Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Inuktitut in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly and the Hansard; or, Translation Party

Like many other parliaments in the Westminster system of government, the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut publishes a Hansard containing transcripts of the debates.

These Hansards are available not only in English, but also in Inuktitut.

This availability of the same material in two separate languages seems like a valuable resource for Machine Translation research and corpus research as well as for the development of language processing tools for Inuktitut, much as the Canadian Hansards—published in both French and English—are for that language pair.

And indeed, makes use of those parallel English and Inuktitut Hansards to try to extract parallel sentences automatically and to use those to refine their electronic morphological analysers and dictionaries.

However, I read in a paper by the Institute for Information Technology, National Research Council Canada on this research that

The Canadian Hansard is transcribed in both languages so what was said in English is transcribed in English and then translated into French and vice versa. For the Nunavut Hansard, in contrast, a complete English version of the proceedings is prepared and then this is translated into Inuktitut, even when the original proceedings were spoken in Inuktitut.

And that surprises me a bit.

Looking through a couple of issues at random, I see “(interpretation)” in the English version and “(tusaajitigut)”[1] in the Inuktitut version every now and then; I presume those are cases where the words transcribed were actually spoken in the other language.

But still, I wonder why the Inuktitut words aren’t transcribed as well and then inserted verbatim into the Inuktitut version, rather than relying on a double translation (spoken Inuktitut to written English to written Inuktitut).

Also, a PowerPoint presentation describing the process of extracting data from this parallel corpus mentions as one of the difficulties in matching English and Inuktitut words, phrases, and morphemes up that the Inuktitut edition of the Hansards is written in many dialects, depending on the translator, and gives as example translations of “school”: ilinniarvik, ilisavik, ilinniaqvik, ilitarvik, ilinniavik. (Some of those—in particular “ilinniarvik” vs “ilinniaqvik”—may not be dialect differences but merely spelling mistakes and/or adherence vs non-adherence to a particular spelling reform/standardisation [I read that the use of -q- or -r- in the middle of words is a particularly frequent spelling mistake due to a decision at a standardisation meeting that was, in retrospect, a mistake]; the presentation also notes that no spelling checkers were used and that this is part of the difficulty.)

So this adds to the problem: while the Legislative Assembly page states that The policy of Nunavut’s Hansard editors is to provide a verbatim transcript with a minimum of editing and without any alteration of the meaning of a Member's speech, the wording (as opposed to the meaning) may well be modified if the English translation of a speech given in Inuktitut is translated into Inuktitut by someone speaking a different dialect than the original speaker.

I don’t know, it all seems a bit unsatisfactory to me, and as if Inuktitut is a bit of a second-class language for the Assembly.

I imagine that practical considerations led to those decisions, and that it may be difficult to do it “properly”.

[1] “tusaajitigut” seems to mean “through interpreters”; for the curious, it breaks down into tusaaji “interpreter (one who listens with intent to understand)” [from tusaa- “to listen to something (with intent to understand or catch the meaning of the sound)” {itself from tusa- “to hear” + -a- “(action done several times, or continuously)”} + ji “-er; one who does”] + -tigut, mark of the vialis case (“through”) and plural number.

Tags: inuktitut
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