
• setting up an inter-institutional doctoral research
LICHEN has existing resources and work has begun. We have
Meänkieli tapes totalling about 150 hours and Kven language
tapes of about 100 hours for our immediate use. These tapes
are now being digitized. We have access to both the structure
and contents of the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech
(SCOTS) at the University of Glasgow, currently totalling 0.5
million words of spoken and written Scots and Scottish English.
We have the nucleus of a research team based on the English
and Finnish Departments and the Department of Electrical
Engineering at Oulu and the English Language Department and
SCOTS project at Glasgow. This team has considerable
linguistic and computing expertise.
Our first aim in year 1 is to complete the technical specifications
for the electronic framework through consultations between
language and computing staff team members. We are also
consulting other people working in the field of corpus building
at meetings and conferences, and by email. In addition to
housing the data, the system will accommodate management,
administration and programs for concordancing and searching
the data. The ultimate goal of the development of the computing
tools is a shell which can be adapted to any language. For many
languages at risk there is a need both to preserve existing
materials and develop new ones. During this year, we will
design and implement a prototype of this shell. A longer term
goal is to provide an interface to the tools which allows the end
user to define or rename all functions in their own language.
We will continue work on the Meänkieli and Kven recorded
language material. We will work generally on the problem of
languages without standard written forms, starting with Kven
and Scots (a worldwide problem as people endeavour to record
languages before they vanish). As an initial solution to the
problem of written forms, it is proposed that several Kven
speakers should be asked to transcribe a short passage and the
results compared. Scottish Language Dictionaries will be
consulted here. We will investigate the feasibility of working
through community groups in minority language areas. In
addition to harnessing local knowledge, we hope that a policy
of local workshops will stimulate skills development and job
A poster presentation at ACH/ALLC 2005 will enable us to
publicise the project to other minority language scholars and
to enlist the considerable expertise of the conference participants
in the discussion of the design of the online corpus tools. It is
our intention that the functions of the corpus shell should
include all the basic requirements for a corpus builder and for
a corpus user in an easy-to-use environment. We know the end
users will include many who are not technically sophisticated
and would not have other avenues for finding advice on
digitization or access to an Internet platform to share their
materials. Our idea of 'basic' requirements for online use include
corpus browsing, word and phrase searches, wildcard searches,
concordancing; for corpus building we will include guidelines
on recording, digitization, copyright and data protection. We
would welcome this opportunity to discuss our proposed designs
with the expert community of ACH/ALLC.
Anderson, J., et al. "The SCOTS Corpus." Models and Methods
in the Handling of Unconventional Digital Corpora.
Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, Forthcoming.
Institute for the Languages of Scotland. <http://www.ar
Kven bibliography. <http://www.ub.uit.no/baser
Linguistic Atlas Projects. < http://us.english.uga
The Linguistic Data Consortium. <http://www.ldc.up
Meänkieli information. <http://modersmal.skolutv
MediaTeam Oulu research group. <http://www.media
The Newcastle Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English. <htt
Opas, L.L., and F.J. Tweedie. "Review of Michael P. Oakes,
Statistics for Corpus Linguistics." Literary and Linguistic
Computing 14.4 (1999): 541-543.
Palander, M., L.L. Opas-Hänninen, and F.J. Tweedie.
"Neighbours or enemies? Competing variants causing differences in transitional dialects." Computers and the
Humanities 37.4 (2003): .
Ruija kvenmuseum. <http://museumsnett.no/alia
Ruijan Kaiku newspaper. <http://www.ruijan-kaik
Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech. <http://www.sco
TAPoR tools. <http://tapor.humanities.mcmast
The Text Encoding Initiative. <http://www.tei-c.org
Thule Institute. <http://thule.oulu.fi/>
University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language.
Winsa, Birger. "Language attitudes and social identity.
Oppression and revival of a minority language in Sweden."
Applied Linguistics Association of Australia Occasional paper
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