College of Human Sciences

It's time for Africa

The Global WordNet Association has announced that the 11th International Global WordNet Conference (GWC2021) will be held from 18 to 21 January 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference will be hosted by the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) and will be held for the first time in Africa.

Unisa members of the 11th Global WordNet Conference local organising committee together with one of the Conference Chairs: Marissa Griesel (Unisa node project manager), Prof Sonja Bosch (Unisa node manager, Department of African Languages), Prof Christiane Fellbaum (Princeton University, Co-founder of the Global WordNet Association) and Prof Mampaka Mojapelo (Unisa node manager, Department of African Languages).

As a node of SADiLaR, Unisa’s Department of African Languages in the College of Human Sciences will form part of the local organising committee. Other members of the local organising committee are at the University of Pretoria and North-West University. According to Prof Sonja Bosch, one of the Unisa node managers, the upcoming conference will either be a fully online or a hybrid conference - depending on the pandemic situation at the time.

The Global WordNet Association is a free, public and non-commercial organisation that provides a platform for discussing, sharing and connecting wordnets for all languages in the world. It has held conferences of this nature since 2002 around the world, bringing together various key stakeholders.

Some of the main aims of the association are

  • to promote cooperation and information exchange among related professional and technical societies that build or use wordnets.
  • to provide information on wordnets to the general public.
  • to promote the standardisation of the specification of wordnets for all languages in the world.
  • to promote sharing and transferring of data, software and specifications across wordnet builders for different languages.
  • to promote the development of guidelines and methodologies for building wordnets in new languages.
  • to promote the development of explicit criteria and definitions for verifying the relations in any language.

SADiLaR, a national centre supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), forms part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). SADiLaR has an enabling function, with a focus on all official languages of South Africa, supporting research and development in the domains of language technologies and language-related studies in the humanities and social sciences. The centre supports the creation, management and distribution of digital language resources, as well as applicable software, that are freely available for research purposes through the Language Resource Catalogue.

In relation to the above, the 2021 Global WordNet Conference will form an integral component of the work of SADiLaR. According to the other Unisa node manager, Prof Mampaka Lydia Mojapelo, even if the conference is held online, it will be a monumental success as SADiLaR is not a newcomer in hosting online workshops and seminars.

"Earlier this year, the centre organised and hosted a workshop in the field of African Indigenous Language Resources. This workshop was originally expected to be held at the European Language Resources Association 2020 conference in Marseilles, France. Entitled Resources for African indigenous languages, the workshop brought together researchers interested in showcasing their research and thereby boosting the field of African indigenous languages. It provided an overview of the current state-of-the-art, and emphasises the availability of African indigenous language resources, including both data and tools."

Professors Bosch and Mojapelo both explain that the 2021 Global WordNet Conference will offer many opportunities for linguists in the project, students, as well as interested persons from local universities and neighbouring countries, to experience, engage and get to know more about wordnets. "We hope that after this conference we will have more African languages getting involved."

Marissa Griesel, project manager for the Unisa node of SADiLaR, concludes that against the background of the fourth industrial revolution, it is opportune for such a large, global conference to be held in South Africa and that the event will draw further attention to the role digital language resources has to play in empowering our multilingual society.

  • Click here to access the conference website and call for papers.
  • Click here for more information on the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR).
  • Click here for more information on Resources for African Indigenous Languages (RAIL) 2020 and click here to access the presentations.

* Compiled by Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester, Communications and Marketing Specialist, College of Human Sciences

Publish date: 2020/09/17