Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa
Larry Kimura
Andrea Berez-Kroeker

A University of Hawaiʻi project to build a digital online repository of spoken Hawaiian language, or ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi received grants from the The National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities. The grants total $448,464 over a three-year period.

The project, “Building a Hawaiian Spoken Language Repository,” will create Kaniʻāina, a digital corpus of recordings and transcripts of Native Hawaiian language. Kaniʻāina will feature hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, fully searchable transcripts in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, catalog information in both English and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and a unique crowd-sourcing feature for soliciting enhanced transcription and content-tagging of the recordings from the public.

The grants will be managed by principal investigator Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of the UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, along with co-principal investigators UH Hilo Associate Professor Larry Kimura and UH Mānoa Associate Professor Andrea Berez-Kroeker.

Hawaiian spoken language repository

The recordings and transcripts will be accessible online at Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, beginning with phase 1 of the first two collections—Ka Leo Hawaiʻi and Kū i ka Mānaleo—later this year. The content will be archived for long-term preservation in Kaipuleohone, the University of Hawaiʻi Digital Language Archive, which is part of ScholarSpace, the UH institutional repository.

The awards also include funding for undergraduate research opportunities and a cross-campus graduate educational exchange in language documentation and revitalization.

“We are elated that we can now move toward building a larger public repository of audio and visual native speaker collections to support the growing population of Hawaiian speakers,” Kawaiʻaeʻa said. “Kaniʻāina comes at a crucial time when the number of Hawaiian speakers is increasing as the last of the native speaking elders is rapidly dwindling. We now estimate the number of elder native speakers outside of the Niʻihau community to total between 20 and 30.”

The broader impacts of Kaniʻāina will include its integration into immersion-based language education from pre-school to the university level, Hawaiian knowledge in the natural and social sciences, and beyond. The project will also engage underrepresented groups as citizen scientists through its creation of a publicly available corpus of an endangered U.S. language.

For more information, read the UH Hilo news release.

—By Alyson Kakugawa-Leong