The Digital Archive for American Indian Languages Preservation and Perseverance (DAILP) focuses on both language perseverance and language preservation, treating them as closely interconnected and mutually-sustaining efforts. Our site presents a proof of concept for DAILP’s reading interface using annotated Cherokee documents as a pilot for a reading interface that enables the selective presentation of translations. With support of the Henry K. Luce Foundation sponsorship, we have continued to gather detailed user feedback on our interface. From this, we have identified design functions and user configurations for an online commentary interface that will integrate fully with the lexical data back end, which feeds the information presented on the DAILP reading environment.
The core goals of the Cherokee pilot project are:
- Deepen our existing community-centered design workflows in partnership with the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes and representatives from their language programs.
- Develop and sustain an online environment for language learning through transcribing, translating, and contextualizing historical Cherokee language documents, and a robust technical and informational infrastructure.
- Expand the number of documents collected in our digital collection of historical Cherokee manuscripts with transcriptions, translations, and annotations as a resource for language learning and for linguistic and historical research, and formal institutional partnerships to support ongoing collection development.
- Support sustainable programs of transcription, translation and language learning that build on existing efforts within the Cherokee community.
Our team includes Cherokee language experts, speakers, teachers, learners, archivists and librarians, as well as linguists and literacy and digital humanities scholars. Thus far, we have prototyped an online environment that supports varied reading and language study practices. The initial set of 25 documents totaling 30 manuscript pages of translated historical documents illustrate a Cherokee chapter in the American story. Rich translations of these documents are further supported with links to the lexical datasets based on Cherokee language dictionaries, word lists, and grammars. Our reading interface is enhanced constantly to reflect the feedback and recommendations from our team of language experts.
The Cherokee community has deepened the design and editorial contribution to this site in multiple ways. Our work since 2015 focused on developing workflows and infrastructure that align our source texts, translations, and linguistic annotations with descriptive resources and other materials shared with us by the Cherokee tribes and linguistic scholars. We have benefited from free translations of almost 70 Cherokee syllabary documents provided to us by a team of United Keetoowah Band tribal members led by Ernestine Berry and including Clara Proctor, Marlene Ballard, and Oletta Pritchett. These resources can be referenced from our transcriptions and translations as sources of information about individual words and usage, but they are also continually expanded and enriched by information from each new document that we add to the collection, which contributes its own specificities of usage, spelling, and context.
In the next phase of our project, we want to open up more participatory and community-led pathways for creating these core materials. Our editorial practice for this new phase of DAILP builds on and extends our current practices, resulting in seven interconnected workflows:
- ingestion of source images
- free translation
- audio recording
- linguistic annotation
- data alignment
We are in the process of developing wireframes to reflect the functional designs that our teams have indicated they want and need to enable them to easily access and interact with images of Cherokee syllabary documents in order to contribute their translations, transcriptions, and commentary, including audio files and teaching materials to the output currently viewable on the DAILP site. As we did with the current DAILP reading interface, we will return to our community-based teams to gather their feedback on our wireframes and begin to build the online translation environment according to their needs and designs.