At the start of September, we released a new Myaamia dictionary app. Those of you who were regular users of the old Myaamia dictionary app may notice that the new app looks and performs differently. We want to take a moment and use this post to explain why these changes were necessary.
Originally, our online dictionary – Myaamiaatawaakani – and our online research tool – the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive (MIDA) – were built to work independently. Myaamiaatawaakani was built for language learners to be able search in English or Myaamiaataweenki for words and phrases that we want to use in our daily life. It includes sound files for most entries so that learners can practice pronunciation. MIDA was built for our linguistic team to use in the ongoing research necessary for the reconstruction of our language. The goal of this research software is to bring digital copies of all known Miami-Illinois language documents into one virtual space. Using this tool, researchers can then transcribe and analyze all of these sources to meet the needs of our ongoing language development.
These separate development paths created challenges in data management and software maintenance. In response to these challenges, the original Myaamia online dictionary, associated apps, and Miami-Illinois Digital Archive have been merged into the new Indigenous Languages Digital Archive (ILDA) software suite. In addition to streamlining data and software maintenance, the new ILDA platform is more stable and has stronger security features. These changes will significantly improve our ability to maintain and develop our language’s online presence. ILDA contains raw data from archival materials that are challenging to use and understand. Therefore, ILDA should always be used with caution and with consultation by our linguists.
The ILDA software suite has been in development for several years through the Myaamia Center with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. ILDA was created for the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages to respond to the growing needs of tribal communities nationwide who are revitalizing their languages from documentation, or what we call “archive-based revitalization.” ILDA is also more stable because it is hosted by Miami University’s Information Technology Services secure data center. To assure adequately trained programming support, ILDA is implemented using industry-standard programming languages and database technologies. As of the fall of 2020, ILDA is being utilized by six tribal communities and will undergo further development based on its growing use.