Taiwan's indigenous Atayal, Seediq languages included on Wikipedia

04/15/2021 10:40 PM
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A girl and her grandmother demonstrate traditional Atayal weaving at a cultural festival in New Taipei in October last year.
A girl and her grandmother demonstrate traditional Atayal weaving at a cultural festival in New Taipei in October last year.

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) Two of Taiwan's indigenous languages -- Atayal and Seediq -- have been added to the languages in which information is available on Wikipedia, which currently total 321, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE) Thursday.

The Atayal and Seediq languages were recognized by the online free encyclopedia and granted their own Wikipedia language option on March 16, said MOE.

There are currently 2,400 entries in the Atayal language and 1,037 in the Seediq language on Wikipedia, according to the ministry.

The two languages became the second and third Taiwanese indigenous languages to be included on Wikipedia, following the Sakizaya language in Nov. 2019, said the ministry.

Before recognizing a language and allowing it its own Wikipedia section, the Wikimedia Foundation looks into how many active users have contributed to different entries in the language within a specific period of time.

Another of Taiwan's indigenous language, Amis, could also receive its own Wikipedia option soon, according to the foundation.

The MOE, in collaboration with National Chengchi University (NCCU), launched the Wikipedia project six years ago with the goal of promoting the writing of indigenous languages and encouraging the use of those languages among young indigenous people, said MOE Administrative Deputy Minister Lin Teng-chiao (林騰蛟) at a press event Thursday.

However, while the spoken indigenous languages of Taiwan have been used and passed on generation after generation, their writing systems are far more recent, mainly based on Latin alphabets and were not officially regulated until 2005.

A 2016 report commissioned by the Council of Indigenous Peoples evaluated indigenous people's native language proficiency, through tests given to more than 20,000 people from 16 tribes.

The findings showed that only 27.6 percent of Seediq were able to read the newly developed script and less than 12 percent knew how to write it.

Meanwhile, only 20.6 percent of Atayal were capable of reading written Atayal and less than 5 percent could write the language.

When it comes to preserving languages, speaking and writing are both important, according to Lin, adding that through the project, young indigenous people are able to obtain knowledge in their mother tongue under the guidance of their elders.

Lim Siu-theh (林修澈), a NCCU professor who presides over the project, said in addition to documenting the written language, the group also "reinvents" indigenous words so they can be used in a modern context.

Hitay-Payan, a leader of the editing team for Atayal language entries on Wikipedia, discussed the challenge of creating entries in his native tongue. The team eventually decided to begin by translating introductory texts on well-known people, he said.

Lituk Teymu, who leads the Seediq editing team, said she was pleased to see the language of her ancestors being given a global stage, adding that the team will continue to promote the Seediq language.

(By Phoenix Hsu and Teng Pei-ju)

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